The Venezuelan consul insisted on talking to me in person before issuing my visa last month. She didn’t speak English, so she typed up a long paragraph in Google Translate; the gist of it was to be careful, stay with my friends and not talk to strangers.
Last week, I posted on Instagram to see if I had any friends living there. Turned out I didn’t, but I started receiving invites from people I’d never met. One message read: “I can take you places that don’t appear on the map. Believe me it’s not a coincidence. The universe wants we travel together”
I decided to disobey the consul's advice and arranged a meeting with a guy named Ray (Ray Viloria Yoga Teacher) at the mall, a safe public place. But within a few minutes of meeting, he suddenly had to go back to his house and asked if I wanted to join. I thought “why not!”
He drove me to his house, where we walked into a large room with no furniture. A bunch of people sat cross-legged on the floor, in a half circle facing an elderly man who had a Santa-like beard and dressed in white garments. The lights had been dimmed and there were incense sticks burning in the corner.
The whole thing felt a bit surreal. I’d just met this guy, now I'm in his house exchanging hugs and kisses with his family and friends. They were about to begin a meditation session and invited me to join
I was still in disbelief. I‘d built up so much anxiety about being in Venezuela, yet here I was sitting in this Venezuelan home, feeling more peaceful than ever. The security issues I’d been warned about disappeared entirely, as we all sat in this quiet room focusing on breathing while listening to the maestro’s rhythmic meditation chimes
Later I learned more about Ray’s work. He aspires to improve the lives of others through #yoga. We spent the following afternoon playing and exploring Isla Margarita. He showed me how to properly handstand, and I showed him how one could break a neck hanging down from trees
Venezuela has been much more beautiful and less scary than anyone ever described. Although I only got to experience a tiny part so far, it was enough to catch a glimpse of the beauty of this country and the kindness of its people.