In Venezuela, there was a certain constant that always emerged throughout my year, aside from the constant complaining of the current president. That constant meant that I was to embark on a path that went through the suburban areas near my house, the city/slums of the capital and the mountainous highway that lead to tunnel after tunnel after tunnel. It meant seeing so many red and orange bricks, that I could somehow manage to convince myself that there were multiple shades of them. It also meant a pit-stop in the middle of nowhere to collect plantain chips and pork rinds so as not to drive ourselves insane from the lengthy journey. Though to be fair, the journey was short and the destination was always a wonderful experience.
We would oversee a red arch with a black gate where my mother would hand information to a man in a booth, which then opened the gates to a rose-concrete building that somehow merged with those same red bricks that I had seen so often. This place contains my most vivid first memory of seeing its sparkling pool and beautiful foliage. It was the place where time seemed more like a trivial detail than an absolute necessity to be aware of it all costs. This place was Aguasal, located in Higuerote. Higuerote was a quaint city, though even calling a city seemed bizarre when comparing it to here. Aguasal was a club/resort/apartment near the highway which to me was sort of a summer home. Funnily enough, Aguasal didn’t make Higuerote seem like a city.
Aguasal was more of a state of mind than it was a place. The hallways either led to an abundance of plants or the shining pool in which one could oversee another rose-red building on the other side with similar hallways. The hallways had their lights off in the morning, which with the light of the sun coming in at the other end seemed slightly disorienting. The hallway itself was not short enough to be illuminated completely by the rays nor long enough that it seemed as though it was a train that was on the other end. This length is the most striking to me because it filled me with a sense of familiarity and mystery.
The pool itself was shaped like a snowman with the smallest circle being the shallow end and the larger head being the deepest. It was hilarious to see, but in seriousness, I had never seen the water so crystal. I do not believe that this is nostalgia clouding my vision so much as it is how the weather works in Venezuela. Swimming in those waters made me so free of any worries and carefree than before that leaving those waters would also leave me temporarily fixed. I would glance at everyone else, and these notions seemed more accurate. Even those who were not swimming were happily chatting or playing a game of dominoes by the pool, as evident by their laughter or the clacking of the pieces on the frosted glass tables. Across from the pool was the football field, a restaurant/bar made completely of logs and straw and two rectangular patches of sand and dirt in which old men would play a variation of lawn bowling called bolas criollas. Here I understood better the mentality of a friendly small town community than I ever did from speaking to someone who seemed to be vehement in asserting that they came from one. There were neither pretenses nor standards; everyone lived to the limits that were possible for them and they were happy with what they had. Anyone could be part of any conversation if they so wanted to, for there was no feeling of being alien in that place.
Each visit to Aguasal brought back some sort of memory. From going to a buffet at a nearby resort where the ceiling was swarming with bats, to going to a lavish inn that was just a walk away, with a pool that was more of an odyssey than a hedge maze could offer, to a water fight between the two buildings at the snowman pool, to hunting for Easter eggs in the apartment, this place etched itself inside me and gave me energy to live. So much that it may be blinding the reality of the situation, that perhaps all these visits were merely mundane moments that I had the luxury to participate it. That perhaps in spite of all the smiles I saw that there were moments more awkward to recall, often recalling a family situation. I can’t shake away the glimmering lights of the stadium at night so much as I can the moment that my drunken uncle said the f-word for a reason I still cannot quite recall. Perhaps what I am doing in the end is clinging to memories because I didn’t have the mental fortitude at the moment to appreciate them. I’ve ripped apart a picture and assembled it again to suit my needs.
Perhaps this is simply the ever-longing struggle that the self-aware mind has with nostalgia. One cannot just assume that all that was good before was all-encompassing in the past. That while one could enjoy themselves before, they were not only doing that. It’s not that I can disagree with it, I know that the building had it cracks. I know that my appreciation for it has only increased because I am absent from it. I know that I have not yet had a fling or a surge of independent exploration there that I often wish I did. That’s not to say that what I was left with is simply the by-product of a vision through rose-colored glasses. I’m wearing jaded eyes too, and what I can see is simply the violet windows and the white blinds merged together by the light of the stadium to expose my soul to a sight that I can only see there. I cannot see that sight in the same way I did before. Often I wonder if I’ll ever be able to see it again.