I was feeling a little delicate, as my friend puts it, the Saturday before school started.
I was moping, really. I wanted to get paid without working (whenever someone finds that utopia, please let me know) and it was time for me to report back to work.
My last weekend of vacation, I dragged myself to the Saturday morning farmer’s market to get something fresh to eat. The market was bare, empty really except for three stands. I was so confused when I first saw it I thought I had arrived at the market too late. Not for late-risers, the market closes around 12:00 PM. I checked my watch. 9:30 AM.
Lesson #1 in the new year: Most businesses are closed the week of New Year’s.
My overworked American ass was thinking there was no need to take more than one day off for the New Year. Tell that to the people who were not selling me fruits and vegetables.
My trusty fruit stand was open, and the owners even threw in an extra red apple for me. I don’t like red apples, but when I learned that apples are expensive right now in the country it made me feel loved. The man did say he noticed I’d been gone for a while.
As I turned to leave the market, I saw a vegetable stand that was run by none other than black folks. I would be lying if I said my heart did not leap higher than Gabby Douglas at the Olympics when I saw them.
I stare now when I see black people. Me, a black person, stares at other black folks and wonder where they came from. There’s not too many of us in this part of Venezuela.
hurtled walked to the stand and purchased the items I wanted. On the walk home, a neighbor drove past me, stopped, and gave me a ride to our building.
Lesson #2: Good things do happen when you venture out despite being in a funky mood.
I decided I would start buying chicken in Venezuela after making this fabulous recipe while in Houston. The security guard took one look at my grocery list and told me that there’s a shortage of chicken right now in Venezuela.
Of course there is.
The moment I get over my fear of buying raw meat in Venezuela I can’t buy the meat I want. When I told my mom she started laughing, and I couldn’t help but laugh too. I could get mad, but that takes too much energy, and it won’t change the chicken shortage.
Lesson #3: Supposedly, January is always a tough month in Venezuela because production basically ceases. Now I know.
Saturday night, I went to a delicious Chinese restaurant (this is the best Chinese food I’ve EVER had–better than Melbourne’s Chinatown, better than my hole in the wall Chinese restaurant in New York City, better than the Chinese restaurant of my childhood, the best) with two co-workers and their husbands. I practiced my Spanish, avoided feeling like the fifth wheel, and drank some delicious green tea mojitos.
Then, the husbands paid for me and their wives. I was confused at first. My debit card was already out and ready for my portion of the bill. They waved it away, explaining that in Venezuela the men pay. I was their wives’ friend, so I was taken care of.
Lesson #4: I am a fan of chivalry, gender equality and the rest be damned.
Now, the (stereotypical) feminist in me may say that I shouldn’t feel all warm inside when a man offers to carry my bag, open my car door, step aside so I can pass through a doorway first, pay when we go out, etc…but I like it.
I love it actually.
They may be surface level actions that are not truly indicative of how aligned a man is with my personal philosophy of gender roles and equality, but I’m not complaining.
“Welcome back to Venezuela,” everyone at the table told me as I put away my debit card, and I teared up.
Lesson #5: I love the people here. Plain and simple. There may not be chicken and I may have to wait a week to run the majority of my errands, but I have good company, a job that I love, and beautiful weather.
I have plenty to look forward to in the new year.
Aquí, here, in Venezuela.