Six weeks in Venezuela. I haven’t painted anything but this door and window…the ubiquitous pink-walled colonial house. Still charming. I haven’t been game enough to walk the streets with my camera, the economy is so bad at the moment, anything remotely valuable is like a red flag to a lot of desperate, angry bulls. I hope to start drawing on the streets more, though, so maybe there will be more to post here, soon (I hope!)
We went from being completely lost and bewildered (it was a struggle just to find a bit of food everyday), to functioning fairly well as visitors (we can honestly say we speak Spanish, now) and we’ve finally arrived at a stage where we’re actually looking around for things to do, and re-introducing little routines of a “normal” life.
After weeks of being intimidated by the new environment, mooching around on the boat or ordering a string of coffees at the marina’s restaurant, of eating way too much, napping too much, not going anywhere because of the heat and the difficulty, of getting soft, fat and feeling awful about myself…I went out and bought two pairs of dumbbells (1kg. and 3kgs.) and I am back to working out every day (there’s a long bench in the little-used ladies’ bathroom that’s just perfect, and it’s so convenient to be able to duck straight into the showers afterwards!) It’s become my daily ritual.
The regular exercise has given me back my energy, as well as lifted my mood, so that I am more likely to pull my running shoes on and go for a brisk walk around the neighbourhood, just for the heck of it. The “aches and pains” that I thought were the early onset of old age have vanished, and I feel great. I’ve been to the flea market, these past two Sundays, and the days when I used to be a shy spectator—looking at the stuff from a safe and uncrowded distance—are well and truly over…I’ve learned to deal with the incredible heat, push in with all the other people, to rummage patiently through all the second-hand clothing for sale, to haggle (just a little bit, for propriety’s sake, though really most stuff is under $2), try stuff on (you pull the clothes on over whatever you’re wearing) and fill my shopping bag with half a dozen articles of clothing in an hour’s time. Then i walk the kilometer back to the marina, stopping halfway to buy a cocada (a coconut smoothie…it is to die for!) My Sunday ritual. Crazy as it sounds, these rituals have kept my life from sinking into a meaningless swamp of lazy days. The greatest responsibility you can give a person is free time…what you do with it can make you happy, or make you miserable. This trip around South America for a few years feels a bit like I have been given Free Time as a job. The problem is not finding time, but figuring out what to do with what sometimes feels like a glut, a surfeit of free time.
Learning the language has, of course, helped me to live a normal, everyday life. Hours of study—I did all 5 phases of the Pimsleur Spanish language course on our way from Brazil—supplemented by books on grammar, making lists of words with a dictionary, reading everything—from newspapers and children’s books to short novels and books about Santeria—plus hours spent talking to friendly people…one Venezuelan lady, in particular, also living on a boat in this marina and the same age as I, has become a close friend. She speaks not a word of English, but we have coffee together, show each other slideshows on our laptops, and talk about all sorts of things, so I guess I can fairly claim to speak “conversational” Spanish.
I’m really proud of this. It’s the first language that I set out to learn from scratch, and I really did give so much of my time and energy to studying it. It has all paid off, because even though I still speak slowly, and I often have to ask rapid speakers to slow down or repeat things, I can read pretty much anything, now.
Kris brought home a fabulous anthology of Neruda’s poems for me…my prize, he said, for doing so well in such a short time. I had been looking for Neruda at all the bookstores, without luck, but he found this at a newspaper kiosk in Lecheria.