Last August I visited Bek, an immeasurably dear friend of mine who was working and living in Caracas, Venezuela. I could devote an entire year’s worth of blog posts to this weeklong visit—and I probably will at some point—but there is a specific event that took place, about which I am writing today.
Caracas is a beautiful coastal city comprised of six million people. It encompasses a vast, sprawling metropolis, along with a myriad of playas (beaches) and mountains. There are beautiful sights to see throughout Caracas and its surrounding neighborhoods, and there are many ways to enjoy the magnificence the city has to offer. One way is by riding the teleferico, a cable car system that starts at the base of the city and ascends to the Avila, a mountaintop lookout enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.
Bek had the teleferico as a must-do excursion when I came to town. She pointed it out to me one day as we were driving around the city. One look at the steep terrain of the mountainside, coupled with a flimsy-looking cable wire and a few slow-moving old, dated cable cars, and I was immediately convinced that I would meet my Maker if I embarked on this excursion—either that, or I would meet Jack, Swayer, Kate and Hurley, as it looked like a scene out of one of those Lost episodes where someone is guaranteed to die. I think Bek was initially amused by my refusal until she noticed how serious I was. Sorry, but I’m not exactly a risk taker for anything, particularly imminent deathtraps. That’s just not my style. She conceded, and we crossed it off the list.
The week went on, and words cannot accurately depict the amount of amazing things we did and saw. We observed a beautiful flock of flying flamingoes while enjoying the fresh, warm, yellow hues of the sun and emapanadas con queso at Playa Carocolito; we stayed overnight in Colonia Tovar and took in all things German and majestic; I enjoyed marquesa, the most divine dessert I have ever had, in a storefront shop in El Hatillo; I met some of the most exquisitely kind and beautiful people in the not-too-distant towns of Casarapa and Areida.
I kept thinking of that cursed teleferico. As we were nearing the end of my trip, I took a deep breath and said to Bek, “Ok; let’s do it.” After all, I was on a life journey to eradicate fear, and what better way than staring it down a mountainside from a wobbly floating container?
We stood in line for our tickets, and I tried not to look behind me at my dangling deathtrap. In an effort to distract myself, I began observing the other passengers with whom I would most likely plummet to a fiery mountainside crash. A group of Asian businessmen were in front of us in shirts and ties, which seemed odd, compared to the casual attire the rest of us wore. A girl directly in front of me had on skinny jeans the color of a tangerine. With energetic approval I slightly turned to Bek while gesturing toward the girl in front of us and said, “Much gusto pantalones naranjas!”
She burst into laugher and replied, “You mean, ‘Me gusta pantalones naranjas?’ Otherwise you just said, ‘It’s nice to meet you, Orange Pants.’”
A father and son duo standing in line behind us began snickering in my general direction. Ok, so my Español apparently needed work. Well, it wouldn’t matter in about ten minutes. God would probably be able to understand me in Heaven.
We got our tickets, and Bek asked if I had noticed that the teleferico never stopped moving. I took a closer look in the distance at the people who were boarding the next cable car. She was right. The cable car, which sat six people, slowed down enough over the platform for people to hop off and back on, and then the doors shut and it zoomed off toward Avila. Bek said it did the same thing at the top going back down; it was a constant carousel. Wonderful, I thought. Now I had to worry about tripping over my clumsy feet and getting on the cable car in time before it jutted into the atmosphere. Perfect.
It turned out to be a less-than-daunting task. With plenty of time, Bek and I hopped on the cable car with the Asian businessmen and slowly but surely proceeded up the mountain. The ride took about twenty minutes, and I don’t know if I said a single word besides “Wow” the entire time. The views, and the experience, were breathtaking.
It would be a couple months before I could adequately define why this experience resonated so deeply within me.
I view life much like a ride up to the Avila on the teleferico. At times I am hanging by a seemingly flimsy, mortal cable that, with one wrong turn, could ruin my life and destroy my future forever. As I slowly embark on an uphill journey toward my destination, I have a few choices: I can focus on the potential dangers of the ride, assessing the obvious risks and, whether or not I choose to make the journey, concentrate on the fear and possible ramifications of my decision. Or, I can hang on to that wobbly cable car that has successfully transported millions of passengers over several decades and remember that I am not alone, that I will not be the last to make the climb. Then I can take a deep breath, lift my eyes, and look out at the majestic beauty of a city that holds millions of futures and know that I am like them, that I am not always the anomaly I think I am. And I’ll rejoice, even as I climb, because I will have chosen life over fear, a decision that rewards me with breathtaking views and memories that I would have missed had I allowed fear to triumph.
My Caracas cable car ride serves as the picture on this blog as a reminder to keep moving forward without fear.
And that is why I still climb upward, finding my voice, one ride on the teleferico, one world at a time.