Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Things I've Learned

There have been a lot of little things that are not quite stories and don't necessarily warrant a whole blog post, but are interesting nonetheless that I feel I should fill everyone in on...

Firstly, I don't feel very right about talking bad about another country's leader. I feel like there isn't really a point in criticizing another country or culture's government unless perhaps there are horrible crimes against humanity happening. However, I do have to say, the more time I spend here and the more stories I hear, the more funny of a character Chavez turns out to be. For example, I heard a few days ago that he's sure the United States trains iguanas which we then release into the countryside of Venezuela for the sole purpose of chewing through electric wires and ruining this country's infrastructure. There isn't much to be said for the infrastructure here: down the hill in the suburbs where a lot of my friends and classmates live, the power goes out nearly every night. I'm lucky to be close to el Centro, because this is the older part of the city. As the city was expanded, the infrastructure was not updated and now it is unable to support the power usage, especially in the suburbs where there are lots of malls and larger houses. 

The other thing about Chavez I learned recently: If you look at the Venezuelan flag, in the upper left hand corner there is the code of arms for the country:
You can see in the bottom of the code of arms, there is a white horse. Originally this horse was running toward the right. No particular reason, that was just how it was designed. Well, Chavez didn't like this and changed it recently. He says the reason he changed it was because his young daughter told him she was looking at the flag and the horse was the wrong way. (Which would be a strange reason to change a national symbol anyway.) It is widely considered that the reason is slightly more petty and political: it's important that the horse be running towards the left, and socialism rather than the right and liberalism/capitalism. He also added another start to the flag (originally there were seven for the seven states which originally fought against the Spanish for independence) because he thought a state was missing from this count. It is illegal to fly the old flags with only seven stars, and you have to pay a fine if you do. 

I have a phone here, for which I paid about $25 for and with which I text people around in order to meet up or get homework assignments or whatnot. Every few days we get texts from the government, reminding us things like "Say happy Father's Day to your dad" and "If you are between the ages of 18 and 30 remember it's time to join the conscription. The fatherland is pleased." Holidays, law changes and other reminders get texted to everyone, which has been funny to get used to. 

In my folk lore class I've gotten the opportunity to do a lot of really cool things, like learn to make empenadas, cakes, several traditional dance steps, as well as some very cool traditions and folk tales. For example, Venezuelans like baseball more than soccer/football as a rule. This started when oil was discovered and several people from the United States were invited to come to Venezuela and help to mine it. They brought baseball and it stuck. They also brought Christmas trees, which you can find in many houses here during Christmas (but not in public buildings, Chavez has outlawed them) and Halloween is celebrated. It's not a holiday for children here, its a night when adults get dressed up and go party hard. For a while schools began to put up orange and black decorations and hand out candy, but Chavez put an end to that too, since he doesn't like holidays from the "Empire" infecting Venezuelans.

For New Years Eve, you spend the whole night with your family, getting drunk and eating a lot of food. At midnight, everyone is given twelve grapes and as they eat each grape they make a wish for each month of year to come. If you want to get married that year, at the stroke of midnight, you need to jump off a chair, if you want money you fill your pockets with lentils and if you want to travel that year you have to pack your suitcase and walk around the block with it at midnight. My teacher described going outside of her parents house on New Years Eve and seeing hundreds of people stumbling around with suitcases and glasses of champagne. 

Christmas seems like an all-around awesome time to be in Venezuela. Between the end of December and the beginning of February there are Paraduras. This is a celebration of the baby Jesus. Every family has a nativity scene set up and arranges for a neighbor to steal the baby Jesus from their nativity the day of their Paradura. They then invite many many guests over and with hired musicians, the whole party marches to the house where the baby is, fetch him and walk home singing and dancing. They then have a huge party all night long. December 28th is el dia de santos innocentes, which is basically April Fools Day in Venezuela. There are a lot of other festivals and rituals involving shrines, gifts upon altars and people following the images of saints and Jesus being paraded around town, sometimes without shoes, sometimes on their hands and knees, depending on a promise they may have made to the particular saint in order to receive a miracle. 

Finally, in other news, I am nearly done with everything in my college career! One more day of classes, a few more paragraphs on a final paper and I am done with undergrad! 

Yesterday I got an e-mail from a job I applied to in January, interviewed for at the beginning of March and have not heard from since the 1st of April to tell me I am being offered a position. It starts at the end of August in Los Angeles. I decided to accept it, since that will be enough time at home with my family and friends before I leave. It is a very cool opportunity with an intentional community where a lot of us interns will live together, make food together and live simply together while each having our own social justice-based internship in the community. So I've decided this is my next adventure, taken a leap of faith and accepted the offer. Now I'm looking over internship locations to decide where I want to go...

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