When many of us think about Venezuela, we may associate the country with a few stereotypical things such as: Hugo Chavez, exporter of crude oil, and more currently, turmoil within the government. What we seem to forget are the good parts about this South American country – things like the sincerity and hospitality of its people, the cultural similarities shared with that of our own American culture, and the general personal drive of individuals who continuously work to improve the needs of their own country.
I had the fortunate opportunity to meet future leaders from Venezuela when I volunteered as a host for the day on behalf of the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council. I accompanied the visitors to their professional appointments scheduled for one day. The delegates were extremely friendly with not only me, but with all of the local professionals they met that day including Chris Martin and George Sparks from Barnes Dennig, Councilmember Christopher Smitherman, and news reporter Cindi Andrews from the Cincinnati Enquirer. The Venezuelan visitors were in Cincinnati through the U.S. Department of State to learn more about transparency and accountability in government.
I have to say that one of the most enjoyable parts of the day for me was during lunch when the visitors decided to try a Cincinnati staple – Skyline Chili of course! I was a bit apprehensive at first, because Cincinnati chili seems to be an acquired taste that is hard for many visitors to stomach; however, I was pleasantly surprised when all five visitors and the two interpreters ordered a 3-way and enjoyed every bite!
At the end of the day, the visitors and I exchanged small gifts (I gave them some Cincinnati postcards and they gave me a small Venezuelan flag, a bracelet, and some delicious chocolates) and contact information, we said our goodbyes, and I can only hope that the impression I left with them holds the same appreciation of our culture that I now have for theirs.
By Kendra Hein
Kendra Hein is an undergraduate student at Northern Kentucky University and a past intern at the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council.