Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Train Rolls On


Welcome back.

Health Update

I lost part of myself. I'm down to 76.6 kilos according to the physical therapy office scale (fully clothed too so probably closer to 166- hey, I'm a wrestler, I know these things).  For those of you keeping track at home that's roughly 168#.  I figured I'd lose some of holiday weight I gained (was up to about 180# give or take if I was eating with my friends or not the evening prior), but there's no telling how much I lost from diet and activity.  Or from the little microscopic demons lurking in some Venezuelan food that declared jihad on my stomach.  I wonder if I could bottle up that little 24hr gastrointestinal armageddon and sell it to quick-fix diet seekers? I won't wish that on anyone, but some people may be into that type of masochism, but that ain't me.

Bottom line, the affliction has been cured.  Knock on wood that I can go the rest of my travels without that happening again.

Physical Therapy 

I started physical therapy today for my shoulder.  This is payback for all of the times I neglected stretching or a good warm up (irony- I am a coach and yell at kids for this very act) and decided to push through pain.  Apparently, 32 is when you need to start listening to the aches and pains, as well as get warmed up.  Lesson learned.  I haven't been able to do anything with my arm in nearly six weeks, but hopefully this fixes it.

The whole experience today was interesting.  My friend/translator and I left school fifteen minutes prior to get to the appointment in time. We figured calculating time for traffic and roadblocks that we'd arrive five minutes early, but we were about twelve minutes before.  Shortest drive in this country ever- no traffic.

The building was surrounded by white metal bars and used a motorized gate to let us in (think sideways, iron garage door).  The waiting room was outside in kind of a front porch style situation and we didn't have to check in. The secretary came out and said my therapist was in traffic but is close.  After about 10-15 minutes a group of three therapists appeared from a sun-dyed, grey car.  Finally, I thought (I was hungry- no lunch and I wanted to eat).  However, the horizontal drawbridge that separated my therapist from the practice was jammed.  The ladies tried their "drawbridge openers" to no avail.  The secretary came out and tried adjusting the motor.  The ladies hit the button and could not open it.  They were then grabbing the bars and Bruce Lee-jump kicking the wall and then pushing off to open it... nothing.  I would have helped, but they told me to not use my arm at all.  I could envision the calcification on my bicep popping, tendons rupturing, and all feeling/pain in my arm/shoulder escaping with it as it stayed holding the gate while my body flopped to the ground sans an appendage (Tarantino dream sequence).  Luckily, the motor kicked in before I went in to assist.

The rest of experience was great.  They did a lot of tests to see the extent of the damage and how many muscles were involved in this mess.  Long story short, I was prescribed 20 sessions- one every day of the work week to get it better.  I was thankful, the therapist understood my athletic tendencies and the desire to workout, so she thought working every day would help me heal faster.  Here's to that!

On the way I found out two things of importance. One, the price was 320 BsF ($50 at the official/$3 at the parallel rate) for the eval and 240BsF for each session (do your own math). Two, that tomorrow is supposed to be a rebuild the roadblock day so my first session (which was supposed to be a month ago) may be delayed yet again.  So it goes.

Political Situation

Things continue to be in this odd stalemate.  The usual (sad to word it this way) skirmishes still hit their flash point daily all over the country.  Yesterday on our walk home, you could hear the echo of tear gas canisters being shot and the gunfire that disperses rubber pellets (they still do tremendous damage) reverberate off the mountain side from a northern neighborhood clash (see the Valencia link below for photos).   We make tongue-in-cheek statements about the fact that it is just "fireworks," but we all know the truth.  It's just kind of commonplace now to hear those noises and about the incidences the precede them.

The end of the standoff doesn't look to be anytime soon.  Some wonder if Semana Santa will be the cresting of this wave (roadblocks and online school), others think we'll go the rest of the year like this. Regardless, I've pulled the plug on following the twitter pictures and posts showing the gruesome events that coincide with the climate here.  Not good for the soul I suppose, maybe it's my subconscious protecting me, maybe I just want it (unneeded force) to be over.  By no means am I wanting the opposition to wane, rather I think it's better if I distance myself and not interject on the actions, but to support my friends.  I'll continue to ask why, but it seems that exact question is now eroding the opposition's foundation (check out the "analysis" piece to see what I mean) and the answer may be critical for success (see "student-turned-protest-leader).

In summary, the whole thing is frustrating as hell...for everyone.  Travel is restricted, businesses remain closed or on shortened schedules, limited food to buy, there's nothing to do, you can't drive without insane jams and crazy routes, and there's no end in sight.

The school has done somethings to try to make things more conducive to our professional and social lives, but it's just a bandaid on the larger issue.  We're not quite rats in a cage, but more like an old Nintendo game where map is closed off because you haven't completed certain levels or actions to expand it.  My life is basically six blocks north (school), four blocks west (farmers market), and back.  That's smaller then the Legend of  Zelda's map. We can't get together and hangout or go places because it's not safe after nightfall.  The repetitiveness is kind of like novocaine.

I think many of us have become numb to the environment and situation where instead of feeling, we just kind of compartmentalize it and move forward.  You just stay focused on the elements of your day that offer normalcy and keep your mind from wandering into the darker places where anxiety and stress lie. It's hard to really verbalize it, this whole scenario, and I bet none of us could explain it in a manner in which many of you could truly relate to.  It's such a unique situation.  It's not dangerous, and then it is.  It's not scary, but you want a release.  It's not condemning, but you wonder why.  Close your eyes and listen- you could be anywhere.  But open your eyes and you know you're not.  You're here in Venezuela and you don't know what it really is right now.  It just is.

Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda's map. It's probably my favorite game. 

Today, on the way back two friends were robbed at gunpoint at the bakery half-a-block diagonally (hypotenuse for you math people) from my place and 1.5 blocks from theirs.  The thieves wanted their iPhone and took it/them (don't know specifics).  Now I know this type of event can happen in any major city anywhere in the world (I'm not nervous about it), but you just hope this doesn't become more frequent with all thats going on.  They weren't physically hurt, but I can only imagine their mental strife.  Send them positive vibes if you get a chance. Side note: Morris and I went there maybe 15-20 minutes after them to get saldo (minutes) for our phones and some food.  It was as peaceful as could be.

Crazy thing was that two hours later after running with Ryan, Morris and I walked back through our neighborhood and people were everywhere. Families in the open lots, the bakery and Farmatodo were packed, runners and walkers in the streets/sidewalks.  It's as if nothing happened, or rather, it's just another example of the great juxtaposition that is Venezuela.

I just haven't figured out which.  


Not much to report.  We had three days at the end of last week to prep for our launch of the "Online Learning Model."  So far, things are seemingly alright.  Lots of kids have communicated with me regarding class in someway, but the real test will come from who does the first assignment.  There are still lots of kids that we haven't heard from, so who knows.  

Putting all of the things you're used to verbalizing or presenting into a document/website/email/application takes FOREVER.  I'm still trying to figure out how to get students to interact and collaborate, but with limited program knowledge and lack of a true online system, we'll just make it work.  I think this is teaching me that regardless how many people think you can outsource teaching, that you can't.  You'll lose the human element and the individualized support that you can't find besides a classroom (don't mean to get political, but take an engineer from a factory and replace it with youtube videos, instruction manuals, and a DIY brochure and see how your industrial project turns out). We'll do the best we can for the kids, but the little intricacies that making learning ignitable will be gone.  

My colleagues and I are doing our best to take small sips of the big glass, but it's tough to not be overwhelmed.  The admin has been really supportive, but this thing right now is about as fragile as playing "Don't Break the Ice."  Strong and sturdy at the moment, but what will happen when the hammer passes to your kid brother and things go wrong.  Kids not doing the work, the internet goes out, testing- the big stuff.  I guess we'll see.  

I kind of feel like this, but without the buzz cut and awesome chest hair:

Ryan Robinson's Links of Knowledge 

Action in Valencia yesterday (lots of pictures).

An on point analysis of what effect the roadblocks are having here.

Venezuela Goes Mad (NYT Op-ED).

Young people have power and are the future.  This public university student-turned-protest-leader could be an important part of Venezuela's.

The San Cristobal war zone claims another life, this time it's a student.

The masks of the protests.

Possible US mediation?

"Empty Pot" protest prevented by the Venezuelan government.

That's all that's on the plate for this serving.  I'm sure there will be more to write about next week with the online work in full swing and the ever present chance that things could erupt again.

Until then enjoy the looming Spring, you guys have earned it.

Until Next Time,


1 comment:

  1. War.... Kellen. What can I say? Eloquent description of our strange life. He blogs the truth... a rare commodity in this strange land.