The Ants Go Marching……
I need the sea because it teaches me. ~ Pablo Neruda
It was early morning on January 1st and we were packing our bags to go to the beach. This was such a far cry last year when we were getting ready to fly out of Miami, hung-over. Well, I was hung-over; Juan, on the other hand, being the designated driver, still had his wits about him. I don’t think I slept for 3 hours that night/day. Alas, this is a new year. I was still wiped from my trip from hell, but knowing that the beach was a few sweet hours away I was up to the task.
Travel time is always taken into consideration here; there are no exceptions. It is expected that you will wait in some kind of line, whether it be in a store, a bank or traffic. If by some miracle there is no line, a million questions arise as to why, or as to how long it will last. This is what happened on our way out of town. It was smooth sailing. Our reasoning was that people were just getting home from celebrating New Year’s or they weren’t out of bed yet. Whatever it was, we appreciated the break. Knowing that all good things must come to an end, the break was short lived. A third of the way into a tunnel, the smooth traffic flow became a parking lot. The only reasonable explanation was an accident. This didn’t come as a surprise.
Traveling by car in Venezuela is an extreme sport; one in which knowing the rules are a must. The first time I was here I thought I was going to die 5 times over just from the airport to the condo. I’m not sure how to really describe it. A two lane road can quickly become 3 lanes for cars and 2 or 3 extra lanes for motorcycles. Include a few vendors dodging the traffic and you have a kind of organized chaos. Motorcycles, of course, have their own set of rules and an incredible sense of entitlement. By entitlement I mean, if a car does not make way for an approaching motorcycle, the driver will be sure to damage your car just as a way of showing his “right”. How does one know if a motorcycle is approaching? By the use of the horn, of course. The cacophony of noise is startling. The speed in which they pass between cars is mind boggling. I’m always in a state of awe, shock and horror.
Traffic here is a living, breathing organism. You can see the inhalations and the exhalations, the expansions and contractions. Maybe a better way of looking at it is by thinking of it as a colony of ants marching to its own beat. If something is in its way, the collective group makes way and when an ant misses a step or gets pushed to the side, accidents occur. That’s just what happened in the tunnel. The risks are high and the outcomes are never great. We slowly crept by the scene and, sure enough, motorcycle parts were everywhere and the victims were pushed along the wall waiting for the ambulances to arrive.
Driving along the coast reminded me of driving near Malibu along the Pacific Coast Highway. The view was spectacular and never ending. We were supposed to stay in a house of friend of a friend out in the country near Todasana. It was described to us as “rustic”. And rustic it was. Getting there proved to be a challenge because parts of the road had been washed out during some recent rain. After one look at the place we decided not to stay overnight. Instead, we’d to go to the beach and head to a friend’s condo after dinner.
People here take beaches for granted, much like Canadians take trees for granted. A so-so beach for a Venezuelan is a superb beach for me! I’ve been waiting all year to hit the beach. My desire to be in a teeny bikini, soaking up the sun and frolicking in the waves was granted. I was the only one within our group who went swimming. Why, because the waves were too high, and the wind a bit strong for my Venezuelan counterparts. I don’t think any sane Canadian would have let those become deterrents. Todasana is a mini paradise.
I connect to the ocean, the salty air, and the sound of crashing waves. Months of work and stress wash off of my skin. My senses sharpen, almost like a kaleidoscope coming into focus and I eventually become calm. I needed this to reflect on this past year, what I’ve learned and what I’ve gained. All I can say is that it was well deserved and definitely worth the wait!