39 Years Later
The Way It Is In
Having Lunch on the Lake
Then we started to come back because I had
finished what I had set out to do, to be quite honest. I said
to the chofer, if you know of any place to have lunch we'll
stop and have lunch and I'll invite you to lunch. He stopped
us at an absolutely fantastic little restaurant along the lakeside,
overlooking the Lake Maracaibo. You could sit outside ON the
lake, when I say on the lake, I mean almost my feet in the water.
Or you could sit inside the air conditioned place. But this
place had a grass hut type roof with ceiling fans. Sitting underneath
them, it was warm but it was just so super to just sit there
right on the lake. This is my idea of what Maracaibo, of La
Salina and Venezuela is, sitting outside in the heat. With cool
breezes, I don't know how cool those breezes were but it was
The Taste of the Food
Then I had something very Venezuelan: a fish
with real mashed potatoes (no artificial powdered Stocki Flocki
stuff) and it had beans and carrots. The beans weren't too good
but the carrots were the most tasty I've ever had in my life.
I gobbled those up and I had a cerveza Universal, a local brand
from Maracaibo so it was just a super thing. We talked a long
time with the chofer then we had another beer in fact. The beer
was nice and cool. Then we had coffee and jumped back in the
car and started driving home.
I can tell you I'm totally shot. I don't know
if it's the heat, the day the accumulation or just the emotion.
I don't really know what it is but I'm just zonkerooed. By the
time I got back here (Hotel del Lago)
it was five o'clock. What is really interesting to note is:
things have not changed. We even saw the dispensary, the warehouses.
Even though all of it has been taken over by the Venezuelan
people and the Americans have been run out of the place, things
have not changed one bit. The camp guard house, the cattle guard,
the fences, the houses. I mean basically that place has not
changed at all, at all at all. I just couldn't find my other
house in Tia Juana that's all. They've built more houses around
there so now I don't have any landmark to refer to. It is incredible.
On the Oilfields…
Furthermore. there is no place you can stop
off and buy a coke or fill your car with gasoline. Outside the
private clubs, the only place you could stop was the one we
went to. I saw one other one but everything else is - just forget
it. No way José are you going to get anything decent
or cold or can you sit down. Everything is run down and probably
always has been. There is one thing I thought I would never
see again, it's litlle bitty kids running around with no clothes
on. On our way back from Cabimas, lo and behold what did I see?
About three little kids runnning around with no pants on just
like the first day I walked into Venezuela. I must say that
this was the exception today. They are the only ones I saw,
but I did see some. On the other hand, it just hasn't changed.
It hasn't gotten any worse and it hasn't gotten any better.
It's just the same. En ben dis-donc. Not on that side
of the lake, not even a blade of grass.
On Aging in Hot Climates
You know what? The taxi-driver told me something
interesting. “How old was this lady, Paulina, when you
saw her last?” ”Oh, at least 35,” I answered.
“So she would have been 75 minimum by now.” Then
he said “People don't live to be very old in this country.”
He said, “You know, they get up to 60 some odd years and
they just don't go any farther because it's so damn hot. It
just wears them out.” I don't know if he's thinking of
himself though he does work in air conditioning. “People
just don't live that long in this country, you know. In cooler
parts of the country like Ciudad Bolivar which is up in the
mountains, people live longer, but they sure don't around here.”
So what else can I say, maybe they don't. These neighbors of
Paulina's said they thought they knew her and that she was a
schoolteacher. Well I said the one I know was not a schoolteacher.
To get back to all this, God, it must have
been one heck of a culture shock/jolt call it whatever you like,
for my parents to leave the United States and go live in those
camps. Cause you know, there isn't all that much to do. The
big advantage they had obviously was they had a bigger salary
and help around the house. I would think that it could get pretty,
pretty boring. On the other hand, you know I really don't know
what they enjoyed in life. Because most of the stuff there is
to see in Maracaibo, I hadn't even seen that, so.
Another interesting little ditty - as we were
driving back, I noticed that there was an Avenida Guajira (Indian
tribe name). I said, “Oh what's that, they have their
own avenue?” He answered,“"Oh yeah, they have
their own avenue out near the old airport. They tried to get
them out of there but they never wanted to move.” This
is funny to me cause they built their village on one of the
runways! Now they have rebaptized it Avenida Guajira and I remember
that story because Mom told me that. Not only is is true but
now they have their own avenue! Just goes to show you, stick
to your guns and you'll get your own avenue.
On Taking Care of Cars
While we've been driving around these last
few days, I saw a red Ford, I think in Caracas. We bought one
in 1951 but it was already a second hand car. It was a red Ford
just like the one we had. It's still running! I don't how it
was possible. Those things must be sturdier that anyone thought.
Also, the Venezuelans have to work very, very hard to take care
of their cars because they're so damned expensive compared to
the salaries people make. For example, a line manager makes
around $2,000 a month. Cars cost the same as in Europe, around
$ 11,000: almost a whole year's salary! And I don't think it's
easy to find spare parts. In fact, it isn't. Well, one of Aurita's
cars is sitting in the garage because they can't find the parts
for it. I don't know what kind of a car it is but any kind of
car, no matter what you have, is hard to get spare parts for.
Today we were driving around Cabimas and the chofer said that
a truck that we had just seen was a 1958 vintage model. I'd
say even further but it was one heck of a truck. It's older
than anything you can imagine on wheels. You also see a lot
of people on the side of the road with their hood up working
on the engines. People break down a lot because their cars are
very old. I don't think I've seen anything very new sitting
around with its hood up. On top of that, it's hotter than hell.
I don't see why a car should resist that heat any better than
people do. You've got to hand it to some of these cars. They
are so old that it's not even funny. My chofer says his car
is an LDV or something (a Venezuelan make), looks very much
like a Cadillac. It can't be a very recent car and it's white
and looks pretty good. Not bad on the inside either, but kind
of tired? This is all very interesting, but it's a major occupation
for car owners to take care of the car and fool around with
the motor and everything inside. I don't know, I wouldn't say
it was a pastime, but if you have a car, you spend time on it.
It's not like a Honda where you get
in and drive off and everything is just fine and dandy. I think
you have to work at it.
Repairs: Local Style
Today is the 8th of June and I got up late
this morning; I forgot to say this, but last night one of the
windows of the hotel room just went flying open, boeing, and
hit the wall and was letting lots of hot air in so I called
up the front desk and they came up. The guy looked at it and
held it for about half an hour. He said I'm going to go get
some, actually what is was…he calls it silicone, what
ever in the world do you call that in France? It's to keep your
windows from letting air in (Rubson). So he put three blobs
or globs of that on the window then he went away. So far it
has stayed shut. I'm not sure how because it's really one heck
of a fix job.
Cost of Renting in Maracaibo
I went to try to find the person who wrote
the manual for the Hotel because it's excellent. They couldn't
find her so I paid my bill for the cab (I had to put it on the
hotel bill because it's so hard to get hold of cash). I had
made an appointment with Elizabeth Mendiri who is/was Pedro
Mendiri's wife. Of course, he is no longer with us. We made
a deal to meet at 12 noon but she was a few minutes late. I
was sitting in her real estate office with other co-workers.
I thought hmm, “What if I wanted to rent a 55 square meter
place here in Maracaibo unfurnished, how much would that cost
me?” They said about $800 (U.S.). That makes 4,800 FF
and I'm paying about 5000FF to live in the center of Paris.
Let me tell you, if you are in the center of Maracaibo, you
are in the center of nothing. Anyway, it still costs you the
same price. Pick and choose, where would you like to live? Huh?
Bon. I won't answer that question. That's your call.