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Friday, September 12, 2014

Smuggling Librarians!

Bienvenidos! Welcome in Venezuela!
I am learning many interesting things in Venezuela.
Did you know that the country is officially called 'the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela'?
The currency is the Venezuelan bolívar (popularly called "b's" (as in 'bees' not b.s.) and how many you get for a dollar depend on wether or not you buy them at the black market.
People are very friendly and outgoing. I always love being at an international school and listening to teachers who have lived and worked in so many different countries. They teach children that speak 3 or 4 languages, even in First Grade. And they aways have interesting stories of all the places they have lived.
I am staying with the librarian and we get along famously. We have pina coladas every night and enjoy many of the same things. Every morning we get picked up by taxi to go to school. The school has verandas and a large green courtyard. The children are so sweet. We eat lunch in the outside cafeteria and I go home in another taxi. Her condo has a beautiful pool and since the temperatures are a balmy 34º, we use it a lot. I'm doing presentations all day for students, parents and teachers. The kids are so lovely and excited. They all want their picture taken with me :-)

On the way through the city it feels a lot like the Philippines: half finished concrete buildings, lots of potholes in the roads, sidewalks that end abruptly. Palm trees. Stalls selling bananas or coca cola.

Food remains important. I've sampled many wonderful things: the warm fried cheese bread remains one of my favorites. We've had pastas, salads, barbecued meats.
Yesterday, to go for dinner, we got picked up in a huge SUV, some kind of heavy Ford. One teacher said to the driver "Tell her how much it costs to fill this thing up with gas!" I was thinking, 'Hhhmm... 100, 150 dollars in the US..' when the driver smiled and said, "Oh... about 20 cents." I wondered what kind of joke this was. But no, seriously, gas is practically free in Venezuela. The other person said he just paid a dollar for 75 gallons.... How can this be? Well, apparently it is one of the few perks that the government provides for the people. They produce gasoline here and provide it for next to nothing. In North America we think that this is an amazing, lucky perk for the people here and that their government is wise to provide it instead of sell it overseas. Here, however, people tell me that they would be happy to pay more for gasoline if that meant that roads would be fixed and other services provide. But, they say, if more is charged for gas we're not so sure the extra money actually goes to roads. It might end up in pockets.

I was told that, whenever people here want to protest something - high costs, or lack of products, power outages or political ideas - they gather in the streets and bang on pots and pans. Often a tweet will get more people together at a specific time and a pot-banging crowd gathers in no time.

Products can be very cheap here. Today I bought 2 cinnamons buns for breakfast, a 1.5 liter bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice and 2 pastries. Total cost was less than 4 dollars. But there is also a huge lack of some necessities.
The librarian who is hosting me asked if I could please bring a bottle of shampoo, because there is no shampoo or soap available anywhere. Some people were grading big old bars of soap with a cheese grinder to make detergent.

But the most hilarious story was that the librarian ordered my books from the States. She asked the bookseller to please pack the books in toiletpaper rolls, rather than in useless packing paper, because there is a serious shortage of toiletpaper here. The bookseller was happy to oblige.
But when customs opened a box of books, in addition to books they found toilet paper. They quickly went through all boxes and labeled the rolls as contraband. The librarian was fined for smuggling toiletpaper!
Can't trust those librarians one bit...

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting blog. I had no idea about Venezuella with it's cheap gas but lack of many basics. I would love to try the fried cheese!
    Thanks for sharing.