Monthly Archives: September 2011

In Venezuela, fútbol is like the mountains, the plants and the storms….


And very different from the U.S.

I went to my first “soccer” game ever in South America on Sunday, and I definitely got a taste of the latin american fútbol scene. The passion these people have for the game of soccer is incredible. My favorite example of this is the huge sign I saw hanging from the fence surrounding the soccer field. It said “pasión y locura” – passion and craziness.

This is what a fútbol stadium looks like in Mérida, Venezuela.

And this is what a football stadium looks like in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

It is an amazing feeling to be sitting in the stands on a beautiful, warm, Venezuela evening gazing at the mountains that seem to be swallowing you up from every direction.

And it is an entirely different feeling to be freezing your butt off at TCF Bank Stadium with your friends, watching the Gophers play and smiling when you look up at that oh-so-familiar skyline in the distance.

But they are both exhilerating and give me a rush when I think about them. One makes me realize how lucky I am, how far away I am, and what an incredible experience I’m having.

The other makes me nostalgic, proud, and greatful to have the best family, school and friends in the world waiting for me when I come home to winter in Minnesota.

Needless to say, it would be impossible to forget either one.


Good news…

I found a beautiful substitute for that pumpkin spice latte.

Café Croecea’s espresso con leche.


It’s definitely simple, but it’s still best described as the decadent version of Venezuela style café con leche. All I know is I can’t argue with real espresso, steamed milk, and cane sugar.

It has been a great start to the week already…filled with discoveries like that delicious espresso…and this creme filled, caramel covered dessert that accidentally made it’s way onto my plate…

Another one of my discoveries is this book that I stumbled upon while on my

weekend get-away at the mountain hot springs:

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

I was telling a friend of mine how I forgot to bring my own novel along for the weekend, and she responded by telling me that she had just finished Ishmael and that I had to read it. I had never heard of it, but when a few of my other group members saw it in my hand, they made a point of telling me what a great choice it was.

They were right to recommend it; I’ve barely been able to put it down since I started reading by the pool on Saturday afternoon.

Ishmael is different than any other book I’ve read, and quite honestly, I wasn’t sure if I’d be interested in it at first. The book attempts to piece together the human story while simultaneously provoking the reader to think differently about the way we interact with the word and our environment. It is incredibly well written, eye (and mind) opening, and a refreshing way to think about our role as human beings in such a big world.

In short, I highly recommend it to everyone reading this.


A note to family and friends: I typed the majority of this post in a word document yesterday because the Internet at our house has decided to act up more than normal. If we plan a time to Skype and I stand you up at the time of our Skype date, it’s definitely not because I forgot about you! It’s because my Internet connection is lying to me and saying it detected five bars, when it actually isn’t working anywhere in the city of Mérida. You can probably sense my frustration (it’s actually lessened now by the fact that I’m a week ahead on my school reading J), but anyways, thank you for being patient and understanding of my situation as I deal with the unreliable Internet access.

Soon to come: photos of the beautiful “aguas termales” and a much overdue voice recording!

A perfect fall day spent with Helen.

Two things that have been on my mind a lot lately (and are also some of my favorite things come September):

1) Fall in Minnesota

2) Espresso

…which brings me to this pumpkin spice latte. I hope my fellow Minnesotans are willing to attempt to make one in my honor (or just grab one at Starbucks when they’re in season) and enjoy it for me!

I did recently find a café near my house that has espresso, so things are looking up for me this “fall”, but nothing here comes close to the brisk air, changing leaves, and favorite sweaters that make up Autumn in Minnesota. And for me, nothing says “Autumn in Minnesota” like sitting down with a pumpkin spice latte (and usually a pile of textbooks) at my favorite coffee shop.

At least now I have what I can call my favorite coffee shop (and I definitely have a pile of homework to take along), so my last task is to find a favorite fall substitute for the pumpkin spice latte.

With only one class tomorrow, I’m sure I can find time to begin the taste testing.

Wish me luck!

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Slightly adapted from The Kitchn

Makes one serving

  • 1 cup milk (I used skim, but I’m sure whole would be even better)
  • 1 tablespoon canned pumpkin
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (This makes one teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice: 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1 shot of espresso (about 1/4 cup)


1. Make the espresso.

2. In a small saucepan, combine milk, pumpkin, and sugar. Cook over medium heat, until steaming.

3. Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and spice. Transfer to blender and pulse for about 15 seconds. The mixture should be foamy.

4. Add to cup and top with espresso. I sprinkled a little extra spice on top.

I’m no expert, but these are just a few pieces of advice that I’ve learned over the years from the people that I love most…mainly my mom, dad, and grandma. They have taught me a lot more than seven things, but these are some of the lessons that have really stuck with me and that apply most directly to my life right now, adjusting to things here in Venezuela.

1. Allow yourself chocolate, but in moderation.

2. Always strive for optimism. A positive outlook goes a long way.

3. Never stop learning how to cook.

4. Take full advantage of the resources you have around you…especially the comfort of family and close friends.

5. Relax. Give yourself at least an hour to get ready in the morning so you can shower, cook a big breakfast, or just sip your coffee and read a book instead of taking it on the go.

6. Really pay attention to the people that surround you on a daily basis – whether it is your family members, friends, neighbors, or the girl that made your morning latte.

7. Embrace your time alone, don’t dread it. Do something that makes YOU happy.

Another goal for my trip: take my own advice.

I’m determined to keep these things in mind (I shouldn’t have trouble with allowing myself chocolate when it’s available =) ) and to really adapt and enjoy my time here as much as I possibly can.

I hope you got a little something out of these simple pieces of advice…whether it made you think, inspired you, made you laugh, or just made you smile because you realized which of the seven pieces of advice you helped to teach me.

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

I’m in the spirit of school today, because for most students back in Minnesota, today is (once again) the first day of school. For the college freshman, it is their first first day of school. For the seniors, it may be their last first day of school. I, however, had my first day of Venezuelan school exactly 14 days ago, and nonetheless I feel like being a part of the big back-to-school hype.

I remember watching the video of my 5-year-old self getting off the school bus outside of Windom Open School on my first day of Kindergarten. I had my address and phone number memorized, and had ridden the bus all by myself from 4526 Wentworth to 58th and Nicollet. My grandpa was waiting outside with the video camera as I walked off of the bus, ready to capture my first footsteps as a “big kid”.

No matter how old you are, the first day of school always brings the same two of emotions. A little bit of nervousness and excitement to meet new friends and start a new routine. But as you get older, you also feel confident that you’ll get good grades this semester because you’ve done this before, sad because you have another year behind you, apprehensive about graduating from college, and overwhelmed with thoughts of 15 page papers and sleepless nights filled with homework and Pandora. You feel happy to see familiar faces in your classes and recognize professors, and proud that you showed up on time and prepared, with time to sip on your latte and eat your scone before the classroom fills and the professor introduces himself.

Most of all, the first day of school makes me feel excited and comfortable at the same time, and I think that’s why I’ve always liked it.

My goal here is to achieve that same sense comfortability and excitement about school. I’m starting to get there – to be comfortable in my surroundings, find my favorite coffee shops and panaderías, and my favorite hammocks to sink into during breaks between classes. As far as the excitement part goes, I’ve never had such an unpredictable and exciting semester.

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