Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Maracaibo - Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
Located in the westernmost state of Zulia, this is the secong largest city in Venezuela and is the center of the nations oil industry It is populated by many of the indigenous Guajiro and Parajuano people. Lake Maraciabo is the largest lake in South America and one of the world’s most valuable containing vast oil reserves and providing about 40% of Venezula’s gas. The Rafael Urdaneta bridge, which conects the city to the road to Caracua was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in the world when it was constructed. It was also very good to us. We needed to find propane and since Mexico this has developed into a problem. Due to the connection, we have to buy direct from the plants, just like the large trucks that then disburse it to cylinders. Only the plants see us and either say (true or not)that they do not have the right fiiting, or they don't sell to the public. We had asked the guards at the restaurant and shown them what we had as a fitting. After some discussion between themselves and a couple of delivery drivers, they pronounced that we needed to go to the Industrial Zone, to a plant called Tony Gas. After replenishing our tanks with water and tipping the guards, we set off and it quickly became apparent that we were hopelessly lost. We adopted our now frequently used stand by plan and hired a taxi. This is far less stressful than trying to figure our own way and battling unknown streets and traffic. Also, it often times works out to be more economical than getting lost and using gas, not here, of course. We got to Tony Gas and the jefe (boss) looked at our tank. "We can't fill you" he said "but Regina Gas can". regina Gas is only about half a mile away and he obligingly drew us a map. At first Regina said they couldn't either but then another person came over and another lengthy conversation ensued. It turned out that they had the fitting but not a hose long enough to reach our tank. Another worker said he knew what to do and after attaching two hoses together, we had propane. A full tank lasts a month or so and without it we have no refrigeration and no stove for cooking, so whenever we fill up it is with a big sigh of relief. Tom also wanted to check the A/C that feeds the RV and we went in search of a shop. We pulled into one place and they only serviced cars but a gentleman had wandered over and was listening to the conversation. It turned out the Frank is an air traffic controller at the airport and speaks excellent English. We chatted. His brother serviced home A/C units and he offered to call him and see if he would check out the RV system. His brother drove over and looked at our system, climbing on the roof of the motorhome. He needed his compressor, freon gas and tools. "Come to our home", they said. They have a 2 story house in a nice neighborhood in the city. "Our house is your house" they said. They invited us the use of thir shower and use of computer for internet, also to plug into their power so we don't have to use the generator. Frank and his wife, Susan live in the house, along with his brother Maurice, Maurice's little 4 yr. old daughter, Natalie and their mother. Susan teaches 8 - 12 yr olds at the local school and is also an attorney. We offer to take them out to dinner, which they agree but only after decorating the tree. They had promised Natalie that the tree would be up today. All over the city, we have seen houses with lights and decorations and the city plaza and main street are also decorated. Seeing all the Christmas activities is making me a little homesick and I tell Tom that we need o buy some lights or a small tree for the RV. After a great dinner at Tony Romas, Frank directed us through the city streets. They are ablaze with lights and decorations and we get out to walk Winston and enjoy the main plaza. It was beautiful. Susan loves the motorhome. "When we retire, this is what I want to do", she told Frank. Frank agreed. Susan's uncle lives in Atlanta and they have been trying for a while to get visas to visit the States. It seems the US Consulate is quite stingy giving out the required entry visas and most people are turned down for no reason. Once that happens, they have to wait 6 months before they can apply again. Tom and I felt bad for them. It seemed unfair that our government should punish the Venezuelan people by not letting them visit relatives just because of Chavez's rhetoric. If anything, we felt that we should invite the people so they can see that the majority of Americans are kind and generous, especially given our fantastic treatment, thus far by the Venezuelans. Oh well, politics! Wednesday morning, their mother made us a traditional breakfast. Arepes. These are a pancake like sandwich filled with meat (chicken, beef or pork), cheese and a slightly spicy sauce. Delicious. We said goodbye to the family and promised to stay in touch via email and the internet. Hopefully, one day we will meet them in the United States and return their generosity. For us it is on to Henri Mettier National Park (on the Caribbean Sea) and then to the Pearl Islands and Isla Margarita. Adios or as they say in Venezuela "ciao".