Caracas, Venezuela was much nicer to us the second time around and both staff and students are limping to Semana Santa.
The long days are starting to erode the drive of the kids and you can see the wear on the faces of the staff. Energy levels are bottoming out and by the end of the week, most are exhausted. In passing I tried to pump up a colleague today and he replied, "Only two months and I can relax." I think that sentiment echoes throughout the halls.
The stress level, as one can assume, is still pretty high. Staff are really grinding now and you can see how it wears heavily on them. I think I noticed a few more lines on my smile, and a change in my crows feet (there goes my Jared Leto comparisons). This stress isn't the worried about day to day school stuff stress, but rather the long day, more work, don't let there be any more unrest, end of the quarter, get me to break kind. The cars break into the parking lot just before contract time starts, shoulders tilt a little forward, and the jokes that used to garner a laugh (mainly my bad jokes/sarcasm) are drifting towards annoying (I'm working on it- more Big Lebowski/Will Farrell jokes).
This is also the time of year when sophomores and juniors really start to develop an attitude that they didn't possess at the beginning of the year and the seniors begin to coast to the finish. I can see issues with a few students after break on the horizon. Happens every year, ask a high school teacher.
Overall, even though are meeting the needs of student interaction, are really draining (especially the students) and the break for Holy Week should (hopefully) recharge all the guilty parties.
Caracas Part II
After getting the nod to get our visa this past Friday, we were set to bail on Thursday night to head to the world's 3rd most dangerous city, Caracas, Venezuela. Morris graciously volunteered to drive his Space Wagon van and after a short analysis/debate we agreed that it would be best to minimize the number of cars for the trip. We saddled up and hit the road.
Naturally, there was some civil unrest and campus cleared out quick (nerves run high) so after grabbing Rexin we hit the highway. The ride there was your typical VZ travel experience. Heavy traffic, people stopping for food/drink/accessory ON the highway thanks to "businessmen/women" in the roads peddling their goods. Luckily, Jon borrowed Eric's GPS and we had little trouble up until Caracas.
Once we broke through the city limits, we had a errant turns (I blame crazy roads/old GPS) and hit some solid traffic due to student protests. Our hotel was in a "hot" area, just a few blocks from the scene of Leopoldo's arrest and the Altamira area that serves as a frequent battlefield. It was pretty chill outside of Friday night.
Friday night we were hanging out in the lounge having some free food and drink when all of the sudden a few loud pops, a flash or two, and some blurry bodies ran by the gated exit. Shortly thereafter, the other exits followed suit closing down and locking us in. Many people ran to the doors to investigate, but I stayed on the couch not caring about the commotion. Jon was in the bathroom and said that he heard over the radio of one of the two guards that were in there the call of a code something. This caused one civil servant to bust out of the stall and the other to run out with wet hands.
Fifteen minutes later it was over.
Friday morning was a cake walk. We drove to the embassy, got in lined, were helped, found out we needed about 1/4 of the documents we were told to bring, and everyone was good. The problem lies in the fact we had to give them our passports and we need them to go to Cuba on Friday. The passports will be done by 3pm on Friday and our flight leaves at 8pm. A little wiggle room, but in this country those five hours might not be enough. We're going to have a courier get the passports and meet us at the airport. Sounds simple. We just have to hope traffic isn't bad, there are no civil protests, and that the visas actually get done.
It's ok, it'll work. It has to. No other way around it.
The rest of the weekend I spent sleeping, in the hotel pool, the treadmill, and eating steak (hey, it's tough to find around here). We also walked around the streets near the hotel, it was definitely a interesting little walk seeing all the graffiti and landmarks from the news.
Jon, Morris, and I holed up in our hotel room when not hanging in those locations. We watched the NCAA tourney while eating Domino's (!) pizza and laying on unkept beds. It was glorious.
The ride back was fairly smooth and the weekend was over. Not a bad deal overall after dealing with the continual failure of the first trip.
Ryan Robinson's Links of Knowledge
The cries of "coup" fall on deaf ears when your government is full of ex-military.
Maduro interview with the Guardian. Hey, he is a Led Zeppelin loving dude that says his philosophy for peace and tolerance came from the '60s and '70s (sarcasm).
Opposition/Chavista talks could resume if...
Maduro's op-ed with the New York Times. My colleagues and I are looking for the reports behind the data... and his speech writer.
We all know that college athletics are a money maker, but this report may surprise you. Community Colleges to D-II are starting to get on the athletics before academic spending bandwagon.
Not much going on here, so enjoy some pictures from Caracas. Translations done with Google Translate so specific "Venezuelan Spanish" (slang based) statements will be off.
|"Man, the world is just"|
|"Peace" Jon and Idaho dig it.|
|"The GNB reprimand you, but your indifference is killing an entire country"|
GNB is short for Bolivarian National Guard
|Jon looking for a good Cuban cigar.|
|Morris keeping an eye on the streets.|
|Most badass photo of my VZ experience. Jon and Morris walking through the plaza.|
|Two people stuck out in the plaza. This dude above and yours truly...the only white guy around for as far as the eye could see.|
|"Off Cuba" "Not the Regime"|
|"You are silent just like the Cubans were."|
|Jon, Morris and I walking to the Caracas Cultural Center. We're not just teachers, we're cultured.|
|Proof of our culture.|
|Every 20 minutes someone cries.|
|" No one will die, who dies just forgets"|
|"Here you are at risk"|
|"We are an oil country and we like up for food"|
Well that's all I have for this week. No column next week as I'll be in Cuba (unless I somehow stumble across wifi and want to type on my phone- no cell service otherwise). I hope to have some cool pictures and words to share about the trip.
Hope you're having a great April, summer is almost here.
Until Next Time,