Monday, 7 May 2012

Venezuela is… interesting

As mentioned in the first post from Venezuela, I find the country quite exotic and there’re a few things here that surprise me. I’ve been here for over three weeks now and I’d like to add some more observations. I have been scrupulously taking notes in my notebook that, to my Venezuelan companion’s horror, I carry everywhere. It cracks me up how she reacts each time I take it out from my handbag to write something down.
First of all, impossible is nothing in Venezuela! If a shop doesn’t have the license to sell alcohol after a certain time, you’ll find its owner in the pavement taking orders and bringing alcohol from the closed shop. You can’t smoke in public places here, except that you can if you want to. I have been to a night club where people smoked in the kitchen. The same rule applies to drinking and driving. People don’t really take taxis here after a night out, they drive their cars. There’re areas in Caracas where the police are very strict with people driving and talking on the phone. Outside those areas, you’ll see many people using their phones. By the way, this country is a gold mine for the Blackberry Company.
Although I haven’t experienced anything hostile, it seems to be quite unsafe here. Most buildings have bars on windows and doors outside and in a block of flats, also on the doors of each apartment. All good residential areas have 24/7 surveillance.
I’ve also discovered that people spend most of their free time in shopping centres which are of various designs and offer a wide range of services. Venezuelans often arrange to meet up in their favourite ‘centro comercial’ after work or at weekends. I was told that it’s because people feels safe there.
There’re a few areas, especially in Caracas, where you should put your grumpy face on (I obviously have no problems with that!), walk fast, don’t speak a foreign language, keep your camera in the bag and… get tanned a bit. Sometimes there’s no real danger but you will hear comments like: ‘What a colour!’, ‘Beach is for free!’ or at least they’ll look at you with that interest in their eyes like you were a polar bear walking through African Safari.

On the other hand, as I have already mentioned in the previous posts, Venezuelan people are extremely friendly and open. They’re very family orientated, spend a lot of time together, are in constant contact with each other and are very supportive to one another. They also address each other using ‘mi amor’ (my love), ‘mi cielo’ (my sky), ‘mi vida’ (my life), ‘cariño’ (darling). They also frequently complement each other on their looks using: ‘linda/o’  (beautiful but also cute), ‘bella/o’ (pretty/handsome), ‘que elegante’ (no translation needed). The intonation seems to be very important here. Venezuelan people like to use ‘upa’ (wow) to show their satisfaction with somebody’s appearance and the longer it is uttered for, the better you look. If you hear 'uuuuuupaaaaaa', you look hot.                         
They also have a very nice way of welcoming each other, which is a kiss on one cheek and a hug, very often followed by one of the nice expressions mentioned above. That is between men and women as well as women and women. Men usually shake hands and if they’re close friends or family members, they give each other a hug.
Men are usually gentlemen opening doors for women, helping them on/off a boat or assisting them down steep stairs when they choose to go out in stilettos.  Venezuelan men are happy to pay complements to women no matter the place. You can be nicely surprised in a supermarket, on a boat or in the street, not to mention bars and clubs. They’re also great dancers happy to entertain ladies all night long, even if they’re happily married, but would not cross the line.
Appearance seems to play an important role here. People dress well in Venezuela and there’re a lot of expensive but very tasteful pieces of clothing in shops. Women like to visit their hairdressers every week, where they also have their nails and facial waxing done. It’s also true that many of them have had plastic surgeries. I’m learning how to recognise boob and bum jobs. Some of them are very good! Even mannequins in shops have had their boobs and bums done.

It is very expensive in Venezuela. Prices of food, clothes and cosmetics are similar or the same as in England and people earn much less. The only thing that is very cheap here is petrol. You’d have to pay about 50p for 30 litres! Because of that, people frequently use their cars and don’t give each other lifts to work which results in huge traffic, unbearable in Caracas! I have also seen a lot of cars and busses left running for several minutes. Recycling is basically non-existent here and you nearly have to fight with a shop assistant who will try to give you a plastic bag for the smallest thing you purchase.
I’ve noticed that there’s quite easy access to culture, especially in Caracas. Museums are free but I had a feeling there were more people working there than the visitors. If you ask, they will show you around but they normally don’t speak English and all descriptions are in Spanish.                                   I was also lucky enough to attend a free live show of Joaquín Cortés in the city. It was an amazing artistic experience! I loved the music, dancers, singers and visual effects. The guy is a brilliant flamenco/ballet dancer who put on an exciting show. During the concert, I had a chance to practice my Spanish and interact with some Venezuelans. It was raining, spitting really, and people had their umbrellas open blocking the view, so we shouted ‘Cierre los paraguas!’ (Close the umbrellas!). Some people would stand up blocking the view again, so we shouted ‘Sientate!’ (Sit down!). I stood up a few times just to wind up people behind me. Towards the end of the show, we shouted ‘Quitate la camisa!’ (Take the shirt off!), but to the disappointment of many Venezuelanas and one Polaca, Joaquín didn’t react. It was a great evening!
Two of my Polish friends are coming to Venezuela from England tomorrow. We’re planning to go to Choroni (beaches), San Cristobal (Lisbeth’s city) and Canaima (mountains and waterfalls). I’m very excited!

Friday, 4 May 2012

It seems that my exciting year is over. However, I feel it’s just a beginning. One year ago I wanted to do something special for my 30th birthday and I came up with the list below:

1. Say ‘yes’ to all sorts of activities proposed to me even if they seem a bit scary at first.
2. Try different activities that sound exciting but I haven’t done them because I was worried about the money.
3. Worry less about what other people think/feel and just do what the hell I want! On the other hand say ‘no’ to things I don’t feel comfortable doing. As a result smile more and cry less (laughing and crying is ok).
4. Recognise the artistic side of me and start designing/making jewellery or clothes in my free time. Stop thinking I’m not good enough to do it.
5. Travel to at least three different countries and write about it. Stop thinking I can’t write.
6. Live in a different country for at least 3 months.
7. Keep jogging and do at least a half marathon.
8. Have courage to have fun until ‘my prince on a white horse’ arrives.
9. Try working somewhere else.
10. Go out less and focus on crossing off the points from my list.
11. Keep disappointing the society and my family in regards to husbands and children. I still have time to decide when and how many of them I wish to have.
12. Sleep less, do more.
13. Read at least a book per month, not a TEFL one!
14. Cook at least one new dish every month.
15. Start writing a blog to make sure I actually do these things.

I can say that all 30th year of my life was very exciting, full of changes and surprises. I think that having the list encouraged me a bit to make some important decisions and therefore I can honestly say it was a brilliant idea to have it there. Many of my friends kept asking about the blog and that is why I didn’t give up and kept writing. Thank you all for your support!

To summarise the list, I can say I have managed to cover most of the points. The biggest failure is the fourth one. Maybe I’ll cover it one day. I don’t think I was going out less either but I still managed to do a few things apart from partying, so I think I can be excused ;). I just love it and I don’t think I’ll ever grow out of it. Another thing that I love and wasn’t able to reduce is sleeping. However, I tried to wake up earlier. As for the rest of them, I think I managed to cover them pretty well. I have witnesses.

I spent my 31st birthday on a beach in Higuerote, which is about one hour and a half drive from Caracas, Venezuela. I had an empanada for breakfast, which is a stuffed fried pastry. I had it with white cheese and tajada (fried ripe banana) and with that, I had a freshly squeezed jugo de parchita (passion fruit juice) yummy! Then, we had to take a speed boat to get there and that was already quite exciting. As I mentioned before, people try to make money here in many creative ways. Therefore, our bags were taken from the boat to the beach and quickly afterwards we had a parasol put up for us. There were a few people walking around selling handmade jewellery and I managed to buy some souvenirs. We were also presented fish of different sizes that was then prepared for our lunch. It’s probably no surprise that there was a speedboat parked close to the coast which
entertained everyone with different kinds of Latin music. I already have a few favourite pieces and will have to buy CDs before I leave. From what I noticed, I was the only one reading a book and must have looked very peculiar to the locals dancing on the beach or in the water. Instead of a birthday cake, I had a huge portion of Venezuelan ice cream which I absolutely love!

On the beach, I had some time to reflect on the whole year and I think that I can definitely count it to one of the best in my life :). I also decided I’m going to continue writing the blog to keep my friends and family updated on my adventure in Venezuela.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Dreams come true!

One day, when I was still in England, my friend Lisbeth asked me whether I’d like to go and do an IELTS preparation course and visit her country. I was obviously very keen and we started working on advertising the course. Although I was very excited about the whole idea, I didn’t go on about it. People from the country like to leave everything till last minute and until about two months ago we weren’t sure whether we had enough people to run the course. Luckily enough, on Friday the 13th we arrived in Caracas (Venezuela) to make one of my dreams come true – visit South America :D!!! On Friday morning(07:25), we travelled from London to Madrid and from there to Caracas. The journey was not too bad because I slept the whole way. We arrived in Caracas at 21:30 English time (16:00 Venezuelan time). I was told there was a bank holiday that day and we were taken straight to the beach. We were sitting on rocks on the beach, chatting, listening to the sea and looking at the mountains on the other side. What a perfect start of my dream journey! I have been here for a week and I’m already fascinated by the country and especially its people. Everyone here is very friendly and approachable. I’ve been invited to lunches, dinners, coffees and drinks. People who have only just met me make me feel at home in their houses and offer to show me around. One evening, I was a special guest at a stand up show which I didn’t understand anything from lol. Afterwards, I had a chance to dance salsa, marengue and regueton. I ended up in an exclusive gay club. It was such great fun! Venezuealans find my name hilarious because it sounds like ‘hello’ in Spanish but actually means ‘a wave’ (la ola). Everyone is keen on practicing their English with me and they’ve been very patient with my poor Spanish. I’m amazed by how much I can already understand! Children from Lisbeth’s family have been very determined to teach me Spanish and they follow me everywhere, even to the toilet lol. They’re very sweet and I haven’t met a single brat. Second best thing about Venezuela is the food. It is quite different from what I’m familiar with. My personal favourite are tajadas – fried ripe bananas which taste delicious with local white cheese. There’re also fried green bananas tostones which are less sweet in taste and drier in texture. I have also had a bollito de maiz which is a corn dish served with white cheese. Very good! I Once, I had a pizca andina for breakfast which is a potato soup with poached eggs, coriander and a dash of milk. It’s a traditional dish of San Cristobal. It’s apparently very good for your hangovers. People hardly ever eat bread here, however, they frequently consume arepas – pancakes made of cornflower and water. They fill it with basically anything they fancy eg. cheese, avocado, ham, scrambled eggs. From drinks, I absolutely love the cream coffee they make here and I’m already worried how I’m going to live without it back in Poland. My favourite beer is Zulia which is light and a bit zesty in taste. I have also tried a local fruit guanebana which is green outside and white inside, with seeds. They make very nice and refreshing juice out of it. I have had a nispero which is a bit too sweet for my taste. They have delicious little mangos here! Venezuela is an exotic country to me and I have already noticed a few interesting things. Which, according to my companion, are ‘isolated cases’. I have been taking notes and pictures of things that amuse me here. On top of the list has to be my trip from Caracas to San Cristobal. I didn’t complain when we had to go on a different coach than we had booked because some of the seats were wet. As a result, we left much later and the journey took a lot longer. All of that was bearable to me. However, as soon as we got on the other coach, most of the people took out their blankets, put on winter hats, gloves and scarves (mind you it was 25 degrees outside)! It turned out they were very well prepared for twelve hours journey in an extremely air conditioned bus. I think I won’t exaggerate if I say it was maximum 5 degrees in there. I thought I’d freeze to death in this always warm country and never get to see it outside Caracas. People in Venezuela try to earn their living in many ways and can be very creative about it. It’s quite common that they go between cars on the roads selling crisps, lottery tickets, flowers etc. I’ve seen students from a local uni doing acrobatic stunts and collecting money afterwards. Regarding appearance, most people have dark hair, eyes and darkish skin. Therefore, I stand out a bit with my very white skin and green eyes and get stared at which is a funny experience. Women, especially those in Caracas, have very… full culos (bums). If I keep enjoying the food so much, I might grow a Venezuelan culito! Although people are very nice here, they seem to transform when they’re at work. They have very relaxed attitude to time and customer service. Another thing is that Venezuelans drive like craaaaaazy! If I ever drove a car here, I’d probably get killed in 5 minutes (if not sooner). At night, they normally drive on red lights for safety reasons! It was then explained to me that otherwise they’re an easy target for robbers and kidnappers. Although I haven’t experienced anything hostile, I have been warned on several occasions I have to be extra cautious. Apparently, my appearance attracts trouble. Because of that, the people we’re staying with in Caracas sent a driver/ acting bodyguard with us to the town centre. I’ve now had my celebrity moment! The weather here is beautiful. Every day, it’s about 25-30 degrees but it’s quite humid and it rains sometimes. As a result, I look like a puddle most of the time. The views are amazing because both cities are surrounded by mountains. Apparently, I haven’t seen anything yet. I can’t wait to visit the rest of the country and write about it on the blog

Saturday, 28 January 2012


It's been nearly 9 months since my first post and I've decided to see how well I've been doing considering my 15 points.

I'm going to start with the points I have neglected. First of all, I haven't posted anything since August and a lot has changed, I've just been lazy to write and I admit it. I haven't quite designed/made any jewellery or clothes but I have bought a few new pieces. I have to say that especially in the clothes department I've started being a bit more adventurous. I think twice before I say naaaaah to something a bit trendy, especially since one of my friends helped me realise I'm a size smaller I thought I was. That made me very happy! Therefore, the artisitc side of me is yet to be discovered as well as the culinary one. I haven't cooked anything new for months now although I have perfected and slightly changed the dishes I already know.

I also have to admit I haven't been going out less but more! In my defense I have recently discovered I'm genetically conditioned because even my 70 years old nan, who is soon going to be a great grandmother, parties with her choir till early morning hours. My recent personal record is 8 am and I was still up for taking a ferry from England to France, luckily I had some reasonable people with me at that time (and no money).

Nevertheless, I’ve managed to follow the other points. First of all, I’ve made a huge change in my life and I’ve come back to my country, for good. If I had to give the year 2011 a name, it’d definitely be CHANGES. It’s been harder than I had expected and I miss some of the people, a lot :(. I only hope it’s all for the best. I know that soon I’ll settle in and … find new friends lol For a few months, I was pretty busy with all the arrangement and enjoying my last days living in England so that might be another reason why I’ve neglected my blog a bit.

I’m quite satisfied with my running. In October, I took part in a charity run and I managed to do 10 miles (16 kilometers) in 1 hour 38 minutes. It was a great experience and I hope I’ll do a half-marathon before my next birthday. There’s snow in Poland right now so I jog on a treadmill in a gym and is far less exciting but still good practice.

I’ve also been reading more and a few months ago one of my friends had a great idea to start a book club. Each month we agreed on a book, read it, met up in somebody’s house and discussed it. I’ll definitely miss that activity here in Poland.

Finally, I’d like to focus on the first point from the list: Say ‘yes’ to all sorts of activities proposed to me even if they seem a bit scary at first.
I was asked to take part in a photo shoot to a … naked (revealing) calendar. It was a very scary idea at first but it was for a good cause and I hope I managed to help a very special and brave person. The whole experience was great fun and I’m very happy I could be a part of it. The calendar will always remind me last days in England and how much I’ve managed to change during ‘my exciting year’.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Probably the best holiday in my life

I went to Cyprus for a week with three friends at the beginning of August. I normally do a lot of preparation before a holiday: buy a guidebook, plan roughly each day, I even look into restaurants and bars I could go to. This time, I didn't even know the name of the town we were going to. We got a half-price deal on the internet so I expected a cheap hotel with horrible food. But when we got there, OMG it was amazing! A huge resort with a big swimming pool, slides and bars around it, right on the beach as well. The restaurant was overlooking the see and we could either sit outside or inside. There was a great selection of very tasty food and they would put out these very funky decorations, like flowers made out of a vegetable or fruit. The waiters were very friendly and helpful but, for some reason, always informed us when they had a day off lol. Although the resort was very good and we were quite happy to just chill over there, we also managed to visit some places and do a few things for my blog :).
The best day there was when we took a boat trip. On that day I managed to do a few things which I can cross off my list. When we stopped to swim in the sea, some guys started jumping off the ship into the water. It was quite high up and apparently, according to one of my companions, I had a sparkle in my eye and so I was convinced I wanted to do it too. So I went up there and scared like hell jumped off the second deck. Then I did it again with one of my friends only that time I managed to land on my bum and that was pretty painful for a while.
We then decided to go parasailing. We did it in pairs and were towed behind a speedboat while attached to a parachute. The views were breathtaking and I felt very free, relaxed and happy up there. After that, two of us decided to go jet skiing. I had tried it before but on a lake and since then always wanted to do it on open water where I could go full speed. So I did and it was awesome! I discovered I love adrenaline rush.
One day we went to Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus. It is divided into a Turkish and Greek part and you can cross the boarder on your passport. On the last day we decided to go hiking up a mountain to visit ruins of a castle. It was very hot and only two of us made it to the top but the views were definitely worth the effort. Later that day, we took another boat trip to watch the sunset. It was very beautiful.
We also went out a few times in the nearby town, Kyrenia. My personal favourite was the first night out when all of us looking glamorous smoked shisha, drunk local beer, chatted and laughed while sitting in an open air bar. It was all fab until one of us decided to get disgusting shots which she couldn't handle herself lol. We called it a sex and the city experience. We also went to an open air night club which was up a hill overlooking the sea. Great fun!
The whole holiday can be described as amazing, exciting and unforgettable. The sun makes me very happy and I started thinking that maybe I should live in a hotter country.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

An end is just another chance for a beginning

The title is something I came up with when I was cleaning today. I’m sure somebody had already said it but I like to think I’m the author of this philosophical thought :).

To start with, I have to admit I failed a little bit last month by not cooking anything new but I have good intentions to fix it. I’m going to cook with my Spanish teacher on Saturday while chatting in Spanish and English. It should be fun.

On the other hand, I managed to do a new activity when I was in Copenhagen mid June. I was challenged to try a gyro drop. When I saw that huge tower with seats which are lifted to the top before being released and falling towards the ground, my natural reaction was to refuse such ‘pleasure’. However, number 1 on my list is: ‘say ‘yes’ to all sorts of activities proposed to me even if they seem a bit scary at first.’ So I did it and it was scary but exciting at the same time and I’m glad I hadn’t chickened out. After that I watched Aqua live and I have to say ‘Barbie plastic is fantastic’:)!

Copenhagen is an expensive but picturesque city with friendly and good looking people who speak amazing English. I couldn’t help but smile when I was walking down very charming streets and canal with many funky pubs and cafés. In one of them I counted I’ve visited 15 countries - not too bad but I’m hungry for some more. There are also quite a few galleries and museums to visit. I found three things amusing:
1. Danish people seem to think that if you have to walk to a place for 15 minutes it is veeerryyy faaar and they advise you to take public transport.
2. Their favourite mean of transport is a bicycle. The Danes leave them in the street UNLOCKED and nobody takes them! I couldn’t believe my eyes!
3. The weather is more changable than in England. It would suddenly shower for 2 minutes and then the sun would come out, another shower and sun and so on. It was quite a surprise each time.
All in all, I had a great time and I definitely recommend the city to anyone who likes a bit of culture, fun and relaxation.

When I was in Denmark, I started reading ‘Never Let Me Go’ by Kazuo Ishiguro. I finished it last Friday and watched the film afterwards. I liked both. The book because it is, obviously, more detailed and for that reason the relations between characters seem deeper but I cried on the film. I thought the whole idea was very clever and interesting. Sometimes I watch films, look at pictures or photos, read books and I’m happy to discover that people still manage to come up with something innovative. Another film that has moved me recently is ‘Blue Valentine’ and, as it says on the cover, anyone who has ever been in love should watch it.

I used to play volleyball in the past and have recently started again. I’ve forgotten how much fun it is, especially on sand. I’ve got a huge painful bruise on my right arm ,which looks like I had some serious domestic violence going on, but that shouldn’t discourage me.

I’ve booked another holiday and I’m off with my three gorgeous girlfriends in the first week of August to enjoy Cyprus. I’m very excited about it!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

In my panic mode

I've again decided to write on a day which involves number 4. I wonder whether it means anything. Today is 14th June. It was my mum's birthday yesterday and when I called her with some wishes she was very curious to hear what new life changing ideas I've had this week. The place I've come up with recently, Dubai, she wasn't even quite sure where it was. However, she was very much pleased to hear I'd be earning nice tax free salary.

Why am I in my panic mode? Well, I have my little stages before big changes. First, I'm very enthusiastic and actively look into things. That one smoothly goes into my second stage where I get a bit carried away and obsessed. That's why the idea of going to Australia and more recently Dubai. That's not all though. About two weeks ago one of my friends, innocently and in good faith, forwarded me a few websites about round the world trips. OMG! I spent hours looking into different options and calculating how much I would need to have to go on one of those. I couldn't sleep and twice, during the week, I woke up at 8.10am (I work at 8.30am). I was amazed that both times I managed to shower and put some face on in 15 minutes! A quick cycle was a good exercise too. So I'm still in that stage where I have 1 million ideas every week and it's not very productive, I don't think, so I'm panicking. Soon enough, hopefully, I will move to the stage where I sit on my lovely bum and actually start sorting things out.

On a different note, I'm reading a book that was recommended to me by one of my friends 'Slim for Life' by Jason Vale. I have to say that at first I was really interested in reading about different foods that are bad for me and how I've been brainwashed into believing I enjoy eating them. Apparently, after I've read the whole book, I'll never want to eat chocolate and crisps. That's not going to happen now as I unfortunately got bored reading it and won't probably last till the end. Jason repeats himself frequently which is not good for my short attention span, therefore I'll have to start reading a different book for this month.

When I started writing today I thought I didn't have much to say but it is not too bad. This Friday I'm going to Copenhagen for the weekend so hopefully I'll have something interesting to write about when I come back. Denmark is one of the countries I intend to visit in my exiting year. At least two more to go :).