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!

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