Friday, April 12, 2013

Good Thing I Had No Plans

We have no school today.  In fact, no one in Caracas has school today due to the upcoming elections.  I don't know why those two things are related.  But in what seemed an inspired choice, one of Lilly's classmates chose to have his birthday party today.  The birthday party is at a day camp and seemed like fabulous way to keep a group of kids entertained on the beginning of a long weekend.

Sophia stayed home sick yesterday, and still had a fever this morning.  Annika seems tired all the time.  I was happy to get Lilly out of the house, and leave the younger two for rest and recuperation today.

Luckly, I had no other plans.  We left the house at 11:30.  My GPS estimated our arrival at 11:45.  I generously assumed it would be closer to noon, since I didn't know the area.

We arrived at 1:35.  We had stopped for directions four times by then.

Traffic was horrendous.  Our housekeeper tells me that everyone is out running errands today, because of the election.  She may have told me the connection between the two, but I didn't understand.  It seems possible that everyone worries about what will happen after the election, and makes a point of stocking up on food and cash before.  This is pure, uneducated speculation.

Also, I got lost.  I followed the hand drawn map closely for quite a while.  But once we arrived in the general neighborhood, I lost track of all landmarks and we circled for at least 30 minutes.  This was where we asked directions, and I realized that even though I can communicate with my housekeeper and my Spanish teacher, mi Espanol is really still quite spare.

Also, we nearly ran out of gas.  This would be funny, in a land where gas is nearly free.  We found a gas station before we began riding on fumes, and I paid 10 bolivares for a full tank of gas.  That includes a good tip for the guy who filled me up.  At the posted exchange rate, that's less than 50 cents to fill up my mini-van.

We finally found the camp.  Poor Lilly stepped out of the car feeling nervous.  I, feeling disgusted with the drive, kissed her forehead and pushed her toward the crowd.  Only halfway down the drive did I realize how callous I had been to her.

Don't worry - its a birthday party with her classmates.  She's okay.

It took over an hour to get home.  I need to pick her up again at 5:00.  I'm guessing that traffic will be approaching rush hour, so I think I'll need to pack her sisters in the car within the next few minutes.  If all goes as I expect it will, I will spend over 5 hours in the car today - just shuttling my 7 year old back and forth to a birthday party which is less than 10 miles away.

Good thing I had nothing else planned for the day.  I think I'll go join the sick and the tired as they watch Toy Story in the den.

Post Script:
The little rest did me good, and less than an hour later I was ready to explore again.  As I was driving, in a new direction this time, I thought about the differences between traveling and simply moving regularly.  When you move regularly, you have more time to delve into a city, really get to know it, explore the nooks and crannies, stumble upon exciting little things and generally learn the vibe of the place.  I love that about living in a new city.  But when you live in a place, you also have to work, and go to school, and make it to birthday parties on time.  It was difficult to fit my head into explorer mode, because my 2nd grader was getting later by the minute to this birthday party.  She was a good sport, but I couldn't stop and check out this little shop here real quick.

I took a different route back to the party, and stumbled upon some very new places.  The roads got very narrow and the house paint got very bright and the streets were suddenly very full of people and I became quite nervous about whether or not my big red minivan would fit through this windy, steep street.  We did.

The traffic on the way home was much better.  And now my city feels that much bigger to me.  Not a great day, but a pretty nice take-away.

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