Monday, February 27, 2012

And so I end this chapter

Usually when I'm reading a book, I get excited to get to the end of a chapter because that means I can take a break from reading. But this time, I am not excited for the chapter to end, I feel too bittersweet to pin point what I feel exactly. Coming into this trip I was scared to be gone for so long, to miss people, to be nervous people would forget about me while I was gone, but all those thoughts came in as fast as they left. When I finally let myself immerse into this culture and country, I finally let go of all the petty things that didn't matter anymore. I'm not sure if that was because I was so removed from all situations or because I finally let myself be a blank slate.

I come from a latino family (obviously) and I thought I had an idea of what it would be like to come here but my ideas were completely thrown to the side and new ideas were created. I learned what it was like to be immersed in such a rich culture that I know I would never find in Seattle. I finally was able to fit in physically (people actually look like me here!) But most importantly, I was able to connect with family/friends that I never would have known without coming here. I learned about who the other half of me was without trying to put a label on myself. When you're in a group of friends or even with your family, you are always given a title or you are the person that represents __blank___ but here, I didn't get a tittle or anything I was someone new, ready to be discovered. I didn't come to Venezuela for the intention to become someone different or to 'find' myself but joke was on me...I did become someone different. My eyes were changed therefore everything I see and saw is changed. I have always been a home body and that was a big obstacle for me traveling but I am proud of myself for pushing through something I knew would be so wonderful.

Everything in this country has touched me in some way. I am so grateful for this experience. I keep thinking when will be my next adventure but for now, I should save some money and then I will re-visit this drive. I want to thank all the people of Venezuela, the dogs, the stores, the yummy fruit, and the delicious food for enriching me in your culture. You have changed who I am into a person I want to be. I will never forget your kindness and flavors you bestowed upon me. And to my readers, thank you for coming along with me to Venezuela. You are the people who helped me get to where I am today, without the support i'd be too scared.

Well Venezuela, until next time, you will remain in my heart forever.


“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

-Mahatma Gandhi

Thursday, February 23, 2012

White suede shoes

When my abuela Tania passed away this past May, she left behind many treasures, many of which seemed very intriguing to I took two pairs of her shoes, both of which were white. But one of the pair have always been my favorite. They are white (of course) with a tiny little square heel in the sole area and have delicate laces that are mostly there for decoration.

Coming to Venezuela, I thought it would be appropriate to bring that pair because a) I love shoes b) they are practical and c) most importantly, because these shoes were worn here by my abuela tania. Coming here, I have learned so much about myself but I have learned even more about my abuelos who lived here. Growing up, I lived in California then Mercer Island and the abuelos Maxim lived in Caracas or Miami so they weren't around as much as we all would have liked but eventually they did move to Mercer Island and we were able to create memories then. Their life in Caracas was always so unknown to me, I had heard stories but at such a young age, most things went in one ear and came out the other. That's why I knew coming here was more important than going to any other country. The last 4 or 5 years of my abuela tania's life was taken over by dementia so the stories became much more hazy. Our lack of communication made it hard for me to truly understand where they came from. Luckily, my abuelo petre was/is sharp as a knife so I could hear stories from him but it always saddened me that as I got older, her dementia took over. Being here in Caracas, meeting some of their old friends has given me an in as to how life was for them. How social they were, how much their friends looked up to them. I keep being told, 'Oh yes, you look so much like Aleco, and even Tania!' As I look at old photographs they show me, I see the resemblance and not just in me but as well as my sister. The connection I have felt to my abuelos has been so strong here, it's almost as if they are with me now.

I don't have any regrets or feel bummed out because we lived in different countries for so long. Being here has shown me their life in Caracas and we have been connected for indefinitely. Sometimes I wish me and abuela tania could stroll down the streets together in Caracas, me wearing the white suede shoes and she wearing some trendy fur coat, gossiping and chatting about life.

But instead, I will carry her in my heart as I walk in her white suede shoes.

Monday, February 20, 2012


I seriously apologize to my fans (mom) for not being better at this writting thing. I guess some memories are more fun to reflect on than others. With that said, Merida was the next location on our travels. Merida (and the E is pronounced stronger) is a smaller city in Venezuela that is up in the Andes mountains. They are known for their amazing mountains and hiking. The city of Merida, like I said, is much smaller than Caracas and much safer so it was nice for us to be in an area that we could spend time alone without having to worry about anything. We took a 15 hour bus ride to Merida. These buses are actually pretty big, double decker and have really comfortable seats. They are like big thick reclining chairs and boy do they recline! There were also some tv screens to watch movies; our favorite movies were the cheesy 90s christian ones, so touching. We eventually arrived in Merida after an all-nighter bus ride. We stayed in the home of a friend of my fathers who lives around 20 minutes outside of the city; she lives in a place called El Valle. It was up close to the mountains, very quiet and serene. It felt like we were camping when we arrived to our room, an outdoor extension to her home but you could hear all the bugs and river sounds at night, it made for a very peaceful slumber. Unfortunately our time in Merida was short but we were able to experience some of the most amazing things Merida has to offer. We went up Paramo Mountain which is by the Andes. The elevation was about 12,000 feet--me being sensitive, I got a bit altitude sickness but it was bearable and worth it because the views up there were amazing. The mountains were big and lush, there were cows and cattle everywhere and yet it was the quietest surrounding I have ever been in. There were various farms in the area and the people there were so welcoming and kind; that was a big highlight for me. I am not an outdoorsy girl as many of you know but this was well worth any trip.

The next day we went to this big mercado (market) that is 3 levels high and it's all artisan things that people make and sell. Sarah and I stayed there for 2 hours looking at all the little things and of course buying many things. Although it was very apparent we were outsiders in that mercado, people were very warm and welcoming, made us feel very comfortable. Being in Merida, I realized so much about myself and who I am and who I am becoming. I am a very quiet person (with exceptions of course) and I found myself wanting more noise around me. Maybe it's because I live inside such a quiet body that I crave that loudness around me but things in Merida were so quiet and serene it made me nervous. Like that quiet in the movie before the killer pops out of nowhere and stabs you! I think the quiet help give me a louder voice, stand up for myself more and really think about what I want for me. Although I have enjoyed Caracas a great deal, I am thankful for the time in Merida because it taught me a different side of Gabi.

*side note: the evening we returned to Caracas, we found out that one of the buses that we traveled in was hijacked by some road-side robbers. Someone up there was looking out for us :)

Monday, February 13, 2012


Hello again. Not sure who is reading but if you are, I am so glad you are still coming along with me to Venezuela because this place sure is fun. This past weekend we decided to change our scenery and head to the beach. 3 ish hours out from the city--something I think we both needed. The city is so noisy and busy and let's be honest, Caribbean water sounds MUCH more appealing. We left early Thursday morning and headed to this first beach called Chorroni. There's a little town and then the beach front. To get there, you have to go up the mountain and then back down the other side of the mountain to get to the town/beach. This road we took was built long long time ago by a man named Humbolt who decided he wanted to create this road to get to and from this town. People weren't allowing him because it wasn't safe or that people wouldn't go on it. Little did they know, that many years later, WE would be embarking on that forbidden road. Let's just say, I can see why they didn't want him building it. Very narrow roads that are two way streets and most of the corners are blind so half the time all you hear is honking so each car can communicate to each other. It was about an hour and a half one way and an hour the other way. To say the least, a very long 2.5 hours. But it was all part of the experience and that's ultimately what we wanted. Once we arrived in the town, it was very cute, a couple hostels around and mostly all tiendas that sold beachy things. It's very clear they make their money off of the tourists and beach goers. The beach was beautiful,  the waves were big and dramatic. I kept distracting myself with the stray dogs though, they were everywhere on that beach. And most of you know, I have a deep love for dogs so seeing these dogs made it very tough on me. There was so much beauty in front of me and yet so much sadness right next to me; it made me feel so conflicted. I tried to not let it get to me, but I failed at that. There was one dog that reminded me of Kaiah so I waved him down and the last 40 minutes we were at the beach, he snuggled right up against me and I pet his head and body. I could see how much he loved that contact that he probably lacked. We sat together for a long time just cuddling and talking to each other (well I did most of the talking). After a while, I could tell he started trusting me and when any vendor walked by and talked to me he stood up and barked them away. I giggled a bit but mostly, I was shocked I had earned this dogs trust especially living in a lot of solitude. I will never forget that face of his. Leaving the beach that day was so hard. I still think about him all the time and hope he finds someone to cuddle him every once and a while.

That evening, we headed to Morrocoy, which is where we stayed for the last 2 days of the weekend. In order to get to the islands we wanted to swim at, we had to take a boat that reminded us of Amazing Race, especially the episode when they were in Thailand. Once we arrived to the beaches, it was pure bliss. Beautiful water, light sandy beaches, and the temperature was perfect. Our poor Seattle bodies aren't used to the sun so we got a bit crispy but it was all worth it. Both days at the beach, we were greeted with various vendors, selling us jewelry, headbands, and whatever else! Of course, we both gave in, buying fun earrings, bracelets, headbands and whatever other do-dads that are fun to have. Sarah did well on buying for other, not so much. After both days spent at the beach, my body felt very tired and I felt like I was ready to return to the city. I think I had a hard time getting over how I felt at the first beach. I allowed my feelings to affect me but I'm glad that they did. I am only human and the sadness I felt or even happiness is all part of the experience and allowing myself to feel every emotion makes me a stronger person and an imperfect human. I am grateful to the dogs at the beach and on the street that have taught me things about myself. And I am grateful to the vendors who sell day after day on the beach in the heat. They taught me that life isn't always easy and sometimes working hard is how you will succeed. And I am grateful for the tears that come down my face when I feel like I can't handle the sadness anymore. And I am grateful for the happiness that helps me see hope. I just am grateful that one place could help me grow as a person-- and it's only been 2 weeks...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Culture shock

We made it! What a trip that was….I guess when you pay for something cheap, you get what you buy! We had an 8 hour lay over in Mexico City from 11pm- 6 am ish and we sat outside the ticketing booth on cold tile floor just waiting; felt like The Amazing Race! We met an Australian boy our age headed to Vancouver to snow board…sarah and I laughed because we know Australian boys in Vancouver too well ;) It was nice to have someone to talk to but after a while I just wanted to close my eyes but couldn’t. Eventually we got on our flight and headed out to caracas! Since we have been here, it’s been really great. It’s beautiful, very green and the temperature is nice and warm (maybe a bit too warm!). We mostly have been going to some kid soccer games and exploring the city. We have been so shocked by the driving here! It's awful, you think LA or NY is bad?? Noooo way. They don't follow the rules of the road at all and even crossing the street you just hope you don't get hit. We have LOVED the food. Everything is just so fresh and delicious. The fruit drinks are to die for, they are all fresh and you can just taste the fruit as you drink it. Today we toured around downtown Caracas. It was pretty intense, lots to take in. I thought Seattle was a big city but it aint. There are so many people everywhere and people selling things; it felt like a whole other world, which is why I wanted to do this. I want to experience how other people live. We walked around a lot today, tried taking in a lot but it was pretty overwhelming. There were lots of stray dogs which really made me sad. I wanted to squeeze them all and take them home but no can do :( It's been interesting so far this experience because Sarah and I have been experiencing the same in many ways but in other ways, not as much. I have travelled to poor countries before and have seen a lot of what we have seen but Sarah hasn't and it's really opening her eyes in a positive way. But we both have the same feeling of confusion, feeling lost and cultured shock. People tend to stare at us when we walk by, especially if we are talking. If my mouth stays shut, I can get away with blending in but sarah, not so much ;) All in all, we have really enjoyed it here so far and looks forward to experiencing other cities in Venezuela. ( Also ignore my terrible grammar, I just am doing like a stream of consciousness :))