My last week in Valencia flew by. During my last weekend I said goodbye to friends and exchanged email address and phone numbers (the people here love What’s App). Along with the goodbyes came lots of cookies, I think the Venezuelans were starting to feel extra generous because of the upcoming holiday season. Two of my students, Marcos and Veronica also took me out to a fun sushi restaurant on my last night, Wednesday. I had been avoiding sushi here because I have tried Latin Americas take on Chinese food and it really missed the spot, so what I tasted here was a pleasant surprise. The fish was fresh (thankfully, since we are so close to the ocean) and they had some interesting fusion rolls with a Caribbean twist. The first was a roll with coconut which reminded me of some of the flavors from Southeast Asia. The second was a tempura roll with pineapple and yucca, yum. I ordered a spicy salmon roll that was delightfully spicy with jalapeno shavings, unlike the mildness of the rest of the food in Venezuela.
Come Thursday morning, I was very sleepy (having put off cleaning and packing until after dinner the night before) and arrived at the tiny airport in Valencia two hours before my flight, which you would think would be plenty of time, right? No, clearly I was wrong. At 5am, the airport was not only packed, but the lines were stationary. ¡Naguana de cola! There was one line to check in bags, one line to pay a departure tax, and another for international departures. Please note my incredibly official looking boarding pass:
I did get a laugh at this picture, Hugo Chávez wishing us a ¡feliz viaje! Although the president passed away in March, he is still very present in propaganda, much more than Maduro, who just passed a law to rule with unlimited power for the next 12 months. That should turn ugly soon, as if it hasn’t already!
On a side note, Maduro’s recent economic power play has been regulating prices of consumer electronic goods. At Daka (similar to Best Buy here), prices of televisions, refrigerators, etc. are about a quarter of their original cost. This move is supposed to cut inflation, but it will only decrease the profits of these companies that already cannot afford the raw materials for their products. I expect that soon, there won’t be any electronic products to sell, much like the escalating demands for automobiles.
Anyways, back to my travels. The colas (lines) were a huge pain and took about ninety minutes. Thankfully everyone else was late to the boarding area and planes rarely leave on time here. After a nice chat with the man checking my boarding pass, things turned ugly with the man checking my bags. Apparently, in Venezuela, tweezers are a huge weapon, but nail clippers are not. The official (military, no less) and I argued about this for a long time until I realized that I shouldn’t argue with a worker who is employed by the government that hates my country. I walked away, defeated, and wishing I could tell him “take them; your eyebrows need the tweezers more than mine!” Good thing that’s when we started boarding the airplane to Curacao.
To wrap up my experience here:
Total days: 58
Total days under 70F/20C: 0
Favorite experience: Magallanes baseball game
Safety rating: Thankfully, nothing happened to me and I felt very safe; however, I didn’t go out after dark and never showed my iPhone. However, a neighbor in my building was kidnapped during my stay (Mom and Dad, I purposefully didn’t tell you this until after I left, sorry). I was also slightly confused because one of the security guards told me that his kidnappers wanted money and that he was returned safely the next day. However, through much gossip with the neighbors I found out that he was still missing, and that they thought he was associated with drugs and someone came to collect debts. Interesting.
Likelihood to return: Would love to, but maybe in 10 years or whenever Maduro leaves office. You can feel the tension and the frenetic energy of the normally calm people at times and it’s unsettling.
Overall: I am very thankfully to have had the opportunity to live in such a tumultuous country and see the world through different eyes. Since I started my trip in the one of the world’s most dangerous countries, it can only get better from here, am I right?