As told by: Fengyi (Betty) Lu
“It’s a life’s journey of finding ourselves, finding our power, and living for yourself.” As we grow, experience, and explore, we must all step out of our comfort zone and into this complicated world. For a girl like Cadence Berry, an AIESEC exchange participant, this critical step was quite an unusual and unforgettable experience.
When I met Cadence, I was surprised by her confidence and passion. She is Canadian, originally from Vancouver. However, she has the typical Latin spunk of having passion towards people. Joining AIESEC is something she has never regretted. Traveling to Venezuela is something she especially enjoyed, since it is this Latin American country that she had heard so much about, yet had never the chance to visit.
For her, getting out of college meant stepping into a brand new adventure. As Cadence looks back, she laughs, remembering her parents’ fears and presumptions about her adventure. She remembers them being worried about situations such as their daughter being kidnapped, robbed or arrested due to the poor security and social turmoil. Fortunately, Cadence’s adventure was a safe one!
One thing about Cadence that inspires me the most is that she never let fear defeat her. Going to another country by yourself is frightening but that didn’t stop her! Even without knowing a word of Spanish, Cadence made many friends. For instance, she met a Mexican couple on her flight and communicated with them in simple English, and they shared a lot of ideas and tips about travelling to South America. She smiles as she recalls their conversation, “They were really great because they helped me figure out where I was going, because I don’t speak Spanish – again, no big deal – and then we ate some candy that I brought from Toronto and watched [the movie] Sky High.”
Bienbenidos a Venezuela! (Welcome to Venezuela) Any Venezuelan would probably greet you like this and this is how Cadence was greeted as well. Warm-hearted and proud of their own country, Cadence’s fellow AIESECers from Venezuela came to welcome her at the airport. She never expected to have so much fun in Venezuela already! On her first day in Venezuela, Cadence met the AIESECers she would be working more closely with on her internship. She met Andy, who introduced her to her big, comfy and awesome apartment where she also met her roommate Claudia.
Participating in a GIP project was quite a special experience. Cadence got to teach in an expensive private school where the students are mostly from middle to high class. “Surprising!” she said, since Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez himself is totally for socialism, “My kids are the ones who own iPhones and Blackberries, very rare for general of Venezuelan students. I love my students, although they came from different grades, some of them are young and cute, and many are also disinterested teenagers. I can always share my view of life with them. But I am serious with them.”
Cadence smiled, “As an English teacher, I enjoyed communicating with them, my favourite class is so far the 9th graders, their English is good enough and they do not fear to ask all sorts of questions, some of them even ask a number of provoking questions, which I am quite amazed at. The younger kids such as a fifth grader Victor, every time he sees me asks me what a different animal is. I still remembered he asked me about: sand snakes, goblin sharks, crocodiles, gargoyles, seahorses and sand in general.” She also had a good time working with the staff, such as Anna Sue, her boss, who she said is possibly the sweetest person in the world. Combining some teaching with being social with some adults, Cadence was able to learn quite a lot from them, especially Spanish, a skill that would be useful for her in the future.
Enjoying Venezuela as a country was another big part of her experience besides teaching. Everyone she had met was really nice and friendly. “I now have the luxury of open brain space to notice all the little things that make a society interesting, that I had missed out on because I was preoccupied with other things. For example, it would seem that after the age of 30 about, men here wear a solid beer gut with immense pride. And women get really dressed up if they’re even just leaving the house for something. I talk to Reuban, one of my fellow teachers about that, and he told me that here beauty pageant culture is huge, and that to be a beauty queen is just the living.”
There were some surprises on her trip, too. Somehow, unfortunately, Cadence managed to contract dengue fever. She says, “My experience with dengue has been that it was very, very similar to mono, including the part where I tried to take care of myself and wound up failing at that, only this time instead of Mom coming from Victoria to rescue me, my good friend Miguel brought me to his house to stay with him, and to take care of me. He’s done an exemplary job so… I need to think of someway to repay him!”
Even with the sickness, Cadence was sad to come home to Canada when the time came. “I hate goodbyes,” Cadence said. “But I suppose that leaving isn’t too bad of a goodbye. I’ll get to meet many of them again. Our AIESECers have promised to meet each other somewhere else in the world someday.” Listening to Cadence’s adventure, my perspective on Venezuela has changed. If I changed just in that small conversation, imagine how much I would change on my own adventure! Cadence has so many precious memories to recall. Only the ones who have experienced it would fully understand the whole story.