Saturday, May 14, 2005

Venezuela and the end, and the beginning

For those curious, I am writing this on the bus from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, FL. It’s 2:30 am and thankfully I have both seats to myself unlike my last bus that I was on from 8 until 2 which had absolutely every seat filled. I should be getting to Tallahassee by 5:30, and my buddy from high school Drew is going to pick me up. I am going to celebrate my birthday on the first at FSU with him, and then we are driving up to Atlanta on the second.

In Venezuela a whole bunch of us went to a place called Margarita island. It was a resort area, so we basically just celebrated finishing up spring break style. No big culture shocks as seen everywhere else that I have been. A good time was had by all, although “I can’t believe this is our last port” was the most frequently said phrase. Well, second to “uno mas!”

We spent three days at margarita and got back early on our fourth and last day in Venezuela. We took an hour long ride into Caracas, which was beautiful. Caracas is a valley city, so the mountainous scenery was great. We didn’t do anything there except go to the mall as there wasn’t much to do. I am sure there are museums, etc, but nothing was recommended to us. The mall was huge and had many familiar sights such as Wendy’s, Benihanas, and advertisements for Star Wars 3. We found a store playing an American baseball game, an arcade, and an army surplus store. Tons of clothing stores and sporting good stores. All the prices were equivalent to what things would cost in the US, but they looked huge because of the 2,150 : 1 exchange rate. Another observation: Venezuelan malls have some extremely attractive, well dressed women.

So we get on the ship for the last time and sail for Ft. Lauderdale. Everyone is walking around getting people’s phone numbers and email addresses. People are talking about summer plans and what they are going to be doing in Florida. Packing is quite the process for those who bought everything they saw in every country we visited. There really is a sad aura in the air. It’s over. They have convocation and recognize the 30 some odd graduating seniors. A few professors and the dean give some speeches about returning and what its going to be like. They are all warning us that it will be difficult to return and to be prepared for that. They told us that friends and family will be interested but will not understand. Pictures are great, but you have never been to China unless you have been to China: a paraphrase from one of my professors. They advised us to develop a 5 sentence summary of the trip to explain to people so we don’t bore them with the hours and hours that we could go on about the trip. They told us to edit our pictures so we can give a slideshow in under 10 minutes instead of over an hour. We are going to sound haughty when we start sentences with “Oh, well, one time when I was in Saigon,” or tell people that the Brazilian soccer game was so much more intense than this baseball game. They warned us that our friends will tell us the cool things they did last semester like the cool party they threw or the great basketball game. Everyone is excited to get back to the old comfortable things and people, as they should be. But these things and people might not be as fulfilling as they feel like they should be, and this is mostly what they are warning us about. 7 days later we will once again be having the feeling that we need to get back on the ship and head to the next port. But there isn’t a next port.

I think I am extremely fortunate to have gone on this trip. I think that I am even more fortunate to be able to say that that last sentence in the previous paragraph does not apply to me. Not only am I doing a little America tour right off (Ft. Lauderdale, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Pomona, Chicago, New York), I get to finish it off by flying to Berlin and then finally moving in to wherever I am staying in Prague for 2 months. They gave us advise on how to deal with this restlessness upon arrival that they anticipate us experiencing: writing, exploring new areas in our community, attending foreign cultural events, keep in touch with Semester at Sea classmates and contact alum. Mostly, they said keep traveling, and that is exactly what I get to do.

I wrote above a while ago, but I hadn’t gotten a chance to post it. I have been to Tally, Atlanta, Pomona, San Diego, Chicago, Pomona, LA, and now I’m back at Pomona (edit, now in Jersey). I still haven’t slept in the same bed (or couch) two nights in a row except for the cot in Chicago, so I am kinda worn out. I am leaving for New York tomorrow, so I think I’ll finally get a little rest. Life has been good; I’m getting excited for Prague. I think I’ll follow this post with lots of pictures if I can figure out how.


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