This weekend was a bit busier than last. On Friday I had a field trip for my tropical ecology class, where we went up to el paramo (highlands of the Andes) and took a lot of measurements and plant data. It was… kinda boring in the end. It was a beautiful place, but we were at such a high altitude it was very hard to move around given the lack of oxygen. The radiation was killer too: even through the cloudy day we got sunburned. There was a cold wind blowing all day, and it rained in the afternoon. Our professor asked us if this was cold in Minnesota, and we had to admit it wasn’t. We told her that this was the type of weather that at the end of the winter would inspire people to wear shorts and t-shirts.
These are the huge plants we were studying.
Saturday I went to a pool with some friends. We paid a hotel some money to sit by their pool all day in the beautiful mountain sunlight and enjoy ourselves. It was nice to have a very relaxing day. The sun was again bright, and I’m getting redder and redder by the hour here it seems, no matter how much sun screen I put on. That night we went out for one of our classmates’ birthday. We went to a very crowded bar with cheap strong mixed drinks and where everyone was dancing to real Latin American music, rather than this song, which has become quite the soundtrack for the trip… I hear it out and about at least 5 times a day. Not being in much of a mood to dance with anyone else, I stuck mostly to myself, and it was very nice. We were only there for about an hour and a half before people wanted to move on and I decided to head home because a) we were very close to the apartment and I didn’t have to pay for a taxi and b) I had to get up early to go hiking.
Sunday, my classmate Kathryn, a Venezuelan girl learning English at VENUSA and I went hiking. We took a crowded bus (actually a tight 15 person van with about 21 of us in it) up the mountain, through several villages and farms till we reached the trailhead and the border of Parque National Sierra Nevada. There was a nine-mile hike we planned on doing that lead past a waterfall and to the summit of the mountain, but as we began to ascend, I realized I needed some time to myself.
As most people that I am aware read this blog know, there has been some major plan-changing and tragedy in my life since coming to Venezuela. What I realized I needed when I got into the mountains was some true quiet time, away from the city where I feel like I need to be doing something all the time, away from the phone service of anyone, away from my house where I feel trapped being in such close proximity with those who can’t help me very much. Finally, I was away and alone and ready to do some serious mourning. I had to let go of a lot of hope and joy and excitement I had for things that because of reasons out of my control are no longer available to me. For a good long time, I sat alone on the mountainside and cried as I needed to. I cried for hopes leaving my grasp and fears coming true. I cried because I will not be taking the job in LA: two weeks at home with my family simply is not enough time before I dive into the next transition which no matter what my emotional state would be difficult. Another adventure will await me, after the healing is more complete and I am prepared to take it on. This was extremely hard to let go of, but I know it is best for me to be with my friends and family now, or if not now because I am on a separate continent, as soon as possible.
I can hear my father’s voice in my head nearly every day: “We all come back from our journeys somehow changed.” I know this to be true and I wonder what will have changed in me this time around? I’m not sure it will ever be something I can put my finger on, nor could anyone else. I do not know if Latin American itself has changed me in the way Tijuana shook my core of being and Europe made me reconsider my place in the older-than-200-years world. Perhaps I will be a shade darker for a time, more reserved. I know I will be tired when I arrive, ready to stop holding my head high and get through this. I can collapse into the mourning that still needs to take place, be with my family and friends and rest. It is good that no matter what, I got some time today to process and let go, then recenter. Even if I only feel centered for a few minutes, it makes all the difference.
The other thing my Papa’s voice tells me from far away memories is, “This too shall pass.” Everything: the newness, the transition, the job, the college, the falling in love, the consistency, the heartbreak. All of it shall pass on as the world moves below our feet. Plates slowly gnash against each other, raising these mountains where my current home sits, millimeter by millimeter. Nothing stays the same, no matter what you invest or put into it. And even if I were standing still, not going out and moving to Venezuela for six weeks, not looking for jobs across the country, only staying at home in the Valley, holding tight and firm to the childhood I still mourn the loss of, that too would pass. All of that too would move below my feet and change. So I keep walking and taking risks. Far away in different places, up to the quiet places in mountains to mourn the loss of dreams and plans I could actually finally taste. I keep walking so that I can at least keep up with the changes and keep learning to meet them head-on.
Waiting for the bus up the mountains. Dunno how the dog got up there...