Wednesday, 25/09 and Thursday, 26/09
On Wednesday morning I observed one of Angel’s classes and then during our lunch break I went grocery shopping, which was by far one of my most fascinating experiences so far. The supermarket that Angel took me to was on the “south side” of town (in the industrial district where Sika is located) where real estate is probably cheaper, and this place was huuuge. While in the produce department, a cute, elderly woman started talking to me about how juicy the limes were and convinced me to buy some (she was right). After that encounter, Angel told me that the reason why strangers keep talking to me like I am not a gringa is because I look like them! How exciting! I took that as a compliment because that probably means I’m less likely to get robbed, which is comforting.
My next experience at the supermarket was learning how locals shop. Because of the nation’s socialist mindset and the government controlled supply shortages, consumers have a sense of fear that their favorite product might not be here the next day, so they stock up. Recently, shortages have included: toilet paper, milk, and corn flour (to make the national specialty, arepas). Because of this, you must give the cashier your national identification number upon checkout, which I think monitors how much of each product you’ve purchased. While in line at checkout, I saw people with multiple carts full of arepa flour and toilet paper as if preparing for the apocalypse.
Another moment that resonated at the supermarket was watching how many plastic bags each person wasted. Having just moved from Boulder, where grocery stores charge 10 cents per bag, I always carry a reusable bag in my purse. Here, people always double bag and if you try to add how many bags it takes for a whole cart of toilet paper – that’s a lot of waste!
Surprisingly, this shopping experience tied in well to my afternoon lesson at Sika! The topic we discussed was the environment. Again, coming from Boulder, where you don’t even have to try hard at being enviro-friendly because someone else will force you, I have to take a huge step backward here, where curbside recycling sounds like a mythical ideal in a far-away land. I think the discussion-based lesson went particularly well as it also served as an ice breaker between me and the students to expose our backgrounds.
On Thursday I was again reminded about time discrepancies. The morning thundershower caused a lot of traffic from the north side (where I live) to the south side so Angel and I were late to Sika. When we arrived, two students looked worried sick because we were running late, yet somehow six students were missing! Needless to say, that lesson flew by because there were only two students.
In order to avoid showing up to an empty classroom, Angel texted my students on Friday to see if any of them were showing up (and they weren’t) so I had the day off to explore. Up until this point and I hadn’t ventured very far from my apartment so I decided it was time for my first run. After attempting to memorize the Google Maps layout of my neighborhood, I left the building and within five minutes of running was already full-sweat (thanks, humidity). Within my neighborhood is a street called Cuatro Avenidas where all the jocks hang out and pump iron in the street at night (ow owww). Luckily it was daytime and the street was pretty empty so no one could see how sweaty I was as I ran in a loop around the street. 45 minutes later and I made it back to my apartment, mission accomplished! Just as I walked in the door I received a call from Angel saying he was on his way, four hours late (good thing I didn’t wait to go on my run!).
In the afternoon we went on a little tour de Valencia, complete with the Asian shopping mall!! Just for kicks I decided that we should do a little shopping at the mini markets in the mall. As one can expect with a whole-in-the-wall Asian grocery store, there were a lot of strange, unidentifiable items for sale. I bought some safe looking sauces and noodles for future dinners. The best part of the experience was watching Asians speak Spanish, which many Venezuelans think is hilarious.
Upon our conclusion of the tour, we calculated that the average Venezuelan spends $10 per year on gas for their car (wow!!) – the gas here is state owned by PDVSA and although residents say it really should cost more, they aren’t complaining. And finally, I bought my first six pack!!! I probably shouldn’t sound so excited about beer but after a tiring week, a 6% Solera Pilsner did the trick (Coloradans, please don’t judge me).
Next up: the weekend adventures…