This past Saturday, I had an opportunity to see my first Venezuelan Winter League baseball game: los Navegantes de Magallanes de Valencia y los Tigres de Aragua. What an experience! The stadium is much smaller than a MLB stadium, and because of that it feels much more intimate. The crowd is alive with intensity throughout the entire game. We (yes, me included) yell poooooooonche at the opposing hitters (strikeout), throw empty plastic beer cups wherever we want, and don’t accept anything less than a win.
Los Tigres were leading 4-2 going into the bottom of the 9th and los Magallantes managed to come back and win 5-4! It was very exciting. The teams are a mix of local players, MLB players and some minor league players who need extra practice. There was a lot of singing, chanting, shirt helicoptering, and of course more beer. The beer, by the way, is served in tiny plastic cups. The vendors come around and fill these tiny cups from tiny glass bottles of Polar Light beer (try not to dwell on that, I think my beer selectivity has greatly decreased since living here) and add to your tally on a cardboard sheet that they keep in their pocket. Dangerous? Definitely. As the guest, I didn’t pay for any beer but I can only imagine what our count was!
Here are my lovely tour guides/friends/baseball enthusiasts:
The first boy on the left is a friend’s younger brother whose name I don’t remember. The man in the glasses is Marcos, one of my students, who is dating Veronica, next to him. They both work at Chrysler/Fiat which is thankfully directly across from the stadium, so we had prime parking. Next to them is Maria Celia, another engineer friend. You may recognize Vero and Marcos from my arepa blog. I am grateful for them because they have introduced me to quite a bit of Venezuelan culture and social life.
In fact, after the game we went out to eat and I decided to face one of my fears: the Venezuelan hot dog. During the past two months here, people left and right have not stopped talking to me about America’s inferior hot dogs and hamburgers. I felt like eating a Venezuelan hot dog would be a right of passage, so I went for it and… it was only okay. In addition to the normal bun and “frank,” here they like to add shredded cheese. corn, shredded french fries (almost like hash browns, but thinner and crunchier) and a multitude of condiments. I politely declined the mayonnaise this time. While I’m glad I finally tried this national food, I think I only needed to experience it once.
Now, in my last full week teaching, I am concentrating on maximizing my experiences and enjoying each day. Unfortunately, this week we have already had a few power outages and currently we have no gas in the building (what a perfect time for a raw diet!), but I had a great yoga class this morning in the dark. Things got quite sweaty, but isn’t that how yoga should be? In a week and two days, I will be doing yoga on the beach in Curacao. Can’t wait!