Saturday, July 18, 2015

Venezuela Part #1

Read part #2 here.

traveled to Venezuela for 9 days for work but I was actually gone for 11 days since I had to travel to Newark before and after.  I wasn’t sure what exactly we would be doing so I just packed clothes that I would have normally worn to work. 

Someone wanted to come with me!  Silly girl.  I stayed the night at my parents house and packed everything there.  They live a lot closer to the airport than I do, plus my mom was going to drop me off, it was just easier.  Plus, I got to spend time with my family before I left.
Miss Kali Claire
I traveled to Newark, NJ on Monday afternoon with 2 co-workers and stayed at the Marriott close to the airport. OMG, I love the beds.  I felt like I was sleeping on a cloud the entire night.  We had to be at the airport by 6 am so I had a 4:30 am wake-up time.  So sleepy!  Normally I would just sleep on the plane but ever since Kenya, I haven’t been able to sleep on planes. Boo.  At the airport that morning, guess who I ran into?  Dr. Oz!!!
Dr. Oz!

We were taking a group of 85 people (38 kids plus chaperones and instructors) from the Bronx to Venezuela to have a workshop and performances with a famous classical director.  (for privacy reasons, I won’t name what program or for who).  We were taking a private plane to Venezuela but we still needed to get 90 people (including us) through check-in and security.  We (literally) just made it to the gate and boarded the plane before we were late.  Luckily we took a chartered plane and they had to let us all through. LOL.   The kids clapped (and screamed) when we took off and landed.  A lot of the kids had never been on an airplane, much less out of the country.

We landed and had a special reception (the kids were even on the news!) while we were waiting for our luggage to be put in the van.  We boarded 2 buses and 1 van (plus about 10 other vehicles filled with security) and made our way to the hotel. 
The Violin section practicing on stage

The next day the kids went off to their workshop + practice and the chaperones headed out to sight see.  We started off in Bolivar Square in Caracas.  We went to a governmental office, a few churches, and the burial place of Simon Bolivar and other special people from Venezuela.  Simon Bolivar’s burial site was guarded by 4 guards that stood still like the Queen’s guard in England.  Afterward, we were going to go by another park (not sure the name), but it was closed because they were practicing for a big Independence Day celebration that was happening that weekend. 

The next day was a pool day for the chaperones and I went to the beach to scout out a location for a trip on Monday with the kids.  We wanted to go to a further location, Isla Margarita, but with 100 + people, it was too far.  On the way back, our driver killed a cat.  It was so sad!  I was checking my email one minute and then we were slamming on the brakes the next, but still hitting something.  I looked back and see this sweet looking orange and white cat trying to claw its way off the road.  I wanted to go back and take it somewhere, but they wouldn’t stop because it might have diseases.  At least put the poor thing out of its misery.  It was awful.  The rest of the trip all the other security guards kept calling him (teasingly)  cat killer-no sure how to say it…it started with an M…matagatos or something.

We went to a chocolate shop on Friday (read this post) and a beautiful church that was hand crafted all the way from Romania.  This church is made up of over 15,000 pieces of wood with no nails.  After they told us about the tour they offered to bless each of us with holy water (if we wanted to be blessed) and told us which Saint was watching over us.  The walls were hand painted pictures of Jesus and special events of his life like birth, baptism, turning water into wine, death, resurrection, etc).  The church was so beautiful  that you could stare for hours and see different things.

We went shopping at a local souvenir shop afterward!  I collect Christmas ornaments from each place I visit but I could not find one there.  I settled for a magnet that says Venezuela that I am just going to hot glue a ribbon to. #crafty  I brought $200 with me (not wanting to spend it all) but only exchanged $30 at the official exchange rate.  I looked like a drug dealer with all the cash!  $30 goes a long way in Venezuela.  Actually, the exchange rate guy gave us mostly 20's so we had to pay everything in small denominations.  
$30 worth of Bolivars (I think that's what they are called)
On Saturday we were able to watch the kids in concert at the prettiest concert hall!  It was filled with hand crafted wood and had the prettiest fabric on the chairs.  The kids (both from the Bronx and Venezuela) took the stage and I was blown away!  You would have thought they were adults with how well they were playing.  On one song they got up and danced while still playing their instruments!  It was so cute.  They got about 3 encores and kept playing!  We were so proud of them. :)  We weren't allowed to take pictures during the performance, so you will just have to see the empty auditorium!

Monday we went to the beach!  It was a relaxing day full of sand and sun.  We rented out a private beach close to the airport so our security team could keep an eye out for us.  I didn’t swim, but I did put my feet in the water and walked along the beach.  The waves kept crashing on the other side of the rocks and I kept trying to take a picture of the splash, but no such luck.  My camera was doing something funky the entire time, so the pictures were all kind of weird.

Tuesday was our last full day in Venezuela, we would be flying back the next day.  We went to an area with cable car that took us waaaaaaaaay high into the mountain.  Once at the top, you could see the city of Caracas on one side (Caracas is in a valley) and the ocean from the other side.  It was really cloudy so you couldn’t see the ocean, but we knew it was down there! :)
My camera was acting funky and has a weird fog over it.  
There was an entertainer that dressed up like a female riding a donkey and did a dance.  It was super cute.  Afterwards we were taking pictures with him. 

It was a sad day, but we had to leave  Venezuela behind to return to our everyday lives.  The flight back was uneventful and we made it New York safely.  I flew to Houston the next morning and took the rest of the day and the next off.  3.5 day weekend!  I needed it after working 11 straight days!

For more pictures, go here.

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