Well, it’s hair update day again today. I hope you’re all prepared…

This is just one of the many gates we walk through to get into the main chill out space in our school building. Everywhere in Venezuela is behind bars, and in this picture so am I. Kind of an interesting social commentary, no? I thought so.

This week has been relaxing to a t. My roommate tried to get me to go with him and another gringa (female gringo – read “foreigner”) to angel falls, but I wasn’t really in the mood to stress out about getting the whole trip together and riding a bus for another half a day. Instead, I hung out with my host family and had a few random conversations.

The first thing that I have to say is that a large vase of dirt found its way on to my family’s dining room table sometime last week. I originally thought that it was in preparation for some long awaited plant to arrive from their house in “el campo” (the mountainside) or something to this extent. As it turns out, it was actually a gnome detector.

Miguel, my host mom’s nephew that’s vacationing in Merida for an indefinite amount of time and living in this apartment, and my host sister Daniela decided that they needed to set it up because of the weird noises that they kept hearing at night. Daniela swears she felt something slap her bed in the middle of the night sometime last week.

Anyhow, it’s just a vase of dirt with 7 coins buried inside. If the coins get taken, you have a gnome in your house. I asked my sister what the gnomes did for people not to like them, and she simply replied “I don’t know.” Daniela said that she, Miguel, and Esperanza were all afriad that there was a gnome (maybe the better translation is dwarf) in their house. She didn’t really seem to understand why I was having trouble understanding their fear. “Some are bad,” was her only attempt at explaining this to me.

Apparently, they’ve been counting the coins over the days and now only one remains. I have no idea why a gnome would go to all that trouble of digging through a vase of dirt to get so little money when our lock box is usually in some stage of unlocked and/or wide open, but who am I to think like a gnome?

Miguelito was asking me if I had stolen any of the coins or knew anything about it. After repeating himself several times to get me to understand what he was asking, I finally figured it out and said a firm “no.” Later Daniela sat down and ate lunch with me, and we talked about it for a while.

I thought then and still to this moment think that it was my host dad stealing the coins. Daniela firmly denies this, which sort of makes me want to change the amount of money sitting in the jar. Anyway, this is my on going saga now. I can’t decide if it would be better to drop another six coins in there, or just throw a handful of change in.

And speaking of changes, I’m finally working up the gusto to have random conversations with people in parks and in the city squares and such. Today I met two Venezuelan-American brothers who work at their father’s cleaning supply store across the street. They were some friendly dudes, alright. Anyway, I killed a little under three hours today just hanging out and talking with them in their chemical store. It was a really genuine experience.