Venezuela, 39 Years Later

Life in Maracaibo

Elizabeth's Funny Story

After that, I met with Elizabeth and Elizabeth is a very charming lady. Obviously she didn't know me from Adam but I have this charming letter of introduction from Maruja who is her sister-in-law. So we started talking about Pedro, Peter to some. She was telling me about the very short but very fabulous life she had with him. Her honeymoon was all over Europe and she told me the whole story. How they had gone from here to London and from London to Paris. From London to Paris, she was in charge of all the money. So she thought, what a drag sticking it all into my pocketbook which was very small, so I'll just stick it in the bag (suitcase). Guess what? They lost their bags (the airline did) for 5 days. So they had no money, no clothes, no anything. So she had to go out an buy some bluejeans which was all that they could afford without money and they were charging as much as possible to the hotel. Pedro didn't know that all the money was in the suitcases. He kept encouraging her to go out and buy some nice clothes for herself. She would say “Oh I don't need anything, I'm just fine.” That is a riot story, I think.

She took me to this very cute little restaurant where we had a salad and a fruit juice. That's a new angle. Because here the specialty is fruit juice, so there's no point in ordering something else. We sat there and chatted for a long, long time. She asked me what I did and I told her and that I had worked for Unisys at one point and that now I taught technical writing.

Good Tech Writing

I came back to the hotel to find the lady that wrote the Directório de los Servicios of the hotel here in Maracaibo. I finally found the lady who actually wrote it. She said, “Oh it was one heck of a job and it took us forever.” I said, “I'm not surprised.” They had done it following a corporate standard for Inter-Continental. I said that the stuff that she had put together was excellent and that I was a teacher in technical writing. This is technical writing. Your product is just slightly different. I haven't looked for anything in there that I haven't found. It's really good because it has examples and information, is easy to find. It is well structured. I said she ought to enter the STC Technical Publications Competition. She wanted to know what to do so I said I'd write to her and tell her. It might just be too late for this year's competition. Maybe I'll see what I can do about that. What I am thinking of is giving some sort of special mention. I might just do that. Then I said I'd like to know where I could find one of these super drawings of Maracaibo houses that is in there because I'd like to frame it and put it in my house because it's so typically Venezuelan and lovely. So she took one out of her copy and gave me one of those. I don't know if I'll find one at the museum but I sure am glad that I have that one. All of these souvenirs, souvenirs…

Visiting the Supermercados

I wrote some more postcards, then came back down and thought I had a date with this cab driver but he never turned up so I took another one. We went to the supermercado of all places. I always visit supermarkets in all the countries I go to out of principle. I want to know what people eat. The French say “You are what you eat.” So I want some insight. I went to one and looked at just about everything in it. I bought myself some mango marmelade, everybody should have some of that, Venezuelan coffee (Café Imperial), some cinnamon sticks from Venezuela (smells so yummy: I opened it up to whif it) and caraotas negras (black beans, the staple of this nation). I do NOT know how to make caraotas negras but I'll soon find out. So this is great and supersonic. I had a real old taxi driver and that's great because these people remember how things used to be. I said there is a supermarket called “ Cada” that Aurita told me about. It used to be named “Todos”. There is a “Todos” I used to go to and I don't know where it is but it is very close to the Campo Creole. I asked him if he knew where that was and he just took me right there. I think that was it. It has a little plaza in the middle that you could have a drink in. It's probably the one I used to go to a thousand years ago. I didn't take a picture of it. I don't know that anyone will begrudge me the fact that there's no picture of the beautious supermarket.

Winnie-the-Pooh

What I did take a picture of is some towels hanging on the wall on the other side of the street with Winnie-the-Pooh on them (I don't know what in the devil they were, pyjama bags maybe?). I don't know how close up a picture this camera is going to take. I hope it doesn't look like it as far away as the airport. That's about the best I can do without getting run over if nobody minds. I want to live to tell about it.

Cost of Cabs

Here I am back at the hotel, 9,000 bolivars lighter. Cabs charge 6,000 bolivars an hour (12 bucks and 12 bucks is 65 FF, I guess that's pretty reasonable) It's really a good idea to have a guy take you there and wait for you (I didn't need to spend any more time). I don't think I could get that price in France. Also he knows where stuff was. Didn't seem to know the Creole Camp very well, though. I'm starting to get ravenous - that salad was pretty light. Since I'm going out tomorrow night, I should have the pabellón. That's caraotas negras, arroz and I don't know what all, ground up meat. I should have that.

Paper(ful) Society

One thing you need to know is that this is not about to become a paperless society any time soon. You get a BIG receipt for everything you buy. You have to sign for most of it and show your passport most of the time. Security is a big deal here. But they just use paper all the time. If you send a few letters here at the hotel, they'll make a big deal at the Cashier's and they'll write down how many stamps of each type you bought multiplied by 6 and that makes so much, 3,200 bolivares. Then you have to sign and all this jazz. They were not too keen on my paying cash for the stamps either. They sure do get bogged down in this paper business. You know it's ALL handwritten, all. Except the bills that come out of the hotel. The rest of it is handwritten. Some companies do use computers (can't remember which ones) and a couple of my friends work for companies that have Email. Anyway, it's a big paper place.

Newspaper's Report on Getting Mugged

I just read the newspaper, I have a little time tonight. They say that people who go down to the center of town get robbed blind. Mainly people who are carrying packages. They get those ripped away from them. If you are just walking aimlessly around malls or have just come out of the bank, you get it. They just got robbed immediately. And there is usually not only One thief:, they run around in groups of 2 or 3. And if they don't have guns, they have knives or broken bottles. A lady who resisted the other day, who didn't want to be robbed, they ended up whacking her with a broken bottle and it just ripped her open. I'd rather not talk about it but they said it was really bad over this past weekend. Good grief, and where was I? I was down in the center of Maracaibo but I was just taking pictures with my thowaway camera and I didn't have any packages and didn't go to the bank THAT day. The day before in Caracas I had, but watch out hun, what you are doing? I don' t think I'll go back downtown or if I do I'll put on my banana. What do you do with your purse? The other day I put it in the minibar while I went swimming in the afternoon. You've got to think of something, haven't you? There are no safes around here like there were in the hotel in Caracas.

Baking in the Sun

Tuesday June 9th. I don't think I've said anything for today. This was my last full day here. I had some fruit for breakfast and went swimming instead of sitting in the dining room. I went swimming at about 9:30. Supposedly 9:30 here would make it 8:30 by the sun. So I got into the pool and the water was cool for once. I found out something so I'll go back tomorrow. I should have been going swimming in the morning and not in the afternoon when it's hotter than hell. It was delish. Thought I'd tan the front of my legs then the back. When it was about 10:30, the surface of the water started getting warm and the railings of the stepladders to get out were blazing hot. Something is burning on me somewhere in spite of my 45 Total Screen lotion.

Flan and Iced Tea

I had a flan for dessert, it certainly is unusual. Not like any flan you'd get in Europe. It is quite sweet. I also ordered some ice tea that was excellent. It had goma in it (?) a sugar mixture that they make with sugar cane(?) and lime. By the way, no fake/diet sugar around here, only the real stuff.

The Cleaning Lady's Contest

Afterwards, I filled out a questionnaire for the cleaning lady because she is trying to win a contest. If she gets 20 completed and signed questionnaires, then she wins a sweater (??????). She may have to go into cold storage to wear it but…right before that, she had left me a whole plate of cheese in my room maybe so I'd write something nice? I hope I was not influenced by the cheese plate. It's my last day here and I've already had lunch, so I doubt if I will.