Cultural Tips, Caracas
Allow me to quote myself (hhhaHAHhahahaAh) in Spanish: "Ha quedado ampliamente demostrado que para ser Presidente de Venezuela lo único que se necesita tener son signos vitales". That is...it has been proved tha in order to become President of Venezuela, the only thing you need are vital signs (to be alive).
That was the answer I gave to the people of Discovery Channel France, a couple of years ago, during an interview on the Miss Venezuela Beauty Paggent.
In all of the following pictures is Irene Saez, Miss Venezuela and Miss Universe1981. After a year of beeing the most beautifull girl in the world, she studied "Estudios Internacionales", graduated, became the first mayor of the Chacao District, ran for President (lost), but became the governor of Margarita's island. Then, she married and had a baby. Later she divorced and very reacently got married to a very wealthy man in Miami.
I was ask If I thought she could have been president. And I gave my answer, but I wasnt refering to her, but to most of the venezuelan presidents we have had over the years. You got pulse... your heart is beatting... you are breathing... YOU CAN BE PRESIDENT OF VENEZUELA!!!
(This also applies to the presidents of other countries)
A telenovela is like a soap opera, but is much more than a soap opera (and for a foreiner could be really fun). This is something you will have to see at 9:00 p.m. (prime time) either in channel 2 Radio Caracas Television or in channel 4 Venevision. Televen channel 10 shows brasilian soaps, but those are not the ones I'm suggesting. Venezuelan ones are funnier and crazier and unpredictable.
Try to see at least 15 minutes of one telenovela (they last an hour long). Even though their are in Spanish, within minutes you will be able to understand what is going on: this blind girl is the main character, this young and rich man is in love with her, but his mother is the villain and she doesnt approves this love relationship with the poor blind girl who is also poor. then is this beautiful and evil rich girl that wants to seduce the young guy. Her brother, who is a villain too, kidnaps the blind girl, who cries and prays to this little virgin she has in a necklace that belonged to her mother who desapeared 20 years ago under very misterious circumstances. Do yo get the idea? Well, you must see a bit of one telenovela. Major t.v. enterteinement in Venezuela. Major. It comes from the sentimental English novel from the XVIII century; passes and enriches with the roman-feuilleton in France (XIX, with the news papers "La Presse" and "Le siecle" in which Balzac and Dumas used to write their daily stories and charge 3 francs per line; then these and other stories where adapted for radio and finally, at the 50's, they make their way in television. Telenovela: important part of the venezuelan culture. And I know that you will be able to follow it and laugh.
Our "cacao" (cocoa?) is one of the finest in the world (if not the finest!!!)
This is said since the begining of times by french, swiss and italian chocolate especiallists. The "Cacao de Chuao" has a history of excelence and tradition and has been imported to the main chocolate factories around the world.
I suggest that you eat venezuelan chocolate. It can be found everywhere: candy stores, supermarkets, newspaper stands, coffee shops, almost anywhere. Try them all!!!
Now, my favorite to take to other countries as a present is Chocolate de El Rey. They have a collection that goes from a white bar of chocolate, to a milk chocolate, to a variety that has more and more and more % of cacao (cocoa) in it and it gets darker and darker. Less % more eatable. More % great for cooking or making hot chocolate to drink. Each type has the name of a venezuelan tree: Apamate, Saman, Burace, Caobo, Icoa, etc.
You can buy them separately, but there is a box of 6 (or is it 8?), containing the whole variety. That's the box I buy and take for presents. NOW BEWARE: you must buy them in Caracas, at the airport, at the duty free shop, they cost twice as much.
-WHY?!?!?!?! - I asked.
-Because this is a product for export...
(What a nonsense. I told them: In Caracas, the box of six (or 8) bars is about 8 US $, and here: 15 $. This is a robbery and I'm going to tell everyone about it!)
These chocolates are a bit more expensive than the rest. Try them all. Dont fogget to buy one called TORONTO that does not belongs to El Rey chocolate company.
You can get them in almost all of the big SUPERMERCADOS, groceries stores, such a Excelsior Gama. And also in a chain of pharmacies called LOCATEL. They make excelent presents to take back home.
Besides beeing one of the most delicious fruits in the whole wide world, the piña ("ñ": try to say "jalapegna", and then say "pigna" = piña) has therapeutic, curative, healling properties. In Venezuela, after we have surgery (any kind, from a tooth removed to a general laparotomy or whatever...) we eat piña or drink natural piña juice (with all the fiber). Why? The piña is a natural "desinflamatory" (does that word exists in English?). Piña helps the inflamation of the body tissues to heal...to go away. Besides, it tastes sooo good!!!
Dont over eat piña, because you can get an allergic reaction (itchy). No more than half a piña per day, per person.
You can buy piñas at the huge groceries stores, markets, tiny street markets or plain piña trucks that park anywhere. In Venezuela we have different varieties of piñas, the ones from Mérida State (at Los Andes mountain range) are the sweetest ones. But I like them all.
We, Spanish speakers, are proud of our letter "Ñ": "eñe".
E as in Elephant
Ñ as in jalapeGNo
E as in another Elephant that comes behind
With out that letter we just couldent write:
ñame (like a potato)
ñandú (a bird)
niquiñaque (a person or a thing not relevant at all)
ñoñería (stupid thing)
There is also a bad word (I hope that VT censor do not forbid, cause this is a cultural issue) that comes with an ñ in the middle: "coño". The meaning of the word is related with the female sexual organ, but most of the time, when we say it, it is equivalent to "sh...t".
"Kñ, I forgot my brief case!!!"
"Kñññññ... I'm tired of talking with your answering machine!!! Pick up the phone, kñ!!!"
If you come to Venezuela you are not supposed to say this word out loud. I only use it in extreme cases and always with people I really know.
UPDATE: march 2005
En el idioma español,
la eñe es muy importante,
y en todo computador
debe ser una consonante.
Tan importante es la eñe
que sin ella yo no sueño,
y aunque te parezca extraño
no me estriño ni me baño.
Aunque sin eñe no hay daño
que nos faltara el empeño
y no existiera el cariño.
Para mi linda limeña
no habria una piel de armiño
tampoco habria cabañas
para albergar a los niños.
Sin eñe yo no te riño,
y aunque tampoco regaño,
me sentiria muy triste
sin decirte que te extraño.
Sin sonido de zampoñas
sin beber un vino añejo
en una peña criolla
¿Que gracia tiene el festejo?
¿Acaso habria buñuelos
o chuño para la niña
como lo hacía el abuelo
con sus trocitos de piña?.
No existiria el otoño
sin la eñe en nuestras letras .
Y tampoco habria moño,
donde prender las peinetas.
Me parece muy extraño
que Bill Gates no la pusiera,
quedando como un tacaño
y como si tan caro fuera!
Bueno, basta de regaños.
Porque ya me vino el sueño
y aunque pongo mucho empeño
los ojos me hacen extraños.
Termino pidiendo a todos
los que hablan el español,
Defiendan la EÑE ¡Coño!
que asi el idioma es mejor!!!!
This "aint" Río de Janeiro... for BIG carnaval celebration you have to fly further down. Brasil is the place.
In Caracas we used to have WONDERFULL carnavales on the XX century. Not any more. Now, in this 4 days and a half celebration: starting on a Friday afternoon, then Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, almost everybody goes to the beach. Any beach. Urgent! Lets get out of here!
I dont go anywhere. I suffer from agoraphobia (fear to open spaces packed with people; "agora", in greek, was the market place; "phobia" = fear) so I rather stay home.
But beaches are lots of fun, specially those of the East coast of Venezuela. But also in Isla de Margarita. And in El Callao. But I insist: this is not brasilian mardi grass... ok?
In warnings and dangers in Caracas (and all over the country) I must write about "bombitas de agua", little water balloons. This is the most ridiculous tradition we have in Carnaval and I must find out where it comes from.
The picture if from the good ol'days. Those were my parents carnavales, I wasnt born yet!
Venezuelan women really care about fashion... Just let me mention the world famous Carolina Herrera. All of the most elegant and wealthy women in the last 20 years of the XX century, and now in the XXI, have a "creation" of Santa Carolina Herrera (as she is called by her admirers).
Then, with have this passion with the Miss Venezuela beauty pageant, and that is the best place for our local and most famous fashion designers to exhibit their last gowns and styles.
It all started with a french "couturier" Guy Meliet, who came to Venezuela and did the best of his fashion career here, designing and dressing the most beautiful and elegant venezuelans. He passed away and is remembered with love and admiration. Others came. Angel Sánchez, also an international one, is one of the best. But we have excelent designers.
I dont dress like a normal venezuelan lady should. My cousin, the writer José Ignacio Cabrujas, used to call me a "gringa honoraria", because he said I dress like the woman of the U.S. He was wrong, though, I've always tried to dress like an elf.
I dont mean a piece of bread... I mean two (or more) glasses of wine (or any other alcoholic beverage).
In English you say "Cheers!", in French: "A ta santé" or "A votre santé". "Santé" means "health"... To your health... In Spanish "santé", "health" is "salud".
And that is what we say in a normal, regular, elegant or not, toast: "¡Salud!" and we go "clink" with our glasses, making eye contact with the other person who is toasting with you and taking a sip of your drink almost inmediately.
Now, there is a fun, non-formal, friendly venezuelan way to toast (you do this only among really good friends and in a fun celebration, a not formal at all one).
that would be (following the instructions with the glass in your hand)
going to the middle (clink)
and then you drink a lot, and laugh...
Do you know why you have to go "clink" with your glass? To fullfill all of your 5 senses: You are seeing the drink, you are smeling it, you are touching the glass, and soon you are going to taste the wine. The sound was missing, so CLINK!!!
We the Venezuelan….have a bad custom we are not punctual……..
For example if you are invited to a party at 8:00 pm that mean that that people will start to arrive at 10:00 pm….yes believe it . Even if you arrive at 8:00 pm the people of the house will be not ready, and we have a expression “I arrive to fried the tequenos” that means that you were early ja ja ja ja
And if you have appointment you can expect that the person arrive 30 min late, it is very usual but is not with all the Venezuelan………..
I have a lot international friend and they have get used to it ….and when we are going to meet they ask if it is Venezuelan time Ja ja ja ja ja ja ja ja
The night club starts people arriving at 11:00 pm and the good time it is at 12:00 pm
It was on August 31st, this year, the day after my birthday. We met in an italian coffee shop, ordered "petit fours", little pastries and I placed a little candle in each one of these pastries. Like in "Alice in Wonderland" we celebrated our not-birthdays. We all sang out loud and made our secret wishes right before blowing our candles. (Everybody around was either giggling or laughing out loud. I bet this new tradition will be soon followed).
We sang it in Spanish.
But this is the way to sing it in English:
Happy non birthday to me
happy non birthday to me
happy non birthday my dear myself
happy non birthday to meeee!!!
Ready to start a tradition ANY TIME!!!
(in the picture, from left to right, Nicolás Bracho, myself, Alejandra Sambrano, Margarita Barbato and H.R.H, Nosrat... yes, a real princess, the only one I know).
OF COURSE!!! WE MUST DO IT!!! Come to Venezuela and be prepared for dancing "salsa", caribbean music, a bunch of different rythms: merengue, guaracha, guaguancó, danzón, danzonete, perico ripiao, bachata, bugalú, etc...
English speaking dancers have a particular problem dancing one of these caribbean rythms: the chachachá.Why? because they call it "Chacha"... and they are missing one step.
It is one two cha cha chá
one two cha cha chá
one two... one two three
one two... one two three
But then comes an English speaking dancer and tries
one two cha cha
one two one two
WRONG!!! You are missing the third step!!! Come and dance, we venezuelans are great dancers and we will be happy to teach you.
Uno dos... cha-cha-chá!!!
If you are a woman, and you come to Venezuela, be prepared, men will see, watch, stare at and coment your rear end. Sexual harrasment... hmmm, no... is a traditional cultural stuff. Some women like it. Some others dont. But we all learn to live with this constant and daily "exposure". At least no one touches nor pinches us (as they do in Italy and in some regions of France).
That is the way it is...
My neighbour is from the U.S. and he was having problems calling a cat at the basement. I herd him saying: "come kitty kitty kitty, come kitty...". And I said to him: that cat will never come up to you, you have to call him in Spanish: "misu-misu-misu-misu" (mee-su)... and the cat -el gato- inmediately came when he was called in Spanish.
Is awfully funny what animals talk in Spanish.
Dogs: guau-guau (always two guaus)
roosters: kiquiriqui (kee-kee-ree-kee)
donkeys: jij? (hee-ho)
baby chickens: pio-pio-pio (pee-oh, always 3 in a row)
Many animals are willing to undestand English and other languages. Dogs, for example. Cats no. They are difficult in every language. Everywhere.
Then get a taxi and ask the driver to take you to "El Urologico" (that is a private modern clinic, with excelent doctors, and where my mother and a bunch of my friends have been hospitalized). "El Urologico" is located in the San Roman Area. A nice place.
Say: "EL UROLOGICO", (El Uh-ro-lo-hee-coh). "EMERGENCIA" (eh-mer-hen-cee-ah).
Once you are in the E.R., in "EMERGENCIA", you will be in good hands, but if you want to speak to a doctor that gives you more confidence, ask them to call: Doctora Lila Vega.
(Doc-to-rah Lee-lah Veh-gah). She is my "Comadre" (I'm the Godmother of her 2 daughters) and she is one of the finest pediatricians in this country. Her dad was one of the finest pediatricians at his time. Her mother -Dr. Lila Scott Handford- was an extremely succesfull psiquiatrist and one of the best persons I know. Dr.Vega speaks English fluently, because she is half canadian. She got straits A's since kindergarten up to her pediatrician specialization. I would put my life in her hands. Eyes closed. My life, but not any of my belongins (pen, keys, cell phone, sweater 'cause she always looses everything). Dr. Vega will certanly recomend you the best doctor for whatever you are feeling sick of. If you need surgery, that will be Dr. David de Lima (who is extremely good looking). If is an gastroenterologist, that will be my favorite one: Dr. Alberto Delgado (who is also good looking and very sweet). But Dr.Vega is the one who knows.
But buy a Multiphone Multicard international and national long distance call card (you can also call celular phones). It is 35% less expensive than if you make a call from a regular phone.
You can get these cards at any BIG newspaper stand in the street.
The instructions, on the back of the card, are in Spanish, but dont panic. First scratch the silver rectangle and discover your secret calling number. Then dial the phone number shown in the card and an a female answering machine will talk to you in Spanish and will tell you to press one, uno para español. Then a male voice in English will tell you to press 2 for English. Then... just follow the instructions.
You can get cards of 5000 bolivares (right now, July 2004 the official exchange is 1 US$ = 1920 bolivares... but people will be more than happy to buy your dollars for 2500, 3000, 3500 if you are really lucky). But there are 10000 ones and 20000.
Is very easy to call home.