Venezuela, 39 Years Later

Arriving in Maracaibo

On Becoming a V.I.P.

When I arrived in Maracaibo, it was dark by then since it was around 7:30 pm. The airport was kind of glum but I soon took off in a cab to the Hotel del Lago. When I got there, the man at the Reception said, you have go over there and those ladies will take care of you because you are a “Usted es un (incomprehensible)”. I asked him to repeat because I wasn't getting it. Then I finally understood that I was considered a “V.I.P.” Well, that's the first time in my life I've ever been considered a V.I.P. and I want you to know that I appreciate that. Any time anyone else wants to consider me as such, it's fine with me. When I got up to my room on the 10th floor overlooking the lake and everything worth being overlooked (pool, gardens and so on), I saw a nice basket of fruit on the table with a note from the Manager. “Dear Mrs. McClelland, A very warm welcome home!!! I sincerely hope that you will enjoy your trip down 'Memory Lane'. If there is anything I can do to make your visit more pleasurable-please contact me. Sincerely, Tony Sawyer”. That's as nice a reception I'll ever want to get.

Planning My Stay in Maracaibo

Well, this is the first day in Maracaibo and it's cloudy, which is probably a good thing because maybe I'll not die from the heat quite so much. Anyway, I've been talking to many people trying to find out what I could do. The ladies in charge of the V.I.P. are finding out how much it is going to cost to get a cab to go around Maracaibo. Then I want to go to the Creole Club but they found out you have to have someone sign for you at the gate so they were looking into that. I finally went into this shop and saw some Guajiro cushion covers or pillow covers or whatever and started talking to the lady and telling her why I was there and all this stuff. Then she offered to call up her brother-in-law who happens to be a member of the Creole Club (really now called the Lago Maracaibo Club). We called up and now it's all fixed up so all I have to do is go there and so I'm on my way to my old house and to the Creole Club and a bunch of other stuff, I don't know. I haven't made up my mind exactly what I want to do today but that is a priority and then we'll see. O.K.

Creole Camp

Here I am in the evening after having gone with a cab. I have a new friend, a driver friend who is going to take me all over the place. And so we struck out for the Creole Club. As we went by, he said, “Tough luck, they just knocked down the guest house that used to be there” and so I thought, my goodness, the guest house was here, hmmm. Where does that leave me for my house? We didn't really know where to go because if the guest house was gone...I really didn't remember it being there. Anyway I said you need to go back to the clubhouse. So we went back to the club house and I said. “Now, you leave the Clubhouse on your left and go down, not the first block but the second block, turn left and it's the second house on the right.” Ah.

So after much backing up and going around the block and everything, we stopped at Number 36. That's a totally…the house is quite changed. It's got a mango tree in the front like we thought and it's got an extra room added onto it in the front and that will throw you off. The place for parking the car is the same and the porch in the back that was open is all walled in. The front porch where you could come out of the house, had been knocked off and they've put a new room there. Now you can come out of the house directly from the dining room (that's now the front door) which obviously you couldn't do when I lived there. It's all turned around, you come out the back and you can't get in the front, that's all gone. It makes you kind of confused. I could have sworn there was an acacia tree there (I know nothing about botany so this is just a wild guess on the tree's name). I can't find that anymore, but there's another tree in it's stead. Maybe I goofed up. Anyway. the mango tree is there. I don't remember it being so far from the street. Now I know; there was a wall around the house that obstructed the view before. Now it's a fence that makes it look much bigger since you can see through it. That's probably the right house. It's Number 36 anyway.

Creole Club

So after that, the guy drops me off at the club and I walk around and the clubhouse on the left is totally different from the old one and it's new, so obviously I couldn't identify anything there but the dance floor, which is a tile floo,r is exactly the same floor that they used to have - THAT I am positive of (from the original club back in the 40's or 30's for all I know. But it was just like that when I first got to Maracaibo in 1947.) Then I go over to the swimming pool they're totally remodeling. It's the same size pool: basically it's the same pool, they're just putting mosaics on it to jazz it up a little bit. The top that covered the baby pool was ripped down (but I think that was ripped down a long time ago). Instead of having a hedge fence, they've got a big wall around it. Everything's got walls around it around here. Ce n'est pas vrai. I looked around and took many pictures, then I went to the snack place, they have a little café you can go into, and went in and ordered a perro caliente, a Coca Light, and after that coffee, because no way am I going to drink any kind of liquor because it is too damned hot. Well, it wasn't too hot by noon.

Creole Club dance floor.

Trying to Figure Out Where Everything Was

I got to thinking about that Guest Quarter thing…Why in the world did he say they had just knocked that down? I remember that there was a grove of trees between the houses and the guest house. The trees weren't there any more So, I'm thinking this is not normal. The houses that are there in the trees' stead are new. I bet you the guest house is right behind that so I want to have a look. And lo and behold it WAS there, but the guest house has really changed looks because in the olden days it didn't have air conditioning and it had a balcony on it like the Casa del Gobierno in Caracas does. Much more attractive, it looked much more colonial. Now the balcony is all walled in. They just made it bigger because now they have air conditioning. Anyway I don't know what is is now. It's something else. But I'm sure that's what it is it's a colonial building and it's in the right place as far as I'm concerned. So that mystery has been solved. Then we went around the block a couple of times and saw the house of the Jéfe who I remember was some guy by the name of Shorty something or other living there because he was the camp Jéfe. Now it's some sort of school for kiddos in kindergarten. Anyway, I knew where the camp fence used to be because even now they haven't cut through there with a road. This guy (cab driver) got me kind of screwed up telling me the guest house were the oficinas. So I said let's go around the corner then I told him the oficinas used to be over there.

Proximity of Everything

So we went over and it is kind of an L shaped building and that is to me the oficina where Dad used to work.

Office building where Creole Dads used to work.

In fact all he had to do is walk a couple of blocks to work. That was really lucky. So it was all just piled up here in the same spot. I don't know if I would have liked living in the same spot and along with the club and working down the block. That means you'd live in about 200 square meters and I wouldn't like that. So much for that. The tennis courts meanwhile are the same.