Family and friends back home frequently ask me why I stay in Venezuela. Usually my first answer is simply that I like it here. The follow up question is generally something about how long I plan on staying here. At first I wanted to stay at my current school for five years, and some days I still do, but after learning more about the security issues here (much different from Ojeda) I think I would like to stay for three or four years.
This is generally when people ask “WHY” again!
This post is for my family, friends, teachers thinking about moving here, and those who are just curious.
My Top Ten Reasons I stay in Venezuela:
- The people: locals that I’ve met here are warm, friendly, and helpful. Sure, Valencia is not the same as living in a small city like Ojeda where everyone knows me, but you can still develop meaningful relationships with people. I also like being greeted with hugs and kisses by my friends!
- Proximity to the beach: I am in love with Parque Nacional de Morrocoy (aka Morrocoy or Los Cayos). The beautiful Caribbean beaches that are post card worthy impress me every time. It takes me about an hour to drive to Tucacas and then a 30-minute boat ride out to my favorite island. However, if I don’t feel like driving so far you can get to a pretty nice beach called Patanemo in about 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.
- My school: I’ve only been teaching overseas for 5 years now, so I feel like I can learn a lot at my school. There is professional admin, friendly students, tons of resources (seriously my classroom came with the best classroom library that I’ve ever seen), a gorgeous campus, a nature trail, a turtle habitat, mangos, and cool coworkers. One of my favorite parts is having a Teacher Associate in the classroom to help- a local teacher who is bilingual and trained in awesomeness (in other words: 2 teachers for 18 students!).
- Cost of Living: I’ve written before how messed up the money is here for locals, but the upside is that if you have access to dollars than you can live a great life here. I spent the day at a five star hotel yesterday and I got my hair cut, an hour long anti-stress massage, had lunch by the pool, swam, and lounged around for a few hours in the best poolside seating I’ve ever seen, and THEN I went out for sushi- all for less than $50USD. I want to be able to live a great lifestyle and still pay off my student loans at an accelerated rate and I can do this in Venezuela!
- Travel within Venezuela: besides the beach, which I wrote about above, Venezuela has many other tourist attractions (or would be if more tourists came here). Los Roques is an archipelago in the Caribbean with gorgeous beaches. Canaima and Angel Falls (Salto Angel in Spanish) is packed FULL of natural beauty. The city of Merida is a mountainous town with a university town kinda vibe. Puerta La Cruz is another gorgeous beach town. Many people also love Isla Margarita but I haven’t been there yet. I should really get around to writing about the places I’ve been in Venezuela!
- The weather: Ojeda (in the state of Zulia was a little too hot for me), but Valencia is about 80-90F most days. If it rains it is warm rain. If it is cloudy it still feels like a warm spring day. It is hard to be homesick when you have blue skies and perfect weather everyday.
- Spanish: People here speak Spanish. I love the sound of Spanish. I’ve studied Spanish for six years while I was in school and at one time I was nearly fluent. It is my goal to become nearly fluent again, but most days I am happy to understand 90% of what people say and to be able to communicate my needs and wants.
- Cuban Salsa: It is my favorite style of dancing and for two years here my life was centered on it while I went to a dance academy twice a week (and frequently had practice nights at my house). Now I am happy to hear Timba music on the radio (or Bachata, Merengue, Reggaeton, or normal Salsa) and I could theoretically still be dancing if I could talk others into going to classes with me in the sketchy part of town. I don’t really feel safe going out to dance clubs (even with a group) and I no longer have space for salsa practice since I live in a small apartment, but I still watch salsa videos and look for opportunities to dance when I get them. You can’t beat waiting at the grocery store and hearing salsa music!
- Rum: I recently saw an article about some of the best rums in the world and two of them are produced here in Venezuela. I usually drink wine with my dinner, but if I go out I love Mojitos or Cuba Libres (Daquiris are easy to find too with all the fresh fruit available here). Check out the Santa Theresa 1796 and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva the next time you are looking for some good sipping rum. Venezuela is a great spot if you like anything with rum!
- The Food: I love all of the fresh fruits and veggies that I can get at my local farmer’s market. I regularly find pineapple, passion fruit, guava, papaya, coconut, bananas, watermelon, basil, mint, sweet potatoes, avocados, strawberries, chard, broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, etc. The list just goes on and on! A couple blocks away from my apartment there is a store that makes fresh tortellini. I like empanadas and arepas, but my favorite local food is Pabellon (pulled beef served with rice and black beans).
I’ve written before about why I love being an international teacher and plan on being one for the rest of my life, but these are the reasons why I stay in Venezuela even though there are schools all around the world that I would love to work at. So despite some difficulties that I experience here, as long as I have these things, I plan on staying another three or four years!
Do you have a case of wanderlust? Why do you stay where you are? What keeps you from working your way around the world?