Hometowns: Fatima Balza

This is the second in our series profiling the hometowns of current (and past) members of the Penn State Women’s Volleyball team. Today we look at Merida, Venezuela, the hometown of 2009 recruit Fatima Balza.

When DigNittanyVolleyball’s crack team of researchers and statisticians learned Fatima Balza is from Merida, Venezuela, they didn’t hesitate. With cries of “expense account” and “window seat,” they unanimously chose Merida for DigNittanyVolleyball’s second Hometown profile.

According to our elite team, Merida Venezuela has a population of more than 200,000, is located in the Venezuelan Andes at an altitude of approximately 5,249 ft (yes, that’s just a hair under a mile high), and was founded by Juan Rodríguez Suárez on October 9, 1558, making it a mere 297 years older than State College, PA. (I fear they may have cribbed from Wikipedia)

As you approach Merida’s Alberto Carnevalli airport, descending into a valley between the Sierra Nevada de Mérida and the Sierra La Culata, you realize two things: 1) this will be a fantistic visit, and 2) the person who owns the company that makes the orange roof tiles is very, very rich.

Merida (the original name was Santiago de Los Caballeros) is the main center for education and tourism in western Venezuela and home to the prestigious University of the Andes. There are many points of interest, including the Plaza Bolivar, the Plaza Heroinas, and the Teleferico, the highest (and second longest) aerial tramway in the world.

But Merida’s real attraction is nature. For the contemplative, exotic plants, flowers, and birds are close at hand:

And it’s in the Andes, isn’t it, so you can walkabout, clamber, and climb to your heart’s content:

Did we mention that Merida is Venezuela’s extreme sports capital? Here are a few Team DigNittanyVolleyball members polishing their reports (or that’s what they told me):

All in all, Merida Venezuela is muy hermoso — a pretty fabulous hometown. Nice work, Fatima!