Thursday, May 19, 2011

Muchos Gringos!

While we were on our city tour on Thursday, we were walking through downtown Merida through Plaza Bolivar and suddenly from not far away a man in his early 30's spotted us, pointed and yelled across the Plaza "Muchos Gringos!" Men pointing us out and yelling here is not entirely uncommon, and something I was pretty prepared for after talking to a lot of friends who have studied abroad. I know people who have lived in Africa who get called the local term for "white" all the time, and here "gringa" is not even a disrespectful term. While walking through the streets men constantly make sounds in your direction and say things to you and it is quite normal and common, nothing to be wary of. Even a compliment, my most father explained while he warned us about the dangers of going a step farther and going to anyone's house or bringing them home with us.

A few blocks farther down the road we passed a high school where the teenage boys said some things I'm glad I don't know how to translate to us and some of the girls yelled back "Perros!" (meaning dogs). We all assumed this had to do with the girls saying the boys were disgusting, however one of the other girls who lives in my apartment building - Alissa's - host father told her (during a rant about Chavez) that this was probably Chavez's fault and that in fact the the girls were yelling "dogs" at us Americans. She wasn't convinced and it remains a mystery.

So some photos of my life so far:

This is the livingroom area of our home stay apartment. You can see our breakfast on the counter there, cornflakes and coffee this morning.

View from the livingroom window.

This is on our walk to school this morning. It's been raining or cloudy pretty nonstop since I arrived so this is one of the best views of the mountains I've had so far. I keep forgetting to put my umbrella in my backpack too, so my traveling around the city has been slightly restricted since I'm worried about a sudden downpour. It's been cloudy and rather humid so I feel like it could start at any time.

Here is a classroom at VENUSA. This one is actually pretty big compared to the one's I'm in for my two classes. One of my classes as 5 students, the other is just me, another girl named Kathryn and the teacher. The one with just the two of us is a tropical ecology class and we get to go on field trips to a few different locations in the mountains. I'm so excited. Slightly nervous since the other Kathryn is a biology major and I am not great at science, but I'm excited anyway. The other class is Latin American Folk Lore and I feel very excited for that as well. I like literature, obviously, and its good to get some cultural information in my classes.

This is the view from the top floor of the school. Very cool.

This is the main area of the VENUSA building where we are able to relax, get lunch and where we have Nuevos Encuentros, which is when we get paired up with Venezuelans studying English here and talk and hang out. Last night we had one, but I was not able to make it.

I (not surprisingly) was the first one to get a parasite here. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting around on campus waiting for the evening activities to start and I got a horrible headache, then my whole body started to hurt, then my stomach then the nausea. One of the directors asked me if I was OK and determined it was a parasite. Not sure where I got it since I've been careful and my host parents have been doing this a while and are careful, but I got it. He assured me if I had it it wasn't worth waiting for it to get worse and that it would not go away till I dealt with it and gave me two pills to take last night - I'll buy two more to take in two weeks. I wet upstairs to lay down for a while and ended up getting very very sick. Then I felt better, at least a bit. Today I'm a little shaky, but fine. No more pain everywhere. Hopefully that's all the parasite will do and I've been the first to kick it out in the group.

Another area of VENUSA.

Those are the buildings the school is located in. It's on a pretty busy road, right across the street from a beautiful park full of trees and Spanish Moss.

One of the main roads in the city. Like I said, it's been cloudy so the mountains are pretty hidden, but you can kind of see them.

This is the sort of food we eat at lunch here. Lunch in Venezuela is HUGE and breakfast and dinner are smaller. Lots of meat is eaten at most meals. I'll have to get used to eating red meat, or something. Those are not potatoes, but some other food that tastes similar but has a different texture. And the salsa tasted just like the mild salsa at Chipotle.

In other news, I got a JOB. A real job after graduation! Last night I had a second interview with the Red Cross in Los Angeles and after ten minutes they called me back and offered me the job! I start at the beginning of August and I'll be doing volunteer support for volunteers who work with crisis victims, as well as creating a manual for resources in the community beyond the Red Cross and developing relationships with new volunteers. I am SO excited! Not just because it's in a location I was hoping for, but also because working with the Red Cross would be such a good professional experience for me. So now I'm looking for apartments in the area and feeling hopeful and excited about FINALLY having something figured out. It's been a long time coming!

Finally, this evening we have salsa dancing classes, tomorrow we're going hiking and Saturday I think I'll go paragliding! We can go for about $50 and I'm super excited.

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