Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Very English Problems - Awkward English

There is a funny Twitter which talks about how English people are unable to speak their mind and thus falling into these awkward moments. It can crack you up; I am going to share some of them. 

Saying you're pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it's causing you

Saying "let's come back to that", meaning "please don't speak again during this meeting"

Inviting someone to a party, then providing a list of reasons not to come in case they don't fancy it

The shock of lifting an index finger from the steering wheel to thank a fellow driver and not receiving an acknowledgment finger in return

Looking away so violently as someone nearby enters their PIN that you accidentally dislocate your neck

Loudly tapping your fingers at the cashpoint, to assure the queue that you've asked for money and the wait is out of your hands

Saying "It's nothing, really" to indicate you're remarkably close to losing consciousness

Holding the door for someone with the tip of your outstretched foot, to indicate you've really no time to dilly-dally

Not wishing to tell someone they've misheard you, so simply soldiering into a completely different topic of conversation

Repeatedly pressing the door button on the train before it's illuminated, to assure your fellow commuters you have the situation in hand

Apprehensively approaching someone to ask if they're in the queue, as if creeping towards a firework that hasn't gone off

Reluctantly slowing your walk slightly when sensing a fast-paced stranger about to overtake

Going through a door because it's being held for you, regardless of your intended destination

Being incapable of entering a lift without whispering "sorry"

Flashing your indicators to thank a fellow motorist, just in case they missed your mini wave, thumbs-up and arm raise

Sitting awkwardly for your whole journey to accommodate the staggering leg spread of the gentleman beside you

hahahaha! you can read more from VeryBritishProblems or their FB

The Awkward English

What happens in the morning following an encounter with an English person in the pub the previous day? Oh what happened when you met someone before, anywhere?

I know different people have had different experience on this. I will only speak from my own and that of close friends - foreigners like I.

It has come to pass that, and it is quite common in my experience, that an English person might pretend as if they have never met you before though in reality they have. They are not amnesiac nor suffering from a minor concussion.  And funny enough, it really never stops - of course you meet the exceptions and not everyone is the same, but one has to be prepared for this wonderful, and quite charming experience.

My friends and I have come up with the word, The Awkwardness of the English, to talk about this situation. Indeed it is awkward for both parties, you and the English himself or herself.

Let me narrate one of the very interesting stories. One of the earliest days when Autumn was still reigning and winter had yet to set foot, I went to a nearby pub - when you are in Rome do like the Romans. Isn't here where everything happens? Of course initially it started off awkwardly. I know I am speaking from a tropical boy point of view. But soon enough I was already chatting to someone quite abundantly. It was slow night and everything was falling neatly in the order it was required to. In my view, speaking to someone for the first time is a challenge, I mean they wouldn't have the 'break the ice' phenomenon if it wasn't. But when you have passed this stage then everything is supposed to be easy - like riding down the mountain on your bike.

The following day, cloudy and gloomy as usual, I was heading to the Supermarket. And so I happened to see the guy that I had quite a pleasant conversation with in the pub approaching from the other side of the road. Of course, according to my tropical nature which dictates a lot of things I do, a grin covered my face, my body language changed becoming more friendly as we got closer. But what happened as we got closer, was very awkward to both of us. The guy first pretended as if he hadn't seen me until I called his name and he turned. What happened from here continued to be quite awkward. It was as if we had never met before. The conversation was dragging and screeching the metal and it wasn't getting anywhere.

I know in Swahili we have a perfect word for this. 'Kumchunia mtu'. It is pretty much pretending that this person you happen to see today, has never crossed paths with you in what would have dictated a much more friendly nature, taking over the conversation further from the first encounter.

Now I would like to say, I was never drunk nor was he when we spoke. It was a gentleman chat about all things good.

But of course this wasn't the first time it happened; the bomb drops in from time to time and everytime one becomes good at handling the situation.

And so I asked one English person, why this awkwardness. He told me that for most English people this awkwardness is quite natural - you really don't want to jump on a stranger you met yesterday just in case they don't remember you. I know! I know! It doesn't make much sense but it is so. It is like saving face or something for the Asian community. But I really don't understand it much myself.

And of course there is the whole debate of what a friend is. My amigos in Latin America would take five minutes to warm up to you and invite you to parties and call you brother from another mother, but English are quite the opposite. You need to have quite an amount of foreplay and lubing things around before names are dropped. A year maybe? I don't know.

Of course I am not trying to berate the English - quite the contrary they are wonderful lot. But it is all about learning how to handle an awkward situation if it chooses to arise from nowhere.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I will start this blog with something as cliche as the weather - but it is never that cliche when you are here. Weather in the UK is as unpredictable as it is predictable - you always know that it is going to be shitty anyway. But it tends to surprise you when you are not expecting it - but of course the weather forecast seems to be 100% correct here, or at least in all the times I have paid attention to it. But of course you can't go wrong - you are going to have a windy day, a bit of the sun and massive clouds, that is the drill.

This year Spring came very late, by April if I am not mistaken it snowed in one of the days which was quite shocking and we couldn't stop talking about it - and by we I mean the tropical foreigners. Even now in May it is still quite wintery at times, it always feel as if we were going back to Winter. But then the Bank Holiday was very pleasant and so was the weekend preceding it.

But the point I would like to make is that talking about weather in the UK is quite a normal thing. Why? Because it is the point of conversation. When you have a sunny day you will have to talk about it cause it never come easily. And when it is dark and gloomy you will have to complain about it. So at the end of the day you are talking about it.

I remember I was told that the awkwardness of an English was one of the key reason for talking about the weather. When the conversation is going south, drop in the weather commentary or at least start with it to prevent any misfortunes. Now this is an interesting take. It holds water and it doesn't at the same time. We will walk about the awkwardness of the English, stereotypically of course, in another post. But over the period I have realized that I am talking a bit too much about weather too. It is contagious and much more for me the tropical boy. When the sun comes out, you drop everything and lay on the lawn or take a walk. And make sure you are fast enough not to miss it. I tend to watch weather forecast like I have never before. It is really about planning your week. You have to know when to prepare yourself with an extra dose of jollyfullness just in case you will need it.

Let's talk about the clouds. I have never seen in my life, angry clouds like the ones here. Even when you are set to have a good sunny day, all of a sudden a massive cloud will just pick up speed and dangle below the sun and your picnic is ruined. During this process, I have become quite perceptive of the movement of the clouds. For example, I know how long it will take for that cloud to pass. Gone are the days when I wouldn't pay attention to the direction of the clouds. A stupid decision undertaken without paying attention to the direction of the cloud might lead you on a morbid pavement. So I suggested to a friend that the UK government should put some big fans to push the clouds away; that will be a good project and helpful to the Britons.

Did I mention the drizzles. I have heard Manchester is quite miserable at this. But here in Hertfordshire it not that bad. You might go to the supermarket and you will only have a couple of polka dots on you. But it still drizzles, exacerbating this sense of melancholia. Life of life. It can be quite continuous sometimes and so you really need a cup of coffee - I do. And of course and umbrella.

Of course speaking about weather in UK one cannot overlook the effect of global warming. As Spring is overshadowed by a seemingly long winter, the summers tend to be quite hot - it is said that a heatwave will hit this year and many people might die. Climate change guys, it is real!!!

Is there any connection between weather and the people? I am just going to leave this to you. But all I can say, I really respect Britons for putting up with this weather - and most European countries which do :)

Then UK ..

I started this blog at  the end of my stay in Venezuela and that is why it doesn't have all the amazing juicy details of my time there. Before I knew it, my time was up and I came over to the UK.

I just got an idea of extending the previous blog instead of starting a new one - it is always good to integrate everything if possible. At the end of the day, I am a wanderer and this is another story of that journey.

So UK ...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Intercity Transport in Venezuela

When I was living in Venezuela, I lived in a city of the Guaros, Barquisimeto. Today I want to share some information concerning intercity traveling in Venezuela, or the parts that I had the pleasure of visiting. 

First as a foreigner, people might scare you a bit. They might tell you that public transport is dangerous and you should go by car or by plane. They can give you some very depressing accounts of bus raids. 

In fact, in the Christmas I was there, two of my friends decided to take a bus to Colombia from Barquisimeto. But when they arrive at the bus stop, they were told that they should come back the next day as the bus had been raided when coming from Caracas. It was carrying football players. So if I can put it, sorry for the word, shit happens like in many other parts of the world.

Obvious planes are expensive and you might be left with public transport as your only option. What do you do? You take it. Many do and I did also. The later is expensive and the former is not available. 


They are economical.  In Barquisimeto for example, you can take the bus from the Centro. The area is not very safe, as you will be told and you will have to be careful, you will also be told. Don't take buses much into the night as you might need to wait for a bit. I have done that like two times and nothing happened. And either ways you will be inside. But don't test fate. Stay safe.

You can also take the buses by the name of Aeroexpresos which are running from the eastern part of the city; the safe part as it is known. They are bit expensive but they are more reputable. However, this is subjective  depending on your luck. During my time, I once had a problem with them. As I was leaving Venezuela for good, the bus broke down in the middle of the road and I started worrying about what would happen if I will miss my plane from Caracas. Thanks god I was able to find another means of transport. But generally Aeroexpresos are more comfortable inside and are said to be more reliable. 


In other words, they are taxis which can take you from one place to another. You will pay more than the buses but they will be fast and you might get where you are going a bit ahead of the time. Having said that, I would like to share some misfortunes I faced with this means of transport the first time I was going to Caracas to catch my flight to Brazil. In the middle of the road, the rapidito broke down in the middle of the highway. Dangerous they will tell you. But the four passengers got out and took another bus by stopping it with a wave of a hand. And in no time we were in Caracas. As far an omen was following me, while coming back from Caracas to Barquisimeto I also took another rapidito from La Bandera station. At around 8 at night, the taxi broke down in the middle of nowhere. The driver didn't want to give our money back until the National Guards stopped and forced him to give our money back. They escorted us to a nearby city and we took another rapidito since it was very late into night to get a bus by then.

At the end of the day it boils down to your luck. But these are the best ways to go around. 

The good things about buses in Venezuela like many in the developing world is their abundance. In the bus station you will always find one to jump on. In some you will have to wait a little bit so they can be full but when they are done you will be ready to go. 

Coldness in the buses

Let no one fool you, the buses in Venezuela are cold. Bring a sweater or something else to cover yourself. In my experience the buses to Maracaibo and Valencia were pretty cold. So get ready. 

One advice I will give is to do your research properly.  Make sure you find the alternatives ways to go to where you want. When I used to ask my Venezuelan friends about which buses went to certain directions, most of them were oblivious since they had never taken them before. Find someone who knows, or go to the stop, or do anything to armor yourself with the information. There are always ways.

I hope I haven't left anything out :)

Friday, March 8, 2013

Chavez No More

I have decided to come back and write something after many months of not writing about Venezuela. One apparent reason for not doing so is because I am not living in Venezuela anymore. But I think when the time permits I will come back and pen something.

When I heard about Chavez's death, I actually doubted it as it has been rumored a couple of times before that he was dead. But after checking online and going to Wikipedia, it became obvious that the man who was leading the country at the time I was living in Venezuela was no more.

Any emotions? I am not sure. I mean I don't know how I really felt about Chavez. I know that is a lot of bull but when I look back I sometimes fail to see the image I want to portray in relation to how I felt about the man.

On one hand, he was advocating something which was good; something that my country used when we got our independence. Socialism, living together like brothers and being connected; at least that is what it means on the superficial level. And probably its most important pillar to me. But living in Venezuela I experienced a country which was divided between the rich and the poor. I experienced the anxiety that comes with the fear of being robbed while walking on the street or something bad happening to you. That is the life of many of the Venezuelans. I also felt and still feel that Chavez didn't do much to address that issue. The jails were not jails but strongholds of very feared gangs that would erupt in violence when they chose to do so, sending many to hospitals. In terms of security, I was not impressed by the pathway he was taking.

He had speeches that went on for hours. He would never stop; a clear feature of many of the socialist regimes, ask Argentinians.

But he really struggled and succeeded to support the poor. He was the first President and many would agree, both poor and rich that he was the first to look at the poor as his brothers. And he really mounted many programs to help them, using as much of the revenue from the vast oil resources to help them and advance the socialism ideals in South America.

I happened to live in both parts of the differing opinions. The rich who hated him really did so with passion. He took away private enterprises or made them hard to function because he believed they were imperialistic.

And we all know how he felt about the US.

But now the answer is what is going to happen to the country. Will things become better or deteriorate even further? Will his ideals prevail behind his supporters in the period where his charisma will never be matched by anyone from his team? These are tough questions and we will have to wait and see.

But having said all this, I am happy to have lived in Venezuela under his leadership and experience what I did. It was a brilliant opportunity and I think I came out strong and knowledgeable, critical and understanding of many things. I know many people ask me why I went to Venezuela among all countries. I never regretted my decision and I never will. It was a dream come true and regardless of how I feel or we feel about Chavez, may he rest in peace.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Consumerism in Venezuela

Venezuela is the country with soaring figures of consumerism in South America and the world in general. According to figures, Venezuela consumes more Blackberry phones than any other country in the world and more the Brazil and Mexico combined.

Pretty much everyone has a Blackberry or another expensive phone. Blackberry phones signal fortune and wealth. If you have one you are definitely going to be taken care more seriously.

Kids from as young as the tender age of 10 own Blackberry phones. But also the poor of the country are not behind. In fact there are stories of people who will say they don’t have money but buy Blackberry phones because of the pervasive pressure to go with times.

But this consumerism doesn’t stop here. It goes along way up to the clothes, shoes and cars. Moda is very important for the Venezuelan people and the malls are always loaded with consumers who go out with bags and bags of newly purchased merchandise.

But not just in the expensive malls will you find shopaholics. In the downtown famed for its affordability is where consumers swam the shops like bees, ladies purchasing shoes and men new shirts.

As I pass the narrow closed street of 20th Avenue where shops are lined up on each side, I am not shocked anymore to be bumping with thousands of shoppers tagging along their kids for a Saturday of new shoes and the like.

The clothes shops filled with shoppers display goods on sale with 50% discount of some selected merchandise. These shops have employed people special to speak on loud speakers attracting customers with the sweetest words.

And so as the day dies off, I have managed to buy boxers of about US$15, three pairs of socks of US$2, a bag of about US$15 and a cheap cologne from a seller who couldn’t stop talking of about US$10.
This is part of the lives of many of the Venezuelans.

But why such consumerism?