Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Aloha, Venezuela!

Visit beautiful Venezuela - NOW.
This week I read that Venezuelan beauty queen, Monica Spear, was gunned down in Caracas; I was deeply saddened, but not surprised. 

Years ago, I vacationed in Caracas, Venezuela.  Beautiful, exciting, exotic South American paradise: Venezuela.  Phrasing it like that is required, because travelers always see the far off destinations that way, and think to themselves that such journeys make them (i.e., the traveler) beautiful, exciting and exotic.  At this point, I should mention that I am an exception, but I have a "no lies" rule about blogging.  

Sadly, my pitiful brain also thinks this way.  How could I not?  

The setting:  You're cruising along on a big ship with people wanting to serve you on every level and it seems no one ever says no.  Eat what you want, when you want, if you want.  No diets on board, unless you are kosher or diabetic - and even that screams "special treatment", because someone actually gives a flip whether you are kosher or diabetic.  Beyond the ship you see stunning azure coast lines.  Towels magically form animals, debatable animal forms, but critters nonetheless.  All the underwear you took with you is new - because you're one of the beautiful people on this trip.  Beautiful people never have saggy elastic or mysterious cotton liner holes in their underwear.  Your dirty "around the house" tennis shoes were cast aside disdainfully - not worthy, not worthy!  Dolphins, having heard of how special you are, play in the wake of your behemoth boat just to catch a glimpse of you and the cloud of splendor that surrounds you.

After securing a bus ticket, my traveling buddy and I decided to jump ship and take a bus ride to Caracas.  Boarding the bus, we wondered if it would make it.  Looking back at our wonderful sea home floating off the coastline, I had already started to say to myself, "Dear God...don't leave us here."

It started to rain.  It was so hot that I think it was evaporating mid-air.

Our bus driver talked on the microphone and I really wanted him to pay attention to driving.   It seemed like we were hugging that shoulder of the road like a hover craft as my buddy and I discussed all the pictures we'd seen in the news of buses tumbling down steep ravines.

That fantasy was interrupted by the driver pointing out an international airport.  Looking to my left, I saw a flat, grated patch of dirt that resembled the first step of building a highway or something similar. What it didn't look like was an airport.  Then I saw a huge plane parked there on the dirt sidewalk...I reflected on the many high priced airline tickets I had purchased and envisioned a first class passenger stepping off one of those planes and into ankle deep mud.  Bueno.

A side trip to the home of Simon Bolivar provided historical insight into the continent and the early years of Venezuela.  I remember being worried that there might be enough water flowing off the back of my pal to cause the museum curators concern that he might cause water damage to the artifacts.  I leaned over to the portrait of Bolivar and respectfully reminded him that there was another continent just north of his fine home that might have been worth investigating, too.   

Once in Caracas, we tooled around town, and finally went to a high priced hotel for a lunch buffet and to see native dancers perform.   Walking through the foyer, we were approached by a group of about twenty men who all looked like they went to the Che Guevara Military Academy of Nonsense and Aggression, and I started to form a snarky, whispered quip on my lips (shocking) when they grabbed all of us and pushed us against the wall.  They did not speak "frightened American", which appeared to the be the language of choice, even amongst the bilingual in our group.

Was this a military coup?  I checked my itinerary.  No coup listed.  I was baffled because usually the cruise ship information was spot on.  

No, it turns out the President was walking through the foyer.  Just walking.  I guess I should have been honored or excited, but all I was thinking was 1) Dang, I have no will, and 2) Che's hand and trigger are going to make a permanent indentation on my left breast.  How will I explain that?

The rest of my time in Venezuela was a bit of a blur, as all we talked about was death, whether the driver would allow a dead body on the bus, and the process of shipping bodies back to the US versus burial at sea.  

Aloha, Venezuela.  

Call me a wimp;  what chance to I have tempting fate a second time - I'm not even a beauty queen. I've clawed that country off my bucket list for good.  God bless the folks who live there.

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Thanks for your personal yada, yada, yada,
Love, Cherdo