Venezuela, 39 Years Later

The Way It Is In Venezuela

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 quite tolerable.

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.

Zonkered Out

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.

Culture Shock

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.

The Guajiros

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.