…it was the first time boi would venture that far. venezuela was on the other side of the world and boi had never been so far! still the name filled her with excitement. as a child boi loved watching beauty pageants. and boi always remembered the contestants from venezuela! because venezuela would almost always be within the top 5, winning the crown several times; but the girls from that country never spoke english! there would always be a guy to translate what they were saying. yes, that country needs an english teacher, boi smiled. being a teacher would be hard, thought boi. i studied computer science but never liked it. i learnt german but never mastered it. i love english but can i teach it??
at the wee hours of 18 april ’09, in india, boi embarked on yet another adventure… and after flying almost 36 hours over several longitudes and latitudes across planet earth, boi finally landed in venezuela, on the same day, april 18! i just time traveled! boi thought. i flew 36 hours and reached here on the same day i had left there, warping time & space! and i just left my future and came to the past! her musings lingered. but heyy, now i’m a day younger!!! boi laughed to herself
from the moment boi set her foot on the venezuelan ground, she was gripped with fear…
stories of crime, violence, danger, drugs, murder, kidnap, robbery, rape…. everywhere! everyone she met told her different versions of the same story – how dangerous the place was! so much that boi almost felt it was a mistake to have come there. “you should have gone to colombia”, some told her. “teacher why on earth did you choose to come to a corrupted, crime-infested country like venezuela?” nobody seemed to love their country. it was not their fault. everyone there was gripped with the same fear: of losing their lives at the hands of some stranger with a gun. that’s all it takes, to grip an entire nation in terror. just show a gun. and you have the power. even if you’re more afraid than they are, you control. because the fear of death can be so real! and some stupid men with guns have managed to keep the people from enjoying the bountiful beauty of their country. it was hard to find a middle class civilian taking a nice evening walk on the roads, esp. in maracaibo where boi lived. the country was beautiful, blessed with abundant sunshine, rain, fertile soil, exotic beaches, rivers, lakes, mountains, tepuys, greenery, shrubbery, beautiful people… but people had only to talk about the crime & chavez!
boi became afraid. as if life wanted to prove its point, sure enough, her very first month, boi got robbed at gunpoint, inside a car, outside the biggest shopping mall (sambil), at a traffic light at night. in the few seconds that the traffic signal was red, five people surrounded the car she was in, and pounded hard. it was a breezy nite and boi wanted to feel the fresh night air. so she had her window down. that was a mistake. the gun was held at her head. boi had half the mind to turn up the window at that time but she had dared not! she had to give up her treasure, phone, money et al.
post this incident, boi became very afraid. the danger was real. whenever boi was in a car and the car would stop somewhere, boi would go paranoid, constantly checking all sides to watch out for impending robbers. how am i gonna live like this?? if i am so afraid all the time i cannot have peace of mind nor enjoy this place. and yet i can’t help being afraid. once again boi was groping in the dark night. i need to have more faith, she reminded herself. then boi remembered the words of ithaca. it says:
the lestrygonians and the cyclops,
the angry poseidon – do not fear them:
you will never find such as these on your path
if your thoughts remain lofty, if a fine
emotion touches your spirit and your body.
the lestrygonians and the cyclops,
the fierce poseidon you will never encounter,
if you do not carry them within your soul,
if your heart does not set them up before you.
i have to stop being afraid, boi thought. i am attracting my fears. the law of the universe says, ‘like attracts like. fear attracts fear. love attracts love.’
boi tried not to be afraid. she’d venture out carrying nothing valuable with her, so that in case she was attacked, she’d lose nothing. this gave her confidence. and she prayed to god for her safety. luckily, there wasn’t a second attack.
but magic started from the moment boi landed in venezuela. don’t believe me? look:
how many letters are there in VEN-EZU-ELA? 9 letters!
and mind you, boi was placed in maracaibo, not caracas! how many letters are there in MAR-ACA-IBO?? 9 letters!
there boi was put up with a won-der-ful host family, and the family name was contreras. how many letters in CON-TRE-RAS?? lol
okay that was funny but consider this: at wall street where she was doing her exchange, a normal class was not called a class. it was called, an encounter! how many letters are there in ENC-OUN-TER? 9 of course!
and that’s not all. to get to the INS-TIT-UTE, boi had to take a carrito but she didn’t know where to get off. all she knew was the moment she saw ‘chevrolet’, she had to tell the driver, ‘por aqui, por favor’ and CHE-VRO-LET = 9 letters! hahahahahahahahaha
and…and…even the store just outside her house where boi could buy all her supplies was called FAR-MAT-ODO!
if u’re laughing now, i can hear u!
…excited, boi looked up the calendar. the ninth month in the year is called SEPTEMBER. this is the only month in the english calendar with 9 letters in its name. and then, boi found out that 09-09-09 was on a wednesday and WED-NES-DAY = 9 letters. even in Spanish (the language of this strange 9-lettered country where she was), it is MIE-RCO-LES = 9 letters!!!
do you think all this was coincidence?? maybe! but boi definitely didn’t think so.
boi felt that the entire universe had consipired for her to come there. she’d placed her faith in the nines, and the nines were showing up, everywhere – in the car numbers, on the watch at the moment she’d notice, on people’s T-shirts, in the letters of words she’d look at, on the pages of books she flipped…9 appeared! nine became a sign. it was as if all the nines in the universe were coming together to make her dreams come true; silently guiding her path, subtly urging her to believe, surely this was the path to her destiny, to magicNine, for even MAGICNINE = 9 letters!!!!!!!!!
for, each human being knows two languages: the language of society and the language of signs. the first serves for communication with others and the second serves to interpret messages from the universe.
so she awaited that day with great anticipation and much apprehension. anticipation at what might happen and apprehension at what might not happen…
boi still harbored a lot of fear about her dreams. you see we all dream. but we don’t know when or how that would materialize. it’s one thing to have a dream; it’s another to pursue it not knowing which direction to go!
in vzla, boi lived in a big beautiful house with an old couple, who she fondly called abuelos. when boi went there, she didn’t even know ‘hola’ in spanish. but that didn’t stop her from communicating with them. with gestures and sometimes hilarious symbols they always managed to get their messages across! thanks to the love of abuelos, boi even picked up a lot of spanish, enough to communicate! they became her family in venezuela. the abuelos and their family loved boi. wow, after the cruel family in africa this was godsent. boi cherished every moment with them and felt she deserved their love. boi was grateful and loved them in return, with all her heart.
their house had a huge terrace. often in her solitary moments, boi would seek refuge in this abode where her imaginations would fly, high in the open sky. one night, boi was especially sad, mourning her lost love, crying, longing, afraid of the future, lost… when a huge owl screeched on top of her head n flew by. boi had never seen an owl before in her life! wow, so beautiful! boi thought. the flight of birds…it’s an omen! the universe is trying to console me, through that bird, boi thought. the owl became her channel of communication with the universe! whenever she saw an owl, boi would send out her desires & wishes to the universe…
~ extracted from the book ‘magicNine‘ by baisakhi saha
“i was in venezuela during april 2009 to march 2011 on a student exchange program through AIESEC; the good times… .”
with the contreras family, towards the end of my stay there…