Salsa Casino

I decided I couldn’t live like this anymore.

Everything I do here in Venezuela is centered around someone else. Since I don’t have a car (and am not comfortable driving anyways), many taxis are unmarked, and I’m acquiring more of the language, I’m always told to be careful and to go around with someone else.

At some point, even while keeping safety in mind, that becomes stifling.

I never thought I would have to tell a co-worker when I needed new underwear because I didn’t know of a store that sold some (but I did discover a stand at the farmer’s market that sells ladies’ items. I just haven’t gotten the heart to browse through bras and panties outside with what seems like the whole world swirling around me with their grocery bags).

Off of a co-worker’s recommendation, five women from work were supposed to go to a salsa casino class. Yet an hour before the class, three women contacted me to say they weren’t coming while the fourth didn’t respond to my phone call or text message asking for directions.

In Venezuela directions are difficult because they’re all about landmarks and “it’s not too far from…”When you’re new and can’t rely on streets because so many are unmarked, directions such as these aren’t much help.

I was disappointed. I was disheartened. And then my stubborn streak set in. I was going to go by myself just like I did, and was even expected to do, in New York City.

I walked to a taxi stand near my house with frustration trailing behind me like a stray dog, got dropped off in the general location of the dance studio, asked a few people for directions when I got turned around, and eventually found it.

After an hour and a half of dancing, I was hooked. There was the mortifying part where the men were told to choose a female partner. It was a pre-pubescent middle school dance all over again.

Never in my life have I literally felt the cliché of wanting the ground to swallow me up. I was certain I would be left without a partner.

Yet, never in my life have I felt the cliché of feeling like I was going to melt into the ground when a tall, beautiful man came out of nowhere and offered me his hand. Danielle Steel had nothing on that scene.

I somehow managed to miss Mr. Beautiful when I entered the studio because I was too busy trying to slip in late and stand, as directed, by the one woman who spoke English in case the dance steps didn’t make sense to me. I never caught his name and, on second thought, he seemed a little young, but it was fun nonetheless.

After dancing with different people, I was glad I took a minute to scoop water from my trash can reserve and rewash my armpits before leaving for class. Otherwise, it would not have been a pleasant experience for some people.

By the session’s end, I signed up for a month of classes. Of course, I got turned around looking for the taxi stand going back to my apartment, but I got to practice my Spanish, got my bearings in another part of the city, and discovered my new hobby: salsa casino.

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