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Posts Tagged ‘beach’

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like to set goals before moving to a new country.  Spending 5 months in Brazil this year was no different.  Here’s a review of how I did:

1.  Take forró dance lessons.  I did!  I found a school near my apartment and had classes every Tuesday and Thursday night.  This was basically my only dancing outlet and I was sooooo thankful for it!  (And now back to my regularly-scheduled bachata and salsa obsession…)

(This video is from the June Festivals, before I had taken a single class.  One of the university employees offered to show me how to dance forro on the spot and I did NOT know what I was doing.  I got much better after I actually learned the basic steps – ha!)

2.  Visit Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.  I did!  Read about it here.

3.  See Iguassu Falls.  Yep!  Read about it here.

4.  Visit The Pantanal.  Check!  And I saw a few jaguars too!

5.  Enjoy some beach time.  So many beaches.  I went to Sao Luis, Jericoacoara (probably my favorite), Natal/Galinhos, and Joao Pessoa/Pipa.  Northeastern Brazil is known for having great beaches, and they did not disappoint.

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6.  See Carol.  Hooray!  When I was in Brasilia for the Braz-TESOL conference, I got to meet up with my friend from grad school.  So fun to catch up with her!

7.  Try cashew fruit.  Not only did I get to try cashew fruits, I also had cashew nuts, cashew juice, and cajuina (like a cider, similar to how apple cider is a stronger version of apple juice).

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I think this is the first time that I accomplished all of my goals for a country!  What’s next??

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Notes on Venezuela

I just completed 2 weeks as an English Language Specialist in Venezuela, where I gave teacher training workshops at universities in Caracas, Puerto Cabello, Valencia, and Maracay.  Everyone I worked with was incredibly eager and friendly and thoughtful – it was such an awesome gig!

Some of my observations:

IMG_8708I found that Venezuelans talk about politics a lot, and are quite critical of their current leader.  Of course, I was hanging around with English teachers the whole time, so that might not have been a truly representative sample.  (And almost everyone I talked to was an antichavista – against Chavez.)

It’s common to have black outs in Venezuela.  People told me this happens on a weekly basis.  Without advance warning.  Sometimes they lose electricity for an hour or two.  Sometimes it’s for 5 hours, or even 12.  We had a 2-hour blackout one evening during my visit.

Overlooking Puerto Cabello

Overlooking Puerto Cabello

It’s also common to have no water.  For an afternoon.  Or a day.  Or a few days.  Many people keep large bins full of water so they can still bathe and clean when the tap stops.  The university where I was working for 4 days didn’t have running water for 2 of those days.  Public restrooms quickly start to smell when no one can flush.

On Isla Larga

On Isla Larga

IMG_8883Gasoline is ridiculously cheap.  My driver filled our Ford Explorer with about 10 gallons of gas.  It cost about 88 cents.  That’s if you use the official exchange rate.  With the more commonly accepted black market rate, that 10 gallons cost about a quarter.

Which brings me to the confusing dual exchange rate.  Officially, there are about 4 Venezuelan bolivares in a US dollar.  But most people go by the black market exchange rate, which is around 13-15 bolivares per dollar.  It’s a strange (and illegal) situation.  It is also not possible to exchange bolivares back into dollars.

Venezuelan women with long hair have it cut straight across in the back.  (In Ecuador, women almost always have it cut to taper into a point in the back.)

Enjoying Cata beach with Waleska and Evelin.

Enjoying Cata beach with Waleska and Evelin.

I saw several Venezuelan women wearing tight pants.  But I also saw baggy jeans and cargo pants and flared jeans and flowy trousers.  (In Ecuador, tight pants are sooooo fashionable.  If you see a woman wearing anything baggy – she’s probably not Ecuadorian.)

I realized just how Ecuadorian my Spanish is.  Here is just some of the vocabulary that is different between Ecuadorian Spanish and Venezuelan Spanish:
un ratito –> un ratico  (a moment)
maduro –> tajada  (ripe plantain)
papaya –> lechoza  (papaya)
maracuya –> parchita  (passion fruit)
frejoles negros –> caraotas  (black beans)
cerdo –> cochino  (pork)
choclo –> maiz  (corn)
coger (In Ecuador, this means “to grab.”  I use it all the time, as in “I need to grab a taxi.”  When I asked in Venezuela if I could “grab my suitcase,” the hotel clerk’s barely-concealed look of horror told me that this was probably one of those countries where coger has a less innocent meaning.  Indeed.)

IMG_8763My favorite memory:  when a bunch of the English teachers took me to Isla Larga for the day.  We swam.  And lounged.  And ate raw oysters on the beach!  The shellfish monger was so pleased with my interest in the oysters, that he gave me some kind of raw snail as a gift.  He said it was an aphrodisiac so strong it turns your eyes blue.  Except I already have blue eyes.  So it might turn my eyes black.

Yes I ate it.  And my eyes are still blue.  Haha.

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Paragliding

I recently had the opportunity to go paragliding (I know, right?) over the coast of Ecuador.  How could I pass this up?  All I had to do was get into a harness, walk off the cliff when my tandem pilot told me to, and then sit back and enjoy my bird’s-eye-view over the picturesque little seaside town of Crucita.  It was fantastic.

Readying the equipment:

In the air!

photo courtesy of Miss Maura Phelan

Safely landed – piece of cake!

photo courtesy of Miss Maura Phelan

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