Thursday, May 26, 2011

The best "trip" of your life...

So I appear to be developing a bit of a schedule, and learning how to slow down and not be busy for 15 hours every day, like I have been for the last few months. Its hard sometimes. Time stretches out around me and makes me feel crazy, but it is for the best. I get to read books, and think a little more. Mostly, sorting some things out that I need to, which no one can complain about.

I am finally feeling better. At the end of the day (about 10 or 10:30 right now) I still feel weak and hit the pillow hard and fast, but it's nothing compared to what it was even a few days ago, when I could hardly function past 3 in the afternoon. My Spanish is getting better day by day as well. I've started finally talking more to my host family, which has been nice. It's a quiet family that mostly keeps to themselves and watch TV in their respective rooms. I have a hard time understanding my host mother, and my host father will talk and talk if you ask him a single question. Usually this turns into a rant about Chavez.

For example: in my Latin American folk lore class we had an assignment to ask Venezuelans about if they thought racism was present in this country. I asked my host dad and he talked himself in circles for about 45 minutes, during which time I hardly had a moment to get a word in edgewise, much less because formulating sentences is difficult for me. What I learned is that unlike in the US, when families came to the New World together and maintained their ethnic (ie white) purity (more or less), in Venezuela, no families came to the colony, only single men. So men married (or got pregnant) indigenous women.

About 30 years later, slaves from Africa were brought over and though they were socially lower than indigenous people, many Africans ended up running away to the mountains and living in different societies. Most importantly, during the revolution, all races, Europeans, Indians and Blacks, fought together against the Spanish, and today there is no racism to speak of. Classism is a much bigger problem, I have been told. However, apparently in the last few years, Chavez has been telling people that if they are poor and black, it is because the white people took money from them, and creating racism where it has never existed. Here it is common to call someone "Nigerto" or "Nigreta", its even a term of endearment.

I also learned that because of the inflation here that the government is trying to hide (see: the legal exchange rate is about 4BfS to $1, but it is very easy to sell your dollars for bolivars at 8 or even 9BfS to any regular Venezuelan because they cannot legally obtain more than $2,500 a year, therefore they cannot travel or do anything outside of the country. As my Tropical Ecology prof explained to me, buying dollars here is like investing in a savings account) things that cost Americans so little, are expensive here. For example, a laptop like mine, which I just bought for $400 would be 20,000BfS. That's HUGELY more expensive even at the illegal rate. Used cars are usually 50,000BfS and the same prof explained that she was shopping for an apartment and checked a US company just for kicks and found she could get a two bedroom apartment here for the same price as a two story, yard, white picket-fence house in the United States.

My host father does admit that Chavez has offered free college and health care and those are good things. He also said the opposition is no better. Today we learned about Santaria religious practices in my folk lore class and apparently there is a rumor flying around the country that since he's a priest of this particular religion, and if you want to use dark magic you can kill large animals, he may or may not have sacrificed  a baby to get all his power. Not being a practitioner, I'm not sure if its my place to make assumptions here...

Finally, today I was eating lunch with my friend Sarah and saw a commercial for traveling to Columbia, not unlike the Explore Minnesota commercials you see in the states. Here's what they said, and I do not kid:

"Columbia makes you feel like without drugs, you can have 
the best trip of your life.
Columbia: a drug-free country."

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