A Travellerspoint blog

Toronto, Canada, Final Entry

Lost and found again

semi-overcast 14 °C

At last, after 6 months of being on the road, I am home. I caught the plane alright, changed over in Atlanta, Georgia, and arrived safely in Toronto last night at about 8pm.

I cried at bit on the plane when it first took off and I watched the Caribbean coastline float away into the clouds. And waiting in the airport in Atlanta I had a bit of reverse culture shock, looking at everything around me. I had lunch at this restaurant and everyone there looked so tidy and good, they all spoke English, it was normal to pay $13 dollars for lunch, and I was sitting there with my Bolivian cowboy hat slung around my neck feeling slightly out of place.

But now that I'm here in Toronto I am so happy to be here. It's like Christmas time (which I missed) and every time I look around me I feel like I'm seeing it all for the first time. There is snow on the ground! And the air is so crisp and refreshing! And I can throw the toilet paper into the toilet instead of in the rubbish bin! And the water coming from the taps is warm! There are so many strange things here, things that everyone takes for granted.

Right now I'm just taking it easy in Toronto, but the plan is to head home home (Combermere) on the 17th for a visit, then find my way to Brighton after that. From there, I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I have to sort myself out, find a place to live, to work, to have some long-term role in society again. Let a new adventure begin!

Posted by The Cat 12:58 Comments (0)

Caracas, International Airport

I took the plunge!

After the conversation with the hotel people this morning, I weighed my options and decided I didn`t want to venture out onto the streets of Caracas at 5 in the morning when it was still dark and dangerous. And so, instead, I went back to the hotel, rushed around packing my bags in time for check-out, then later took a taxi to the bus stop, then the bus to the airport, and arrived here at about 6pm. I had dinner at Subway (being able to eat something familiar like that made me more comfortable in a less-than-ideal situation), wandered around the building to get my bearings, and am now wasting time in the internet cafe. When it gets a bit later and less busy, I`ll go back up to the food area, which seems safe and where there are always people, to find a bench to sleep on. I`ve got my cable lock so I can just lock my bags to a bench or something and not worry too much. I`m sure I`ll be sleeping light anyway.

But I have a story to tell. A strange thing happened to me when I was still at the hotel, let me tell you.

The one good thing about the place was that there were other travellers there with whom I could chat. So both evenings I`d go out to the open (concrete) terrace, the only common area, and socialize with whoever was out there.

Eric, a 28yearold Argentinian who travels around giving long tours to groups, is a loud, opinionated, really awesome guy. We got along well and had conversations about politics, technology and how it affects society, video games, everything. He was very intelligent and though he was acutely aware of the world he had a laughing, light manner that I liked.

Lucy is a 33yearold Brit, travelling around Central and South America for months, was very nice though she tended to ramble, and good company for those two evenings.

Joa (I think that was his name...), 24, is a really cool guy who looks Chinese, was born in Puerto Rico and grew up speaking Spanish, but went to a private American school so he also has a perfect American accent. We also had a lot to talk about as he was in the American army for 5 years and went to Iraq, has travelled a lot, does martial arts, draws, dances, breaks. A very cool guy.

I had a really good time hanging out with these three.

But the strange phenomenon came with my acquaintance with Rod Junior, a 24yearold black guy from the Congo. He is also very nice and I learned some things about him, too: he studied international commerce in Morocco for 5 years, he lived in Senagal for a while, he played basketball for some international team in Germany, and now lives in Venezuela working a shitty job at the hotel. His English isn`t that great so in the group he was pretty quiet, but when it was just the two of us talking (and we really only talked for maybe 20 minutes or 1/2hr) he suddenly decided that he was in love with me and told me so.

This didn`t come out the first evening, but the second evening before the others showed up, he suddenly was asking about whether I had someone at home, whether I was married, and when he learned I wasn`t married he said: ¨I will wait for you, 4 years, 5 years, it doesn`t matter,¨ like he was certain in 4 years I would want to marry him. At first I laughed it off, I said I`m sure he`d find some nice girl in Senegal or the Congo, or wherever he happened to live, that he didn`t understand I wasn`t interested, that I didn`t know him. The look on his face though - his whole manner changed from the first evening, and the sort of desperation and almost pathetic look when he found out I had to go sleep in the airport, the trouble he took trying to make sure I was ok... He said ¨Trust me, I love you, I will wait for you. I don`t know why, it`s like a sign from God,¨ I just said I was flattered and thank you. And maybe he isn´t in love with me, but he really thinks he is, and it`s such a strange thing to happen to me that I just had to write about it. Today was a bit tiring, actually, cuz he sort of followed me around, unthreatening, but again with that sort of annoying desperation, a painful eagerness to serve me or something - I don`t know to describe it. Anyway, the whole thing fascinates me but moves me not in the least so I`m happy to be on my way.

And now, here I am back to the reality of the airport. It is a nice airport. But I don`t have much to say about it. In the morning I`ll pay my departure tax, go through customs, the whole deal, and breathe a sigh of relief when I can get on that plane and have a proper rest.

See you in Canada!!!

Posted by The Cat 16:58 Comments (0)

Caracas, Day 3

Danger! Danger!

Well, I have a pretty good chance of getting robbed tomorrow morning. The staff at the hotel are so damn unfriendly and unhelpful! My plane leaves in the morning, so in order to get to the airport in good time I have to leave my hotel by 5am. The woman at reception told me flatly that I can`t call a taxi that early and that I`d have to walk up to the main street to try to hail one down, but that it wasn`t a good idea because it´s very dangerous. What choice do I have, huh!?! Another option is to go to the airport tonight and try to sleep in a waiting room or something... I guess the next time I write will be from either the airport (though probably not) or, more likely, Canada. Home sweet home!

Posted by The Cat 07:42 Comments (0)

Caracas, Day 2

Ugly on the outside

Today has been better. I slept in and took my time getting ready to explore this morning - had a shower, played a couple games of cards, listened to the sound of my rackety fan and the moan of a woman in the next room... I left the building by noon and so didn`t get as much exploring done as I thought I might, but I did have a pretty good day.

The commercial, cosmopolitcan face of the Sabana Grande area changed quickly as I walked toward the centre. I didn`t even make it that far - just as far as Central Park which is about half way - but instead of McDonalds ads everywhere there were signs in black and white and red supporting the revolution, images of Chavez, mini political rallies... In the Parque los Caohos there are billboards with old photos from 1989 of polics beating up civilians, clashes betwen rioters, looters, dead bodies, crying families... The whole park is under reconstruction, too, and big signs thanking Chavez for the money to do this are figure prominently among the beautiful sculptures that dot the area. This part of the city breathes socialism and revolution. Everything is political.

Here, like in Bogotá, there also seems to be a strong arts scene. Everything building I went into today had to do with either art, music, or theatre: I went into the Galeria de Arte National early this afternoon, connected to which is the Cinemateca Nacional and the Museo de Bellas Artes. From there I passed the Alteneo de Caracas, which houses a big theatre company, and had a look at the Teatro de Teresa Carreño, a huge performing arts centre. Later on I went into the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which has an impressive collection of Picasso pieces and really neat modern stuff.

The internet place is closing so I gotta go! I`ll write another brief entry tomorrow.

Posted by The Cat 14:50 Comments (0)

Caracas, Venezuela, Day 1

Grumble grumble grumble

sunny 29 °C

Well I´ve had a hellish last 24 hours let me tell you! And I have a rotten first impression of Caracas. I got a bus yesterday at 12.30pm, it was late and I actually left at 1.30pm. I met a nice German couple while I was waiting, so it was good to chat with them. They warned me that the bus would be cold, so before I boarded I took out my pant legs (they zip onto my shorts) and a long-sleeved shirt. How little I was prepared!! While there was sun outside the air-con was nice, but during the night it was FRIGID, goddamn cold, and I didn´t sleep a wink cuz I was curled up into myself as tightly as I could be trying to keep warm, grumbling and nearly shivering the whole night. There was one 15-minute moment of blessed relief when the air conditioning didn´t seem to work quite as efficiently and I did sleep then, but alas, it did not last.

And so I arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, at 8am this morning (which felt like 7am still cuz of the hour time difference), sat down in the waiting room for a few minutes while I decided where I was going to go, and took a little bus and then the Metro, Venezuela´s subway system, to an area called Sabana Grande. Finding a hotel was nightmarish as well, despite the help of a couple very friendly English-speaking Venezuelans, because the prices are so exorbant. The central area is cheaper apparently, but the men who were helping me gave a strong recommendation against it as it is quite dangerous at night, and so I´m staying at the ´cheap´ Nuestro Hotel aka Backpackers Hotel for a whopping $22 a night (I´m used to paying no more than $5). Caracas is expensive.

Another kicker with the hotels here is that almost all of them have a double purpose and cater toward 2 separate crowds: they do take travellers, but during the day the open rooms are rented by the hour and they become sort of like brothels. This means that a traveller like myself can´t check in until after 7pm or so, when the seedy side of business is over with, which means that, after a sleepless night on a horribly cold bus, I still haven´t been able to lie down and have to just hang out until this evening. Argh! And I will get to sleep on a bed that x number of hookers, desperate men, or participants of mad affairs have been in. Joy!

Anyway, there have been some amusing and positive things in the last 24 hours as well. The film they showed on the bus was a bootlegged version of The Departed, which won Best Picture and Director I think at the Oscars recently, and which is not yet out on video. And it´s excellent and shocking and my kind of movie cuz I love gangster plots.

And, of course, even though I find the masses of Caracas to be entirely unwelcoming and unfriendly so far, I have met a few individuals who´ve been eager to help me out and who are very kind.

And while I was walking down the street today making observations, I saw:
- two hip parents with a toddler walking between them, hand-in-hand, and he was totally pimped out like them - I´m talking black wife beater and gold chain pimped out, and he wasn´t even 2 years old!
- a huge area in the middle of the street where all sorts of old men are playing chess (not a single woman was there...)
- a shopping mall outside every subway stop, a McDonald´s every 200 metres, Burger Kings, KFCs, and giant monuments atops skyscrapers for Pepsi and Nescafe - interesting for a country so adamantly left-wing and anti-American

Tomorrow I´m going to explore the old, historic part of the city, which should be more interesting. Really though, now that I´m away from the beautiful Caribbean Sea and the tranquil Taganga environment, I´m excited to be coming home. I´m not really in the mood for Caracas.

Posted by The Cat 12:16 Comments (1)

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