Efficiency is doing better what is already being done. ~ Peter F Drucker
Living in a country that is not your own really puts the magnifying glass on one’s character. You get to discover if you’re a Type A or B personality? I’m on the obsessive A side. What brings you joy? Nature and food. Are you an understanding or compassionate person? Yes, I am. What annoys you? The list is long. And what would truly push you over the edge? Not much. There are times when I think I should go over to a wall and bang my head, but of course, in the end, the only person I’d be hurting would be myself. What is this magnifying glass showing? It’s glaringly obvious that I’m impatient. It’s my Achilles heel. I really appreciate and need efficiency. I crave it like chocolate. Maybe I was Swedish or Japanese in another life.
People here complain about inefficiency all the time. It’s a topic of conversation, much like the weather is for Canadians.
We really got dumped on last night, didn’t we?
Yea, another 30 cm of the white stuff’s coming.
God, when will winter end?
I don’t know; yesterday was the first day of spring.
Sound familiar? You can always insert rain for snow if you’re living in Vancouver.
In Caracas the conversation goes something like this:
Aarrgghhh, an audible sigh, immediate look of despair, eye rolling commences. Turn to the guy that just came up behind you. The line up for the bank/check out/pharmacy counter is horrendous.
It’s always like this. It doesn’t matter what time of the day you come.
Yea, I know. Hey, hold my place in line. I’m going to see if the other line is moving faster.
Sure. If your line is moving faster, I’ll come over.
20 minutes later……… you’ve moved up 3 spots, but look on the bright side, you just made a new friend.
So yesterday Juan had to go to deposit 2 checks at one bank. We take our place in line and within seconds, 15 people were standing behind us. There is one teller open and every 30 seconds someone is going up to the teller to ask for a deposit slip while a client is trying to do their banking. Yes, you read that right. It’s 2013 and they’re still using deposit slips. Here is one of the problems, the bank won’t leave any on the counter because people take them. Really?! Well of course they take them!!!! They don’t want to waste their time. Your banking takes twice as long because of the constant interruptions and of course after you picked up your slip, you have to go to the back of the line to fill the damn thing out. Head banging commences.
We waited our 25 minutes, I go ahead of Juan to ask for deposit slips (you know for next time). I leave so the guy doesn’t see through our thinly disguised plan. A couple minutes later I see Juan standing in line for the bank machine. He tells me the teller will only deposit one check and not the other because it was under a certain amount. WTH? My second bout of head banging is in full swing. Our turn comes up and the machine is temporarily out of service!! Of course it is. Now I know you’re asking, why didn’t he just use the machine in the first place? People don’t trust them. If a check goes missing, the bank has a “it’s not our responsibility” attitude. It’s risky.
There was another branch on the other side of the mall so we decided to walk over. Guess what? That side of the mall was closed and wouldn’t be open for another hour and a half. This head banging session is coming to a close and the head shaking in disbelief starts.
Of course, I always having a running commentary with Juan about using bank cards instead of deposit slips, streamlining procedures at the teller, efficiency, etc. And although he concurs, I think he’s tired of me pointing out the glaringly obvious.
Here’s a perfect example of inefficiency, if you deposit a check you have to have your photo taken and you need to give your thumb print. The teller to camera ratio is about 2 to 1, and it’s required for ALL checks. So if you deposit 10 checks, that means 10 photos and 10 thumb prints are taken. All of that takes time. Can you feel the pain? Oh and talk about Big Brother! But that’s a whole other post.
Anyway, that was the first of three banks we had to go to yesterday; they went just as smoothly.
I have a very sharp tongue, I’m very impatient, and it’s a lifelong struggle. ~ Karen Armstrong
Line up, queue, cola, whatever you call it, it still equates to time wasted.
Life is funny. It seems like I’m constantly challenged to work on one of my worst qualities, impatience. It rears its ugly head at certain things like waiting for summer to arrive, being super excited to go somewhere (I’m not the road trip kind of gal), or waiting for Juan to find his keys and put on his shoes when we have someplace to be and I’ve been ready for 10 minutes. So isn’t it a bit ironic that I move to a place where I think they invented line ups?
I understand that I’m living in South America and they have different ways of doing things; and I get that Caracas is a very large, somewhat disorganized city, but people here dislike line ups just as much as I do. Some days are filled with dread because you have more than one thing to do. You constantly have to consider how much time will be spent waiting.
It goes something like this: I have to go to the doctor’s office. Um it’ll take me 45 minutes to an hour to drive there, try to find parking (always a challenge) wait a minimum of 3 hours for a 10 minute appointment, go to the bank, but try to find parking again, which can be around 20 minutes depending on where the bank is located, wait up to an hour in the bank. There is no swiping of the debit card here. Everything is still pretty much paper driven; you know, how it was 20 years ago when you had to fill out the withdrawal or deposit slip, plus your photo is taken and you have to ink your thumb print if you’re cashing cheques. People are very weary of bank machines and won’t really use them if they’re situated outside of the bank. No matter, there are line ups for those too. Next, get some gas and pick up groceries on the way home. Four seemingly small errands can take up to 6 hours, not very efficient and incredibly frustrating. Of course the time will vary slightly depending on the order and the time of day you do your errands.
Can see my problem? There are even line ups for line ups! You think I’m joking, but it’s very common for government offices to employ this. You stand in line for 45 minutes to an hour (seems like the magical number) to get the information of where you’re supposed to go, only to find the right place and wait another hour for less than five minutes with the person you need to speak with. Ah, bureaucracy, you got to love it. Not!
Of course all of my Latino students laugh at me. They employ the “Silly Kim, you should know better” conversation. I’m glad to know that my frustrations are their amusements. They give me tips like bring a book or magazine; pack some water and something to snack on. These are good, but wouldn’t it be easier if things were just a tiny bit more efficient?
I know complaining doesn’t solve anything, but some days it sure helps to vent a little. I’m learning to deal with it, but trust me when I say it’s challenging.
Patience is something you admire in the driver behind you and scorn in the one ahead. ~Mac McCleary
You’ve heard me talk about it before, so it’s not the first and probably won’t be the last time I mention traffic. It’s a monster. It’s a being all of its own. I’ve tried describing the cars like marching ants, but most times they’re like the snakes on Medusa’s head. Everybody is going in every imaginable direction, including the wrong one. It really is a form of anarchy.
Although the horns blare, mostly as a form of warning from approaching motorcycles, people here really just go with the flow. There isn’t road rage like you’d expect. Tempers flare, mine included and I don’t even drive here, but drivers have learned not to take things personally and they let whatever has offended them pass. This is a lesson I need to apply to my life.
There is never a great time to run errands here. Pretty much every hour is rush hour. I normally have to mentally prepare myself if I know we’ll be in the car all day. It took us 1/2 an hour to get through 3 traffic lights on Monday. Are you starting to understand my pain?
Today Juan and I went to try to look for a car to buy. It’s a next to impossible feat. Buying a used car is very expensive, almost 3 times the price of what you’d pay in Canada. There is no rhyme or reason. Can you imagine paying $14 000 for a 15 year old Chevy? I think not. Crazy, isn’t it? There are two main reasons for this: the price of gas is practically free (we pay about $0.26 for a tank) and there is a mafia that controls the market. People list cars, the mafia buys it, repairs it (they have their own mechanics) and then they inflate the price. It’s frustrating as hell.
I know what you’re thinking, just go to a dealership and buy a new or used one there. Here’s the thing: if you can find a dealership that actually has cars in it (hard to picture isn’t it, but we went by 5 or 6 today and not one had a car in it), you order a car (which takes up to a year to arrive), only to find out that what they have for you isn’t at all what you’ve ordered. In this most common scenario you have one of two choices to make: buy the car or walk away and wait another year. 10 times out of 10, people buy a car they don’t even want. It’s a serious problem on many, many levels.
Although it felt like it, we didn’t spend our entire day in the car. We stopped by a fruit and veggie market to pick up some fresh herbs (which cost pennies) for tomorrow night’s pasta and then we went to a fruit stand to have some juice. There I tried a fruit I have never heard of; it’s called nispero. Nispero has the same skin color as a kiwi, without the fuzz. The favor was sweet; almost like a pear and the texture was a bit grainy. I liked it. Juan tells me that people here make ice cream with it, now that I’d like to try.
I’m pretty big on giving myself rewards if I’ve had a great day (meaning my swearing wasn’t at full capacity). Today’s reward was a plant. We stopped by a florist and picked up the cutest little fern (not entirely sure that’s what it is) and some flowers for Juan’s mom. Plants make me happy. Once we move to the island, our place will look like a jungle!
My other reward for being patient today? A Campari! Salud
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!
Winter is nature’s way of saying, “Up yours.” ~ Robert Byrne
I think I may have mentioned before that I’m not a patient person. I hate waiting around for people or things like time to pass. With less than 2 weeks before the departure date, I’m becoming a little squirrely. I’m slowly starting to check out. I’m ready to leave. I think I mentally said goodbye to Montreal a long time ago. It’s a great city (in the summer), but I was never at home here. I was like the distant cousin who overstayed my visit. And like extended family, Montreal and I tolerated each other. I’ll be gone soon enough and I’m sure I’ll look back with fond memories saying to Juan, “Do you remember the time in Montreal when…..?”
You know that thing that happens when you HAVE overstayed your visit and you tell your relatives that you’re leaving? It’s like they go from being resentful to being a nice again. I kind of feel that way about the weather right now. November has been awesome! It’s been “warm” with no rain. It feels like I am getting away with something, not having to endure the first brunt of the season. It’s like it’s holding off until I leave, you know as a kind gesture. I understand that personifying the weather seems a little strange, but in my defense it can be quite bitchy, nasty really. (I really had to restrain myself from using gender there.) Anyone who has endured a harsh Canadian winter knows what I’m talking about. I should mention that it was – 27 degrees when I visited my parents in Calgary last weekend, so, unfortunately I didn’t completely escape.
I just checked the weather forecast for the next two weeks. I don’t want to jinx anything. Here’s another little truth about me, I like to know what’s going on with the weather, down to the hour. I think it’s a Canadian “thing”. Some might call this obsessive; I just don’t want to be caught unaware. I like to be prepared; you know, wearing the appropriate clothing. In saying that, I really dislike wearing winter boots (coat, mitts and a hat). Maybe it’s the weight of them or the style, but as a pedestrian, as opposed to those who drive cars in the winter (they have different attire), I’ve learned that it’s far more practical to be warm than fashionable.
Soon enough, I’ll be trading my winter gear for a bathing suit! Until then, I will bundle up and count my lucky stars that it hasn’t snowed, yet.
My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already. ~ Dave Berry
While celebrating our very belated anniversary, Cécile was kind enough to remind me that I have a responsibility to those who read my blog to update regularly. I think Cécile’s bored and just wants to be a stalker, but that’s a different story. I must say that I do feel a twinge of guilt but, in saying that, I am preparing to move to another country. Ok, I know, this is what the blog is about, so that excuse doesn’t really count.
Here’s the truth of it; I consider what I write. I don’t want this to be like some people’s facebook statuses where they’re updating every 10 minutes. I’m a thinker. I think a lot and I’m sure my boyfriend would attest that when it comes to certain things I think too much. That’s ok, it means I care.
So here’s my pledge to you: I will complete part two of my previous post this weekend. I will finish what I started with a little companion by my side, chocolate!
I suppose we’re like time. With only 2 months remaining, you can imagine how organized (obsessive/squirrely, crazy) I’m becoming. People are coming and going, and our once nicely decorated apartment is being taken away piece by literal piece. I, of course, am content to live and eat in the bedroom (it’ll keep cleaning down to a minimum, plus, I can organize the moving piles more effectively), while Juan, being far more civilized, finds it practical to keep a few “necessary objects” like a table and chairs. We have found a happy medium and have sold the majority of large pieces of furniture. Now the place is starting to echo. This is a good sign!