Monday, February 25, 2013

The Best Valentines Day Ever.

I've always enjoyed valentines day because I have always liked the special candy they sell and to give out stuff to my friends. I still believe it is a Hallmark holiday that makes no sense and that people take to serious in a romantic sense, but as a day to celebrate friendship, family, and those important to you, it is a pretty cool thing.

So, there was a chocolate exchange at school with some of the Venezuelans that I was going to participate in and then decided not to on the base that I didn't have any money on me at the moment. I had one class and the rest of the day off and my class was done at ten! I saw my friends from the exchange and went to talk to them. I explained how valentines day is different from country to country. For example I celebrate with friends, so does venezuela, but Brasil celebrates it in June and it is strictly between people in relationships. The 14th of February means nothing to them. As I was explaining this one of the guys sitting there gave me the rest of his chocolate!! I didn't even know him before! It was a nice friendly gesture that made me feel more at home!

Then I went home to meet a friend for lunch. This friend is brasilian but has lived in Venezuela for about six years now. We went to her house where I had some delicious pasta in a serve-yourself all-you-can-eat style! Here in Venezuela, they usually serve my plate for me and there is never extra food siting around for leftovers, I never really feel full-full, and never ever Thanksgiving stuffed. I had three helpings and it was delicious and filling!

Then we hung out for a while and spoke in portuguese and some Spanish. We watched the official brasilian channel "globo" and talked about my soap opera I'm missing dearly because I don't get tht channel! (Brasilian soap operas run for about 9 months and then they end, and I really got into one about human trafficking and prostitution while I was there in January).

After that we made brigadeiro, which is a delicious typical brasilian dessert, that is similar to a chocolately fudge. We ate the whole pan except for a little we set aside for my American friend, Anna! It was delicious and I left her house feeling like a stuffed pig, so happy!

We caught a bus back to my college, VENUSA, and I sat around for a while while she had class. We had plans for a delicious all-you-can-eat dinner!

After she got out of class and some of my American friends did too, we headed to a brasilian restaurant! It is called a churrascaria and it has a meat rodizio which is where men come around with different types of meat and serve it to you on your plate. It is like Fogo De Chão, if you've ever eaten there. I liked this better though, it was so delicious. I ate so much meat and helpings of potato salad, rice, and a tomato onion salad called vinagrete, that I couldn't even laugh without it hurting a little. I felt like I was going to explode, but I have never had such a wonderful valentines day or such a wonderful day in Venezuela!

My day ended with me getting a job teaching someone's five year old daughter english, then I crawled into bed and dropped into a content food coma.

Hope you had a wonderful Valentines Day!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bull Fights and All That Jazz

So there is this festival here that is called "Los ferias del sol". It is five days of no school and a bunch of expos and parties. It is kind of similar to Carnaval in Brasil, in theory. In actuality it is nothing like it. However, there are some really interesting cultural events.

The most interesting was the bull fight. The day before the bull fight, there was a huge protest against it.

From what I have learned is that these bulls are raised for the sole purpose of this time of year where they are killed by the matadores. They supposedly don't see human life until they are brought in to fight, with the exception of the man who brings them food.

Scoring: a matador and a bull are scored on how well they deal with each other. If the matador is good, he can kill the bull in one swipe (however the bull is always injured before). If the bull is good, he doesn't get weak as easily and can pay attention and focus on the matadores and "Ole" a bunch. If it is an okay right, when the bull is dead the matador gets one ear. If it was a pretty good fight he gets two ears. If the matador was exceptional he gets the tail. If the bull is absolutely positively a amazing he can be granted amnesty and survive. I saw one bull live, because he was so bad and weak in the beginning (he broke his hoof) that people booed him off. There are judges who sit and watch and write down scores and then decide the fate of everything.

The crowd: waves white flags to show that they think the fight is going well and drinks a mixed drink of sangria, tequila, rum, beer, whiskey, vodka, pop and sometimes juice out of a cooler type container. So all in all they are drunk and enjoying the spectacle.

One bull jumped the fence into the crowd and kept people jumping out of the way which made things interesting. Also one of the matadores was on a horse which was different on many levels. One bull flipped over a horse and the matador and he still died, I was rooting for his survival.

The bull is injured multiple times before the final blow and there are multiple people involved which I didn't think was very fair. I wish it had been one on one. I wasn't a big fan of the fight, and maybe it was because I wasn't drunk, but I found it boring after the first three bulls (there were eight overall). It was very interesting and I am glad I went. I didn't find the killing all that bad, it is natural, but the unfairness on the bull's side was disappointing. I don't think I would go to such a long and monotonous event again, but I also don't think I will start protesting against it.

No one really knows what happens with the killed bulls. I hope they eat them. Although some people say they burn the bodies, which I find ridiculous and a waste, but then again they wreck a lot of the met in their dance to injure and kill the bull.

Nevertheless a race of bull exists for this sole purpose and they are expensive to raise. Without the bull fights they no longer have a purpose, so I guess it doesn't need to disappear but maybe it should be reformed.

Hasta luego.

Ash Wednesday...?

Ash Wednesday is by far my favorite mass the Catholic Church has to offer. Followed closely by Easter vigil, Easter, and Christmas. I feel like the readings remind us of lifelong lessons that we need to hear, like the ever present reminder to drive safe or never leave your drink unattended in public.

I love this mass so incredibly much that if it weren't creepy, I'd have all the Ash Wednesday readings at my funeral and everyone that attends would get my cremated ashes on their forehead... Except that is creepy, and only a thought I had out of my Ash Wednesday mass withdrawal.

Yesterday I started asking around about mass times and I continue that today. In a country that is 98% Catholic, no one can tell me where there will be mass and when. They all tell maybe, hmm maybe in the afternoon...maybe at the cathedral.

I feel like everyone here is a proclaimed catholic but a two times a year catholic. I mean, there isn't anything wrong with that, I don't find myself at mass every Sunday, but I am shocked that no one has been able to give me an answer.

But, don't worry, I'm going to go camp outside the cathedral until mass starts or I have to go back for class. I saw some people with ashes on their forehead so I know there was at least one mass today!

Wish me luck!

And don't forget that if you fast, fast in private..if you do good, don't announce it to the world. Do it for you and God (if you believe in Him).

Happy Ash Wednesday!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

On 'Gringas'

The typical term used for foreign people here and in most Latin American countries is 'Gringo' (gringa for girls). This usually boils down to North Americans only (with an emphasis on people from the U.S.). Some people use it with a kind friendly emphasis, however some people use it more to categorize foreign looking people.

It really irks me when people decide that I'm a Gringa before I even open my mouth. Mostly because I have fare skin, light eyes, and golden hair. This causes lots of whistling and people yelling "Hello, how are you" in English on the streets. Even children do it! The only people that don't seem to pay any mind are middle aged women!

Nonetheless, it is very tiring being the ever foreign girl, no matter how hard you try to fit in. Tonight was no different. I went to a high class club with my Venezuelan friend, her friends, and a Canadian boy. I was asked to dance on multiple occasions; one ending with a guy taking a picture with me, and I felt like I was in exhibit at the zoo the rest of the time.

The second guy that asked me to dance, waved me over, and when I refused he came to me. The first thing he said was "Are you from the United States?". I was so irritated that he would assume I was based on my looks. I turned to him and said "No, I'm Brazilian." He was astonished and his interest in me diminished significantly.

I don't know why being foreign from brazil makes me feel any less foreign, but I prefer it and it keeps the creepier men off my back.

Until the next irritating encounter,
Besos :*

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

American Lunch Tuesday Review: McDonalds

American Lunch Tuesday this week:

Featuring McDonalds.

A group of us took the long hike (10 minutes downhill, which seems longer when you are starving) to McDonalds for lunch, yesterday.

There are 3 McDonalds in Merida. One close to VENUSA, one close to my house, and one close to the bars and shops in the downtown area.

Here is the review:

They have meals of the day, kind of like subway with their cheaper subs.  The meal on Tuesday is the McPollo (McChicken), however I decided to splerge and get the Big Mac.

Cost:  It is expensive.  A Big Mac meal with the legal conversion rates is $17.  That includes a medium nonrefillable fountain drink (which is actually an American small). A medium (actual medium) fries. And a Big Mac. The cost is a big reason why most Venezuelans consider McDonald's a classy resturant and go there on special occasions only, like for birthdays.  Fail.

Big Macs: They don't use as much Big Mac sauce as in the states.  You can actually taste the hamburger and it tastes like hamburger.  It looks more like the advertisement picture than any other Big Mac I have ever eaten.  It missed a little of the flavor. High Pass.

Fries: They taste almost exactly the same, except a little less salty.  However, I don't really like McDonald's fries in general and often don't finish them, this was no different.  Pass.

Drink: The size was pathetic in comparison what I believed I should have gotten for the medium price, however the coke inside was uncomparably more delicious than the coke in the U.S.  There were less options though.  Overall, I was pleased. Medium Pass.

Customer Service:  The line was a little slow moving, but we also showed up as starving annoying Americans and there were about ten of us.  They dealt with our thick accents like professionals, even though the ordering process for some was not as pleasant.  Then when everyone went back to order icecream, they had us stay seated and we had our own personal waitress bring us anything else we wanted.  She was probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen at a McDonalds and she waited on us hand and foot and gave us change so we didn't even have to move.  High Pass.

McFlurries:  Although I didn't get one, they had an Oreo McFlurry.  It was like vanilla icecream with Oreos crushed on top of it and a spoon.  People thought they were delicious and then they came upon hot fudge underneath a layer of ice cream.  I would say that overall makes them beyond delicious.  High Pass. (although awaiting personal review).

Note: There are no Shamrock Shakes and they have Arrepas (a typical cultural food) on the breakfast menu.  There are some similar sandwiches and some different ones, but all along the same lines of McDonald's fast food.

Overall: It was enjoyable, but I don't plan on making a habit of it...unless there is a delicious sandwich meal day.

Medium-High Pass.


The Parasite Life

Notice:  Don't read if you get queasy with bodily functions or talk about bodily functions.  I will not be held liable for you throwing up your lunch.

Parasites are extremely common in Venezuela.  They are also one of the most common ways for "gringos" to get sick.

Of course, with my stomach of steel and my fortunate luck, I never thought I'd get one.  Well, parasites don't care about your luck and I don't really have a stomach of steel.  Nonetheless I had a parasite.

It started with a pain, however it was around the time of my period and I often have horrible problems with abdominal pain around that.  I mean, if you don't know me that well, I'm talking not being able to walk, crawling through a ditch and hitchhiking home, kind of pain. So, anyways, I missed whatever signs a parasite would normally have had.  Also, my stool had been soft for a while because I have traveling a lot, and usually my body doesn't keep up as well as my emotions.  Therefore I didn't think anything of it.

When I started to feel a bit of a fever coming on I went to the pharmacy with some Americans and we bought some OTC parasite medicine (all parasite medicine is OTC).  We took it at 16:30 on Tuesday night. I then walked home and laid down to wait it out, this was around 18:00.  The cramps came worse and worse and so did the runs.  Yeay! How exciting! ... except not.  My hermana made me soup for dinner, but she just thought I was tired, which I was, I was exhausted beyond belief.  I ate and found my stomach rejecting it within two hours.  It was wonderful tasting it a second time.  (If you aren't understanding the thick sarcasm, then please continue thinking that I enjoy this).

I tried to keep myself hydrating but that didn't work either.  I ended up throwing up anything I put in my stomach, and I found myself in the bathroom about every two hours.

Eventually, when you run out of food though, you don't have the runs anymore.  Think about it.  Classy and strategic.

Anyways, wednesday I decided to try and make it to school.  I had to take two long breaks on the walk there because my stomach was cramping so bad I couldn't continue, plus I vomited a bit.  When I made it there, I was late, and I told the coordinator I was sick and going to take a Taxi home.  When I got home I told my mom I had a parasite and that I needed to lay down.  I spent the next 22 hours in bed, with brief visits to the bathroom.

I drank a lot of coconut water, which is supposed to help, and I got a shot in the butt to stop me from throwing up.  As I got the shot (which my sister gave me), my other sister and my mom were watching.  It was a true family event. Nonetheless, I made it to school the next day.

Now (a week later) my stool isn't back to normal, but the cramps have stopped.  I also can't eat as well as I used to.  My portions are smaller than most people's and if I eat too much I throw up a little, because my body still isn't digesting everything at the rate it used to.  However, that too is getting better now.  I wasn't able to drink for 5 days, so there were some nonalcoholic strawberry daquiris on the beach, which I would never complain about.  I'm supposed to take a feces sample to a lab to see if we killed the right parasite, or if I have to treat myself for another one.

I was fortunate to have a wonderful family that checked on me and brought me medicine and went out of their way to feel well away from home.  Even now, they are helping by making lighter foods that I can keep down.

It really is everything you ever dreamed of, or thought of.    I'll keep you posted.

Besos :*

Daily Life

Here is a sneak peak at my life:


Leave home at 7:30 to walk to class (with my American neighbor Courtney) and be semi-on time at 8:00.
Switch classes with a five minute break.
Switch classes with a five minute break, which puts us at 13:35 (1:35pm).
Lunch break until 17:40 (5:40pm).
Class until 19:30 (7:30pm), then taxi home with Courtney.


Same schedule until my lunch break, which is where my evening starts and my day at school ends and I walk home.


Leave home at 7:45 to walk to school for 8:15 class.
Class ends at 10 and I walk home sometime around 12 to eat lunch at home.
I do whatever I want, which involves me walking back to school for 17:40 class.
Class ends at 19:30 again and I taxi home with Courtney.


Leave home at 7:45, 8:15 class.
Class ends at 10 and my weekend starts.

That is my school week.


  • Every walk to school is up hill and death in the afternoon, but enjoyable in the morning.
  • Most walks include cat calls which are more annoying here than in Brasil, which I still don't understand.
  • I walk by a police station, which doesn't really make me feel any more or less safe because today I had to walk through a cloud of tear gas to get home, I think they were testing it out for fun.
  • I cross a bridge, underwhich gangs are supposidly living, and they tend to rob people on bridges.
  • There are buses, but I'm too frugal to take them every morning, plus apparently they have old people robbing innocent people on them.
  • Taxis cost 25bfs on way, which ends up being a little over a dollar.
  • I have come to the conclusion that the best solution to any problems would be to get a Venezuelan boyfriend that has a car.
    • Just kidding...maybe.

Missing the U, except that I have one more day of class and then we have a 5 day weekend for Carnaval, so not really all that much right now.


Christmas Decorations and Paraduras

The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Venezuela, was that the Christmas decorations were still up.  Mind you, I arrived a few weeks ago, a good month after Christmas.  There was a nativity scene next to our fish tank (everybody has a fish tank here) and there was a Christmas arc to walk under as well as a Christmas toilet paper holder in the bathroom.  Everywhere I turned, public and private places, there were nativity scenes, more garland, and Christmas color galore. In the beginning I thought that they were just that slow at getting things done, as most Latin American countries have a more relaxed culture.  Then I went to a Paradura.

Paraduras are typical of the farm country in the Andes Mountains states, specifically Merida, where I live.  It was a tradition brought over from the Catholic Spaniards, and it became a vital part of the Christmas tradition to the Catholic Venezuelans in the Mountains.

I didn't know what to expect, as I had heard that Paraduras were typically associated with fireworks and a baby boy.  My mami invited me to one at her sisters house and I thought it would be a great idea to go and take some pictures and videos.

So off we went, by foot.  My tia lives about two houses down, and these houses are all touching, so it was all of about a minute long journey max.  We walked into a house full of people.  My mami is one of 15 kids and 13 are still alive, while about 8 have their homes and families in Merida.  It was crazy being thrust into this house of strangers with few people for company and no one to sit by my side the whole time and be my wingperson.  So I befriended the 11 year old next to me.  She was interested in Paris and very set in her ways, but nice company none-the-less.

They served us a really delicious drink, made with condensed milk, rum, and something else.  Then we waited for the band to show up.  When the band showed up, the played a sang for about twenty minutes and then we were given candles.  This is where I needed a little help understanding.  A lady next to me said that the little Jesus (from the nativity that everyone has in their homes) was missing from ours, he got lost.  We had to go find him and bring him home safe.  Thus we left the house and went to a nearby neighbor where a huge line of people invaded their living room and we grabbed their baby Jesus to bring him back to our nativity.  After we had grabbed him, we lit our candles, and took the long way home.  As we were reached home people were lighting off fireworks and the band played and walked with us the whole time.  Before we could put the baby Jesus back in the manger, we all kissed him on the forehead.

After he was safe and sound, we blew out our candles and the band settled in and played about receiving food.  I think that was my favorite song!!  The people hosting the Paradura, fed us a slice of bread and a glass of wine.  Then later they fed us a complete meal (pre-served plates) and a glass of coke.

As the night was winding down, the TV came back on and I watched basketball with some of my relatives, all the while explaining to my 11 year old friend that the Mona Lisa wasn't as big as everyone thinks and that you can't just make a new one that is bigger.

Overall, it was a neat cultural experience and sometime when I get onto an actual computer I will try and upload some pictures and videos!!