I wrote the following letter about our experience when we moved back to Venezuela in 1994 - we were there for one year. Not too much had changed from when we were there before!
Thursday, May 19, 1994
Here I sit. It is 7 a.m. Dad and Trader are upstairs asleep. I do not know the address of this house we are in, but I don't think anyone else around here does either. There isn't any mail delivery, so what difference does it make? If someone were to come visit us, I would just tell them that the house was just around the corner from the street that was lined with filthy food stands, shacks and lots of people.
This house is brand new. We are so fortunate to be the first ones to live in it. And - it comes furnished, complete with squeaky bed, rock pillows, windows tht don't close, a leaking brand new washer, a brand new dryer with a busted door, a patio that floods, a front gate that locks but with no key around, a leaking toilet, no upper cabinets in the kitchen.... I not only have to get on my knees for the pots and pans (all two of them), but I have to get on my knees to get to the glasses and dishes.
Our trip was exhausting. By the time we went to bed it was about 9 p.m. and our day had started at 4 a.m. (for Dad that is). My day started at 2:30 a.m. because I couldn't sleep. We left Houston on time and the flight to Miami was comfortable. We even had a seat for Trader - the middle seat between us. The tranquilizers really worked. He was soooo funny!
We arrived in Miami and geared ourselves up for the next leg of the trip - good 'ole Maracaibo. Our bags were the first off the plane. We were prepared to rent a dozen carts to put those four big pieces of luggage on, along with Trader the three carry-on pieces, but there were real people there who did that for us. We went to the Avensa counter and check in and checked our luggage. I wondered if I would ever see it again.
While Dad sat with Trader, I took our three carry-on pieces to put them in a locker so we wouldn't have to lug them around during our three hour wait. I hauled those pieces to four locker banks, and guess what? Yeah, no lockers! I lugged them back to where my guys were sitting. This is when Wayne (my half-brother) caught up with us in the terminal. We had time to have a nice visit. In fact, we had three hours.
Trying to keep Trader in the bag was funny. He was doped to the gills, but just wouldn't give in. He kept wanting to get out of his carry bag. We went into the restaurant for a sandwich and I put the bag on the floor. Trader kept popping his head out of the top of the bag to look around. The waitress was nice. She told me not to let anyone see Trader because dogs were no allowed. Well, I ate my sandwich with one hand and used the other to keep pushing Trader back into his bag.
After we ate, I took Trader to a little park across from the airport. When I took him out of the bag and put him on the ground, it was like putting down a wet dishcloth. He finally managed to do his business and then it was back in the bag. Oh, those bones Dad made me pack were life savers.
Time was up and we had to shuttle to our terminal. Everything was going great until we were at the doorway of the plane. All of a sudden, this man tells me that I can't take Trader on the plane. He will have to go with the luggage. I guess my shocked look along with teary eyes created a reason for pause. He asked the Captain for permission and we got it an away we went. Once again, Trader had his own seat between us. He dined on cream cheese and crackers and a few bites of this and that. Guess who was feeding him?
As we approached Maracaibo, I was getting prepared for the worst. Would our luggage be there? And, after all Trader had been through, would it be easy to get him past customs? Trader must have sensed that this was not the time to keep popping out of the bag. During the trip I had left the top open so he wouldn't feel penned in. The one time I did try to close him in, he growled at me. Well, the plane landed and I pushed Trader down into the bag and I zipped it shut. Trader and I sailed through immigration and headed straight for Customs - I was prepared but lo and behold, they waved me and Trader through. I headed straight for the car and took Trader out of the bag and we embarked on our trip to Ojeda. We arrived just a little before dark and Dad unlocked the door to our new home. When we brought in the luggage, Dad immediately started to unpack one of the duffle bags. What did he pull out of the bag? You guessed it - Trader's bed. Dad had sacrificed a pair of boots so the bed would fit in the bag.
As soon as we got here we left for the grocery store - Supermercado Victoria - complete with loud Venezuelan music, dirty floors, lots of people and nothing that I wanted. We only bought a few of the basics. I had forgotten that salt is sold a bit on the damp side and in a bag. We bought about 30 items and when we checked out, each item had its own little orange plastic bag. They didn't ask me if I wanted paper or plastic.
We brought the groceries home and then we had to go to Dad's office to het his things. One of his men had cleared out the hotel room for him and took his things to the office. Well, we got into Dad's office, but his things were locked up in another room and we had no key! So, back to the house. I had a cold shower and we went to this little restaurant around the corner for something to eat. The only thing they had left was spaghetti. It only took 45 minutes to get that. We both looked like we would cry at the drop of a hat.
The televisions work, but of course the "cable" is not working. We are supposed to get HBO, Cinemax and CNN. Another thing to be fixed! A little about the house in addition to what I have already mentioned. Let's start with the shower upstairs. Dad had these heater heads installed so we could have hot water. This is installed directly on the shower ehad. The shower head is attached to the end of a straight pipe coming from the wall. The pipe is about 6" long. To get under the water, you are about 6" from the wall. As Dad put it - he has to blankety-blank the faucet in order to get under the water. Of course, there is no water pressure upstairs. They have never figured out how to get water to rise above ground level.
Friday, May 20
It is Friday now. The power was off for six hours yesterday. The lines were being cleaned. Needless to say, it was very hot. By the end of the day I was exhausted. You know I cannot stand heat. Get this - the louvered windows are "builder's standard." You have an air conditioned house, but air escapes through the windows and under the doors. In fact, the space under the doors is large enough for a rat to crawl through.
Dad took me to the OK Restaurant last night to eat. That was after I had my cold shower. The food was good and he and I had a nice meal and nice conversation. He told me that "he really knew how to show a pretty girl a good time".
He was really worried about me yesterday. He came home early and I was sitting on the couch. He asked me if I was alright and I started crying. He asked me if I had decided to get on the next plane out and I told him that Trader and I had been talking about it. I just have to remember why we are here and every time I get disgusted, I will just look at the checkbook.
We are going into Maracaibo tomorrow to the "real" grocery store. That should be a trip - in more ways than one. The best thing about living in Ojeda is that Dad won't have to make that drive across the bridge every day. It will cut three hours from his day. I do believe that if I had poked Dad on the night we arrived, he would have cried. He was so tired and so worried about me and he looked like he had been whipped with a stick.
I'll close for now and see if I can get some order in this house. I do believe that I should get outside for a minute and take Trader for a walk. He has done nothing but sleep since we got here.
Sunday, May 22
On Friday, Dad had one of his men find the only guy in Ojeda that knows how to fix the television. He and a helper worked on the thing for three hours. By the time they had installed a new booster and cable, we got a really great snowy picture on CNN, Cinemas, HBO and the Disney Channel. They were supposed to come back yesterday and do some other witchcraft, but they didn't make it. Surprise!!!! They are coming back today - ha ha.
After they finished on Friday, we went to the Lago Bar & Grill to eat. Of course, it was already 8:30 p.m. when we sat down. Quite a change for me, huh? Again, by the time we got home, I was exhausted and went directly to bed. I did not pass Go and I did not take my cold shower.
We decided not to go into Maracaibo yesterday. (Dad just walked in and said, "I've never been in a quiet house like this, honey. Have you?). He is upstairs now ironing his clothes. We shopped in Ojeda yesterday. I wish you could have seen Dad in the grocery store. He was trying so hard to stay calm. It is very frustrating when you can't find something. I wonder why they put the soup with the toilet paper and the cereal with the cleaning products?
We filled the basket with non-perishable foods items and stuff for the kitchen - can opener, cutting board, bowls, etc. - all of the things that our "fully furnished" home did not have. We checked out to a bill of 13,552 Bs (about $100) and everything was put into little blue plastic bags this time. We loaded the car and headed back inside.
We had to get meat, etc. I went to the meat counter - uh oh - have to take a number. They were serving #45 and my number was #53. This gave me time to check over my list to be sure I had in Spanish what I wanted. Thank goodness for previous experience. While I was doing this, I had Dad get the fruits and vegetables. Put the fruit in little plastic bags, wait in line for it to be priced and then put it in the basket.
Well, I got my meat and then I headed for the deli counter. I was #51 and they were serving #49. Cool! This was better. By the time I had finished ordering and asking questions, the guy behind the counter and I had become buddies.
We went to the same check-out stand and by the time we were finished, the girl behind the counter and I were buddies. Again, we accumulated more little blue plastic bags. We loaded the car and headed for the house.
We threw everything on the kitchen floor except for the meat (remember we had no upper cabinets) and headed back to town. I wanted a hair dryer, a fan, an iron, English newspaper and electric skillet. We got all of this and headed home.
I sorted out the kitchen and put a roast in the oven. When I smelled something burning, I took the roast out and the juices had burned. STUPID!!! The oven in Centigrades - not Farenheit. I had the temp set at 300 and that's about 600 degrees F. I watered down the burned juices, lowered the oven to 150 and the roast came out great. Cooked some potatoes and Dad ate a home-cooked meal while watching a movie on our big 13" big screen television.
This morning I am doing the laundry and we are waiting for the "television repairman." This afternoon we are going to the Tia Juana Country Club to find out about joining. That's the way it is so far. I really miss all of you. Dad and I talk about home all the time. I have my pictures on the refrigerator and on the glass of the kitchen door. THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
It really seems strange being back over here. I still feel a little lost. It's like I told Dad, this is the total reverse of what my life has been like. I miss watching my story and I miss my routine. I miss my kids and I miss my house. But, perhaps this will enable us to give us all more.
Tuesday, May 24
One of the guys at the office is going to the states Friday so I am getting my mail ready for him to take and mail.
Well, the television now works. I had to give up CNN. Oh, well! Watching the Spanish News Channel will help me with my Spanish. If only they didn't talk so fast.
I was wondering when trash day was because there are 500 rotting mangos on our driveway. I picked them up yesterday and put them in a box. This morning when I looked outside, I discovered this was the day for the trash pickup. I picked up the box to carry it to the curb and the bottom fell out and the 500 rotten mangos rolled and spilled all over my feet and the driveway. How do you pick up 500 rotten mangos? You use the lid of the garbage can to scoop them up. Then you put them in those little orange or blue bags and tie them shut.
The plumber is supposed to be here between 10 and 11. I wonder if that means 12, or 1 or 2. All the toilets leak, two of the showers leak and the water pressure upstairs sucks. I am having lunch with the lady who found us this house. I have a three-page memo for her listing the things that need taken care of.
I sure miss the news. I didn't know Jackie Kennedy died until Friday night. It was very sad for me. I remember so clearly the day President Kennedy was killed.
Dad is going to bring me a Daily Journal every day at lunch and a Times and Newsweek once a week.
That's it for now. We love and miss you.
Mom and Dad