Una guarita en proceso de estonización

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Barquisimeto

The first time I took part in a running race was in my hometown Barquisimeto (Venezuela) in the year 2006. It was on a day like today: the 14th of January. On this date there is a religious celebration: The Holy Shepherd day. It is accompanied, among other things, by a marathon and its alternative races (a 10K which is actually a 13K is the one I did). This event is basically millions of people walking from one side of the city to the other (the idea is to bring the religious figure from its permanent location in a church from a town that has almost become part of the city to the cathedral). Though I’m not a religious person, I still get excited every year on this date as I remember people enjoying the city together, walking with friends, families, neighbors from one end to the next. On this date I always remember the feeling I connect with and enjoy about running: bright sun, asphalt under my feet, light skies, red roofs and lots of people around, high temperatures, me becoming part of the city, of myself, pushing myself hard. I dream of doing this again. I might do it one day. But I know that the exact same feeling will never be the same again. Because in my memory there are people now gone, smells that have been replaced, places that have changed, and my 19-year-old self which will never return. I’ll miss this forever.

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200 años de la Independencia de Venezuela

200 años de la Independencia de Venezuela

Querida Venezuela, hoy en tu día quiero desearte un feliz cumpleaños. Sé que han sido 200 largos años de sufrimiento, gloria, tristeza y alegría, pero también sé que lo serán más los que sigan, porque para hacerte una nación madura todavía tienes mucho que recorrer. Aprovecho de disculparme contigo por no entregarte lo mucho que esperarías de mí, pero algunos hijos nacemos para dejar el hogar y recorrer el mundo, porque si no la vida se nos queda corta y nos arrepentimos de no haberlo hecho.  Esa es, de alguna manera, mi forma de crecer cada día. Ambas crecemos, sólo que no juntas. Y tú, además, tienes muchos años para aprovecharlos. Los míos, son limitados. Los tuyos no, pero si los aprovechas, podrás vivir una vida mejor. Muchos te querrán y desearán pisar tus tierras. Muchos quieren hacerlo, pero algunos lo temen. Por eso, crece. Crece, Venezuela.

Reconozco que muchas veces te extraño y te agradezco siempre que tengas suficiente espacio para acobijar a gran parte de quienes más quiero en esta vida y te doy un poco de aliento contándote mi mayor secreto: que cuando haya madurado y vivido la vida que quiero, ya llena de experiencias y de energías para vivir mis últimos años, espero que todavía me quieras recibir, y espero que hayas crecido y aprendido muchísimo para que puedas compartirlo conmigo. Espero, sobre todo, que no me guardes rencores. Yo no los guardaré para ti. Y, para no ser ingrata, intentaré siempre mantenerme a tu lado, aunque no en ti. Intentaré seguir siendo tu embajadora en los pasos que recorro en mi camino. Tú, espérame. Espérame y crece mientras tanto. Yo creceré contigo.

Por los 200 años de Independencia de Venezuela. Dedicado a mi familia y a mis amigos venezolanos, a quienes alguna vez hayan pisado mi tierra, a quienes están y a quienes se han ido.

Este blog, como saben por el título, narra las historias de mi vida en tierras estonias, habiendo nacido a unos cuántos miles de kilómetros de distancia, en Venezuela, y mi proceso de integración en el nuevo país.

Me fui por razones que ya ni yo misma recuerdo. Creo que fue algo así como ganas de conocer el mundo, combinadas con un deseo de superación que creía que se vería menguado en mi patria.

Cualquiera hayan sido las razones, lo cierto es que terminé en este rinconcito del planeta y me convencí de que, bien en este rincón o en cualquier otro que no fuese mi propia tierra, tendría que hacer un esfuerzo por pertenecer para quitarme de encima ese bulto de inmigrante que te recuerda que ni eres de aquí, ni de allá, como dice la canción “Mojado”, aunque yo sí tenga papeles.

Claro que pertenecer a un lugar es mucho, muchísimo más que tener un papel que diga que, al menos temporalmente, tienes el derecho a estar en él. Es camuflajearte riéndote de las mismas cosas, usando las mismas expresiones, compartiendo los mismos recuerdos, disfrutando la misma música, degustando las mismas comidas y celebrando las mismas fiestas. Es todo un bajage de experiencias acumuladas a lo largo de los años que yo acumulé en Venezuela y no aquí. Por eso no es fácil.

Sin embargo, yo lo intento, de veras que sí. Lo intento aprendiendo, en primer lugar, la lengua en la que transmiten todo lo que son, lo que fueron y lo que creen que serán. No es fácil, menos aún sin asistir a una clase con regularidad, porque yo, ya lo he confesado, no aprendo así solita, sin alguien que me explique el porqué, el cómo y el cuándo, sin alguien a quien pueda yo preguntarle todo lo que se me dé en gana. Además, lo intento comiendo, celebrando, cantando y enterándome (de) lo mismo que ellos. Sin embargo, no es fácil. Y días como hoy me pregunto si seré capaz de lograrlo.

Es difícil, sobre todo, cuando en palabras de mis anfitriones, estar aquí es cosa de locos. Para ellos, el clima es razón suficiente para haberme quedado donde nací. No siento yo que me estén echando, porque no lo dicen con odio, ni mucho menos. Lo dicen con sorpresa, con cara de incomprensión, de extrañeza. Yo, a veces, me canso de explicarles que el clima es razón insuficiente para seleccionar un lugar. Que algunos nacimos para no ser de ningún lado. Que además, si ellos se creyeran de verdad eso que dicen, no estarían aquí (eso sí, los hay quienes se han ido, como en todas partes). Y cuando me canso, no digo nada, que estoy aquí porque sí y ya está. Y cuando tengo ganas les explico eso que acabo de explicar y les digo además que, con todo lo que quiero a la tierra que me parió y con las muchas cosas que a veces extraño, mi concepto de paraíso no es un lugar en el que, después de caminar tres cuadras, la camisa se te pegue a la espalda de sudor. Y les explico además que la gente allá no es que camina en shorts y franelilla todo el santo día. No. Allá también llevamos pantalones y chaquetas para ir a trabajar. Y allá también nos quejamos, como en todas partes, de tal o cual situación, de tal o cual político, de tal o cual organización o desorganización.

Total que, los intento convencerl de que mi decisión no es tan descabellada como ellos creen. Intento también advertirles que así no me ayudan. Y es que integrarse, no es solamente intentar hacer todas esas cosas que mencioné arriba, para integrarte también te tienen que permitir hacerlo. Es un proceso bidireccional. Yo doy y ellos me dan. Yo intento y ellos intentan. Si no ¿de qué vale todo mi esfuerzo?

No es fácil. Pero nadie me dijo que lo fuese. Yo, por mi parte, lo sigo intentando y le sigo rogando a mis anfitriones que me permitan hacerlo.


There are strange things that can make you miss…

In the corner opposite to mine there’s been something under construction for a while. Since I live here I hadn’t walked on that side of the street because there was no sidewalk or it was covered with the fence of the construction area. A few days ago they reduced the limits of the fence and a sidewalk appeared. You could see it was new because of the light color of the cement. Luis noticed it while walking with me back home, so we decided to use it. It was nice, as nice as every little thing that changes your routine without causing damage to your life, and even new sidewalks can do that 🙂 So, from the very first step I took on it unconsciously I started looking for a heart on it drawn with a stick by a girl or a boy saying his/her name inside it together with somebody else’s name from the opposite sex united to his/her by an ampersand. As I was walking and not noticing hearts then I started looking for little hands that the same girl or boy had decided to put on the cement while it was still humid….there were no hands either….that’s when it came to my mind that probably it happened only in Venezuela or even just in my beloved hometown Barquisimeto that the children or young go running to the fresh cement of a just-inished sidewalk to draw a memory or feeling that later millions of people will step on…

There are strange things that can make you miss and remember.

One of the things I’m pretty sure us expats miss the most when we’re not home is food! Food from our country turns out to be the best when we’re not there! There’s nothing comparable to it! We have the best dishes no one could ever try…And those made by mom or grandma?! No words for that!
Everyday when you are about to have a bite you star dreaming of all the favorite food you had back home, and that means: everything! Because somehow you end up loving everything you used to have!
So far I’ve dreamed of a pepito in La calle del hambre in Barquisimeto after a party or a movie in Las Trinitarias shopping center, a huge arepa in a stop at a gas station while traveling by bus to Caracas or one in L’areperie (funny name!) in Churum Meru shopping center, a huge Home Run Hamburger in Dog & Ball in the same shopping center, a piece of pan de jamón in December with hallacas! Home cake made by mom! And the list goes on and on…
I have tried hard to learn to do some of this thing myself, but it hasn’t been an easy job, first because is really hard to find the ingredients such as Harina P.A.N. (below), and second because I wasn’t born to be a cook 😦
And even if I was a good cook and could find the stuff I need, I believe there’s a unique taste these things have when you try them made by the hands that used to made them for you every morning before going to school! Eating them in that specific place with friends is just another thing! There’s no ingredient for that!
The sad thing is that even if I go back I actually will not be able to try them all, as I’ve decided to give them up by becoming a vegetarian. But no one will stop me from eating an arepa full of cheese and butter every single day while being there on holiday!
Anyway, my attempt to cook and eat (because sometimes this is not possible after cooking!) all these stuff here in the Baltic will go on! And I leave you with the prove of the last one (this morning I made arepitas dulces following grandam’s recipe 😉
Guys, tell me they don’t look pretty much the same 😉

I’d like to share with you the views of a Estonian and AIESECer, Jurgen Herzmann, living and working in Venezuela. Enjoy 🙂

“Living and working in South-America definitely sounds something very exciting and adventurous. At least for me it did, until I heard about international student organization AIESEC, that offers internship opportunities to students in more than 100 countries. As it was something exactly for me it took less that six months when I was already staring at the Carribean sea from the plane, thinking what have I done and hoping that the pilot will turn the plane back, because all I knew about the country I was going to was it’s president, famous soup operas and big number of Miss World’s. At the same time I was full of excitement, thinking already about my new adventures and experience that I’m going to gain.
Cultural shock which AIESEC people predicted was bigger than I expected. The reason was probably the fact that after exchange year in Spain I thought I had seen everything and didn’t think that Europe is just one part of the big big world. First days in Venezuela expecting that public transport has a schedule, streets should be clean, there are many shops and nice restaurants everywhere, I can exchange my money easily in official way, drivers respect pedestrians and traffic rules and bus driver is not supposed to smoke were quite rough.
The bright side was that I never got bored, because each day was full of small challenges, from taking the correct „carrito“ (carrito – about 30 years old American car that is public transport here. It picks you up if there’s a free seat and leaves you wherever you want. I like the flexibility here, because if you pay more, it can leave it’s official route for a moment and give you lift home. In Maracaibo, there’s more than 30 000 carritos and all of them look like a piece of art) to waiting for local people. But it’s worth to wait for the local people, because they are really hospitable and extremely friendly, especially with foreigners. As I’m not „gringo“ from the USA I’m even more interesting for them, sometimes it makes me even little bit gauche to enjoy the status of intereting foreigner (or Estonian prince as they say). Venezuelans are quite good at geography and history, so most of them know that Estonia is in Europe or it was a part of the former Soviet Union. It’s funny that always when I tell where I’m from they repeat Estonia, emphazising it like this:„E s s s s t o o o n i aaa?????“
For Venezuelans one of the most important things is their appearance, so while dressing up, they forget that in general they are just a little bit lazy and have a very relaxed life-style. Even poor people. with whom I share carrito every day, look really good. Unfortunately I can’t say that they care that much about their beautiful nature and streets, because there’s quite often a lot of rubbish.
Excuse for that is often politics, like for all the problems they have. Maybe that’s true. Politics is a hot topic here and Venezuelan president is very famous all over the world. He appears even in Estonian news at least once a month. As I come from a decent country where politics is very boring and most scandalous thing is when a politician is speeding or drunk I’m often quite impressed here. I even got scared once, when there was an international conflict between Colombia and Ecuador. Venezuela decided to get involved and sent it’s army to Colombian border. It was quite creepy to see trucks carrying tanks on the highway. Of course after 2 weeks the problem was solved and life was happy again. Friends explained me, that it’s very normal in Latin-America. Other things I don’t like about the politics is that often it’s hard to find milk from the shop, I can’t exchange my earnings to dollars and food is very expensive.
After different kind of cultural shocks I can relax at work.
Dictionary says that „mañana“ means tomorrow, for Venezuelans something got lost in translation and here it means day after tommorow plus „n“ more days. Most of the time units are calculated in different way, that’s one of the reasons why many classes are cancelled in the company where I work, even though it’s one of the most expensive companies in Maracaibo. But students who are coming to classes are in general very funny and friendly. On Fridays they even invite us to a bar that’s next to the school. So if you can manage one year without snow, black bread and sauna it’s definitely excellent experience. Of course I had many doubts before changing my easy and comfortable life in Estonia to a crazy experience in Latin-America, but what brought me here was a desire to experience something different and new, that makes you think out of the box and gives you many skills for life you would never get at home. And it’s much easier to do something like this when you’re young, without a good job and family. When I’m seventy years old I will look back to this experience and feel very happy. Certainly you improve your language skills and make many international friends which are priceless. In Venezuela you will also find out that there’s a solution to every situation, you just have to me patient and spry. If busy life in a big city causes too much stress you can always escape to beautiful Carribean beaches, mountains, desert, jungle or any most beautiful place you have ever
seen that Venezuela offers”.

Special thanks to Jurgen for allowing me to share this with others through my blog!


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