Daily Archives: October 10, 2011

A quick note about Immersion in another culture


I haven’t mentioned this in any posts yet, but a lot of my time in Venezuela has been spent speaking (or trying to speak) Spanish.  I’m not particularly good at it, but slowly but surely I’m remembering what I learned in highschool, and adding little phrases and words as people teach them to me.

People say its best to learn by immersion, but I never really understood what they meant until now.  I’m honestly starting to think primarily in Spanish instead of English, and I’m speaking in Spanish as often as I can; even to people who speak English.  Right there, when I typed “English”?  I actually thought “Ingles”  yeah.  Its kinda cool, kinda creepy, and all around impressive.  The human brain really is good at adapting to its surroundings.

Party in La Guira!


An hour long bus-ride later, and I was stuck in traffic. Not the Bostonian traffic either, where people slowly inch forward… this was Venezuelan traffic, where the normal three lanes turned into five and motorcycles fly between the lanes (where they can… it reminds me on Bicycles in Boston traffic, except with the bikes going 30+). Actually… the motorcycle thing isn’t unique to traffic: when we were going 70 or so on the highway a motorcycle busted through the 3 feet of space between us and the next car… insane, seriously.

Anyways, I did survive the traffic, and ended up just jumping out of the bus while it sat in traffic when I saw where I was aiming for. Yep… I got out in the middle of traffic and walked beside a highway because it was faster than driving. And not as hot; that bus was seriously over a hundred degrees, at least. I met Savas at his work, and then we walked over to meet Ana at the huge outdoor party going on in La Guira.

Venezuela is a country focused on Baseball in a way that only a Bostonian or New Yorker could truly understand. Its also a socialist country where the government runs and owns everything. As such, when the series is over and a team wins, that state gets a MASSIVE outdoor party thrown for it. And when I say massive… yeah. Huge stage, free food and beer in the VIP area (Thank you Savas! Since he was working there we all got into the VIP area… I even met the ball players who won, and hung out with the bands!), and thousands of people listening to music in a huge parking lot. Biggest thing I noticed about this though? That we could never have it in the United States; no security was around besides a few riot cops hanging out with us in the VIP area, and the entire area was open to the public without a single metal detector or bag-search station. I guess its the price we pay to live in the states, huh?

Anyways, I spent the early evening at the concert, sitting backstage with Ana, her cousin Anyely, Savas, and a few random guys who we met (not sure if everyone knew each other first). It was epic 🙂

I danced with the girls up front in the gated-off area in front of the stage while the last band played, but before we knew it the concert was over at 08:30. I guess in years before these parties got a bit out of hand, so they have to end early now. I was ok with it though, since it meant that we could all go back to our friend Yanie’s house to hang out and meet another CouchSurfer who I had talked to online back in the states.

Getting to the house was the best part of it though. We tried getting a cab, but none of them were stopping, for some reason. So we tried getting on a bus: same problem. Last strategy – Hitchhiking! We ended up getting a ride in the back of a pickup truck, rocking out and shooting the shit while flying down the highway at just about warp-5. Yeah… it was a bit hair-raising, but also a really awsome “holy shit I am NOT in the States anymore, I’m trying crazy things, I’ve seen new stuff, and its only the second day!”. The truck dropped us right near Yanies house, and we headed to the store to pick up some food for dinner. SAMMICHES!

At Yanies house we all chilled outside, getting the old-school block-party going on. We created some sandwiches out of the parts we had bought and chowed down while knocking back a few beers that Valerya and I had gone to get. Valerya had come over after the concert, since it “isn’t really her scene” she had said. I didn’t really understand ’till I met her: Valerya wouldn’t stand out at all in a club in Boston, rocking out to some cool metal band. Not really sure how a girl like her grew up in Venezuela, but we had a nice time walking around and hunting down some beers while the others worked on the sandwiches. We chatted about almost everything, from why I was traveling to what her favorite bands are (lots of stuff I know of from Nordic roots).

After we returned with beers Savas had pulled out his guitar, so the block-party transformed into an awesome music fest that lasted until nearly 01:00. Savas is a really good player, and we rocked out to some Red Hot Chili Peppers (thanks Mike for making me learn the lyrics to Californication!) and more than one Venezuelan band I’d never heard of, and Anyely and Ana even did a few awesome dances for us. Yeah. Venezuelan girls seriously know how to dance… I love Salsa and Flamenco!

Around 02:30 we all started to head our separate ways; Savas and I dropped Ana and Anyely off at their house, then dropped Valeyra off before heading back to his place. We chatted and chilled for a bit before I finally called it quits and headed off to bed.

Hamburgers, Graffiti, Busses and parties! (AKA Exploring Caracas on the 8th of October)


Today started out slowly… waking up semi-late (can’t really sleep late in Caracas thanks to honking and such) and spent some time relaxing and reading before heading into the University area to get some food and sun. I stopped in at one of the little food-carts by the main enterance to the Central University and ordered up a hamburger with some help from a nearby cabby who spoke a bit of broken English. Though… to call it a hamburger really isn’t the right word… it was more of a “take a bun. Shove everything ever cooked in it. Drop a burger on top of the everything. Serve” Seriously… it had a burger, pulled pork (I think), Chicken (Again, I think), a few eggs, some hash-browns, some lettuce and tomatoes, and even some freaking potato-sticks. I mean… DAMN it was good, but I could barely move after the first half, and I had to take a short break before trying to tackle the second half.

After eating and reading and people-watching some more I headed towards a place called Altamira, vaguely translated as “highview”. Its another place full of contradictions: it has VERY nice buildings, fountains, and statues, but theres random spots where buildings used to stand, but now there’s only rubble. And there are large concrete walls with barbed wire every few blocks.

Strangely enough, it was the concrete walls that I came to check out. See, Venezuela is a Socialist state, and one of the many governmental programs is a “city beutification” project that employs graffiti artists to make amazing paintings on otherwise dour and depressing places. And so, right next to the perfectly gleaming Bank buildings, on the dark concrete walls topped with barbed wire, were some of the most amazing pieces of spray-art I’ve ever seen. I only spent about 30min taking pictures (so I wouldn’t seem like too much of a tourist; I was going for the “I’mma art student!” look) before heading out to meet Ana in Caribe, a town about an hour North of Caracas.