Friday, April 19, 2013
The land we grow up in is a comfortable well-worn garment. Birds, flowers, trees, horizons, hills, and even sunrises and sunsets come and go around us without much awareness on our part.
Another country, a completely new part of the world, hits us with great force, an assault on the senses. This was my impression upon reaching Venezuela at age seventeen.
The earth looked and smelled different. After the summer showers, there was the rich cinnamon-like smell of decaying vegetation mixed with flowers. There were the cooking smells along with the smell of kerosene used for that purpose.
The trees were different. Along with some of the familiar pines were acacia and mahogany and others whose names I did not know. The flowers were jacaranda, bougainvillea and other tropical kinds unlike those I had left in Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.
Even the sunsets were different. The soft pinks and golds of late afternoon disappeared with the sun and there was sudden darkness. Night had fallen. The word for twilight in Spanish is crepusculo but I don't know where they have it. They didn't in Caracas.
Once, when hiking with friends up Mount Avila east of Caracas, I saw little orchids blooming in the wild. How exotic it seemed. I found that orchids were cheaper to buy than apples.
As I became more accustomed to life in the city and started various jobs, I became more accustomed to the things of the senses and the feel of strange surroundings faded. My Latinization had begun. But I can summon up the newness and the wonder of the Venezuela I first encountered forty-eight years ago.