The apartment complex where my team and I live
Language misunderstandings are numerous here because it is a rarity to run across citizens of Venezuela who have visited or lived in a country where English is the primary language. One exception to that is a 11 year-old boy named Pablo that my team and I met who speaks perfect English. We bumped into Pablo at the apartment complex, Balcones del Norte, where we live.
After talking to him for a few minutes, he offered to introduce us to his mother, Liliana, who is a Engineering professor at Carabobo University (CU). Liliana received her master’s degree in United States at a University in Florida and she lived there for four years with her family. God was good because one of the challenges that my team and I have right now is building connections with faculty members at the university where we work, which just so happens to be Carabobo University.
Connecting with faculty members is a small part of the work that my team and I have been doing at the university lately. We need faculty support in order to help our organization, Vida Estudiantil (the name for Campus Crusade for Christ in Venezuela), grow. We hope Liliana will help us make better connections to student leaders on campus, help us find a suitable spot for our weekly meeting, and help us gain exposure at CU.
My team and I have been working on other tasks in order for our organization to have a strong presence at the university. We have a group of students that lead the Vida Estudiantil Bible Studies, assist in the event planning for our organization, and help get other students on their campus connected with Christ. This group is called the servant team. My team and the servant team have engaged in two meetings so far and it is thrilling to see the dreams that they have for our organization and their university.
Us with Vida Estudiantil students after giving out questionnaires
My team and I have also been sharing Christ with other students we met on campus. We gave out hundreds of questionnaires to students on campus last week. The questionnaires asked if they were interested in attending a bible study, coming to English Club, or getting to know God more. The reception we received from the students was fantastic, around two hundred students filled out questionnaires and we met many new students who are interested in getting involved in Vida Estudiantil.
While giving out the questionnaires were able to inform students of the first English Club that we were having, which we held last week. On the day of English Club, it was incredible to see all the students who attended and were eager to learn English from fluent speakers. Outside of English Club, I have been put in charge, along with Emily from my team, to plan the different outings that we are taking to the local orphanage. We are are planning on going there as soon as we touch base with the pastor that runs the orphanage.
The University where I work at with Campus Crusade for Christ
All in all, working at la Universidad de Carababo (Carabobo University) is quite different then most colleges in the the United States. One of the days that we were on campus medical students were protesting at the university. As the result of the protest, the road that we needed to use to leave via bus was blocked so we had to find an alternative exit route. This sort of demonstration is typical at the university and we need to flexible to the many curve balls that are thrown our way.
Some of those curve balls have been very interesting, I have realized there are many differences (some humorous) between the way people live here in Venezuela and the way that Americans from the United States live. I would like to share with you some of those differences.
Differences Between the United States and Venezuela
The alligator at the University's pond
1. United States: You might find some ducks, geese, or–if you are lucky– a frog at a university’s local lagoon. Venezuela: The University of Carabobo has live alligators in their pond that seem quite hungry.
2. United States: University students have to pay for all of their tuition unless they have financial aid or scholarships. Venezuela: With their socialistic government, students do not have to pay for going to a state university.
3. United States: Playgrounds exist in local communities for children to play at. Venezuela: Venezuela has what my team and I affectionately call “bro gyms,” which are outside work-out centers for people to do push-ups, pull-ups, and crunches.
4. United States: If there is a stray dog in the United States, usually within hours the dog is picked up by animal control. Venezuela: There are stray dogs everywhere, especially at the university, stray dogs linger around students and eat the food they leave behind.
5. United States: In restrooms there is always hand soap by the sinks. Venezuela: NO bathroom has hand soap and Purrell is your best friend.
6. United States: When people want to draw your attention to something they point with their fingers. Venezuela: Venezuelans use their lips to point by kissing in the direction of what they want you to look at.
One of the students, Douglas, me and his mother at our welcome party
7. United States: Gasoline prices fluctuate but they are almost always over $2.00 a gallon. Venezuela: It costs less then a dollar to fill up an entire tank of gas (this is because Venezuela is the third biggest exporter of oil, it is humorous because here it costs more for drinking water than gasoline).
8. United States: Most college-aged students do not attend a social get-together during the night with their parents. Venezuela: College-aged students will bring their parents to parties and other social functions, this is completely normal and in some cases the parent shows up at the social occasion before their child gets there.
Despite all these differences, Venezuela has a lot to fall in love with. When the seven members of my team cram into a bus that has people hanging outside the door, loud Reggaeton music blasting inside, and the bus assertively weaving through three lanes of traffic it hard not to feel alive. Also the people here are so warm and overjoyed to have us here, we experience a lot of warmth and affection. Within talking to someone for a half an hour, the other person will treat you like they have known you for your entire life. Living life in Venezuela, it is near impossible to escape the feeling like you are part of one big family.