I couldn't believe it, I have never booked a trip so fast and without months and months of planning in advance...it didn't feel like myself, but at the same time...it felt great! Not having much time to debate if I did ok or not....in 3 weeks, I'd be off to Venezuela for 9 days to see my family and friends with the excuse of spending my dad's 70th birthday back home.
But, I went to work on a friday, half day until noon. Said goodbye to the co-workers and took off home on the subway/streetcar to go get my backpacks and go back again by subway/bus to the airport. (travelling on a budget) a $70 taxi ride came down to a $10 all-day-subway pass...call me cheap but hey, I'll spend the money where it needs to be spent.
Airport at 4ish, my flight leaves at 7pm. At the counter checking my bags, a mexican girl clerk started conversation, I told her I had been in Mexico 2 years ago for 2 weeks backpacking all the south of Mexico, she was happy to hear I wasn't one of those "boring resort guys" and we ended talking for about 15-20 minutes while a big line was forming behind me. I took that as a good sign, as a signal of encouragement of travelling alone is a good cure.
Waiting for the boarding call I stopped at the Duty Free stores to get some more candy for the people I might have missed on the "gift list"
- "Passengers on the flight 076 going to Caracas, Venezuela........"
- "That's me!"
On the plane I was like a kid (I always get nervous on planes) but they had movies and TV shows to relax me a little bit and distract my mind of what I was going to encounter back home. I read a bit of my book and catch up with all season 2 of Nurse Jackie.
Arrived to Caracas around midnight. A good 5 hours 25 minutes direct flight without any issues. My mom and 2 friends were waiting for me at the Airport, she was happy to see me! Even if I had long hair and a 2 week beard.
We jumped on the car and went straight home.
What came after for the next 9 days it is hard to describe, happiness, joy, laughter, I saw friends I haven't seen in the past 2 1/2 years, but have been my friends since at least 15 years or more, and that they will remain my friends for the longest time to come...
I managed to live a rush Toronto life in Caracas, a city where everyone takes their sweet time to do everything and you should only try to aim for "1 chore per day" I managed to wake up at 6am (with no alarm clock) and go to bed at midnight to make the most out of my day.....
Spend time with my family and at least 3-4 friends a day, some of them knew each other so the blending was easier but some of them didn't so the networking began...lawyers, veterinary, unemployed, all joined together by happiness and cheap beer. (5 BsF/Beer = $0.65/Beer)
I wont describe the day by day routine but just the highlights of what I learned in this short trip....
1) Tuesday night, I am at a restaurant with 2 of my best friends. The waiter comes and ask us for drinks, we order 3 beers....as he leaves I keep on looking at the menu to be ready to order when he comes back..it is past 9pm and I have the Canadian mentality of good use of the time...when he comes and pour the beers on the glasses I rush to say: "I think we're ready to order" and he says...."That's OK but take your time, make a toast first..."
WOW! It hit me like a tons of bricks...for a waiter to tell me to chill and enjoy with my friends, the friends I haven't seen in 2 and a half years and toast that we are all there, celebrating my comeback...damn right, fuck it! Let's toast! This is a wise advice I'd keep with me for years...enjoy the moment!
2) I got to eat and sample every single dish I missed from back home. Eating healthy and in good portions. But everything fresh made and tasty. I tried things I never imagined go well together like Tequenos with cheese and chocolate...simple amazing.
3) Not to be afraid...everyone kept on warning me about crime, and Caracas is now one of the most violent cities of the world, but a managed to walk, take the subway and bus with the equivalent of US $1000 in the front pocket of my jeans. That's like 4 minimum monthly wages over there...I could have taken a taxi and got safe home, but it is my country after all and if I can't feel safe at home, then....where can I feel safe. So I walked, fortunately nothing happened and it might been a stupid thing to do but, is part of living!
4) This one was a tough one. Remember who I am and that there are people who love me for it. After the separation I was devastated and ended believing most of the things I was accused of, I doubted of myself or my capacities as a human being, I felt like I had failed at 34, and my friends and family proved me wrong. Im on the right path. I am doing good and that's why people remembered me with so much appreciation and love, there was a night where we went back to how did we knew each other and hearing those stories again, what they had to say about me, things I didn't even remember I have done for them, things I have done that have been a learning curve for them and changed their lives at certain point. It was uplifting in every single way....The smile on my face never fade out..
5) Learning that I am human too and I can be wrong. I have always been a firm believer of not keeping in touch with any of my ex girlfriends. Why? there's no point, if it didn't work as a couple there's no way it will work as a friendship.....wrong! I saw my ex, the one I left behind when I decided to come to Canada 10 years ago. It ended on a sad note, with a fight, we never spoke with each other again. She like myself, went through separation, she has a kid. We went out and my first reaction towards her was a hug, a long 5 minutes uninterrupted hug. The type that says, everything is OK, no more fighting, let's put stuff behind us, and that's how it went. We walked and talked for 5 hours. We made peace. We turned the page and we're ready to move on with our lives...
We'll we see each other again or hear about each other again in the future? I don't know. No one knows. The only thing I am happy to know, we no longer have a grudge with each other and we're both OK.
6) Gathering almost all my friends at my parents house, for a whole weekend, they never seemed to have enough of me, wanting to treat me all the time and spend time with me, we'd start the get together in the morning and end at 11pm eating street hot-dogs. The'd go out of their daily routines to stop and see me.
The last day I had to leave at 7pm in order to be at the airport 4 hours previous my flight and there were at least 15 people in my parking lot. Taking pictures, laughing, crying and waving goodbye. Many promised to come and visit me, others asked when I was going back....I don't know....I just wanna live the present....and the present is GOOD!
I came back straight to work, re-invigorated, re-energized and super happy. And for that I am very lucky to have the people I have around me. So, on an ending note.......
Lorenzo, my friend from elementary and musical partner for almost 25 years
Lenin, my buddy from first year of university and almost brother for the past 17 years
Jose Ramon, my friend who shares with me the passion for U2 and friend for 17 years
Allan, another great friend, who was my alter ego during university years and friend for 17 years
Amaluz, my friend whom I have reconnected with recently and known for 16 years
Cristina, the family vet who I met thanks to my monkey pet and I'd never imagine we'd turn so good friends for the past 11 years
Carlos Albornoz, my boss from my last job as an English teacher in Venezuela and friend for the past 6 years
Jackie, well, after 13 years of knowing each other and sharing a past, thanks for making peace with me.
And everyone else I saw very quick or shared with on that wonderful week...
THANK YOU! For bringing back the happiness in me, to help me find who I was in the first place and sending me back with hope, happiness and smiles all the way back to Canada. I will cherish them and keep the memories alive, to stay in touch and come see you guys as often as I can. You are the best friends anyone can have and are very special to me...
I can't think of any other song since I came back than INXS's "The Stairs". I don't know how to attach the meaning with you guys but it just feels like the right song...and for someone who's ready to live life at a 100%, there are no rules to follow, I just make them as I go.....
"Storey to storey, building to building, streets to streets.....we pass each other on the stairs"