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So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

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Three Villages Far Away
by: Zanzibar

Hello everyone!

I’ve been home from the world for a little while now, but I thought I should send one more email to bring a bit of closure. Thanks for your emails and thanks to all of you who sent letters to La Guaira. Unfortunately, due to corruption and inefficiencies in the Venezuelan post office, no letters ever got through. Maybe in five or six years they will be forwarded or returned to sender and we can have a grand time reading them. Alas. What can you do. L. Venezuela was really amazing- very politically charged and quite hilly. These two factors characterized my stay in Caracas/La Guaira: when I wasn’t talking about politics, I was driving up hills and vice versa and sometimes both at once. I found picking up a Venezuelan accent unavoidable but we tried to limit it to the boat and buses. We aren’t yet sure if doing so much traveling will stop us from making fun of foreign accents or just better at it. They have Wendy’s and Dominos in Venezuela and we all felt the excitement/terror of knowing we would be back home in a few short days. My birthday was great and I got to visit my long lost Venezuelan uncle, that is, my mother’s brother’s wife’s brother… a bit of an uncle-in-law. They lived in Caracas and are staunch opponents of Hugo Chavez though people are not ever so willing to say that openly these days. Briefly Chavez and his good pal Castro considered coming to the ship and talking to us but they couldn’t work out the schedule right. In the past 12 times that Semester at Sea has gone to Cuba, 9 times Castro has come to speak on the ship. It was an exciting proposition but it didn’t happen and I ended up getting all my political information from crazy tour guides, my new Venezuelan relatives, and a very famous absent-minded Venezuelan folk singer from Oregon of whom nobody in Venezuela had ever heard. As it happens, I can’t understand Spanish nearly as well as I could understand Portuguese, but working as a team with my friend Kira who had taken Spanish as recently as 8th grade, we managed to carry on a 45 minute conversation about music, namely Juanes, and current events, including the naming of a german as the new Pope. (That one took us a while, I got “father” and “catholic church” but it took Kira to make “father of the catholic church” ). My cousin-in-law Magdelena, who is 20, took us out on the town for my birthday and we went bowling. Her boyfriend made my name “Laurastein” (because when he forgets English he can try me in German) and Kira’s name “Kiranator”. He named himself “Rorro” because he knows we have trouble rolling our r’s and he thought it was funny to make us practice. He told us what to do and what not to do in order to look cool in Venezuela and we taught him some key phrases to get by in America. He enjoys the word “way” and he uses it a lot to say things like, “Chavez says that Bush is trying to murder him, but he is WAYYYYYY overreacting.” He told us that when you wanted to say somebody was wayyyyy overreacting, in Venezuela they would say for example: “Chavez, he is three villages far away.” And then Magdelena said, “no they don’t, nobody in Venezuela says that” and he admitted that he’d only just made it up right then, but he was hoping it might spread as a saying in America. For my part, I hope that my email list can be forefront in spreading this important phrase across this country while Rodrigo spreads it across Venezuela. We taught him to say, “that’s awwwesommme duuuude!” We stayed out very late and crashed at Tio Guillermo’s house. It was a marvelous birthday. The next day I went to the rainforest, where we found an old abandoned hotel that was very creepy but good for singing the national anthem/Gregorian chants. My friend Meghan debuted as a velociraptor-impersonator and we heard our first howler monkeys (ask me for a demonstration).

I had a great time in Venezuela, it was one of my favorite ports and lots of other stuff happened which I am sure I will tell you all about eventually. We sailed along the coasts of Haiti and Cuba on the way home and finally reached Florida very early in the morning on the 28th of April. My friend and I stayed in a very sketchy hotel called the Red Carpet Inn which did not have any red carpet and met a cast of characters to rival any of those we met while we were abroad.

I feel like I should say something that sums everything up, but what can I say? It makes me feel like I should do something, but what? Should I strive to end world hunger? Should I forget world hunger because too many human beings lead to the destruction of the rainforest and we’d be better of without them anyway? Should I take that Free Tibet sticker off my car now that I know the Chinese side of the story? Does my insatiable interest in the election irregularities in Zimbabwe make me a fundamentally different person? I’m sure I could say that it does, and that this voyage changed me in ways I cannot begin to comprehend… that could be true, or I could just be three villages far away.

Until next time!?!?!?

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