It's Friday night in Puerto Cabello. I just finished sitting by the
pool with Tyler. He's very busy chatting up two beautiful young women
who are acting as extras in the tele-novela being filmed in town. Sitting
by the pool at a bar under a waterfall drinking a beer in Venezuela
while young starlets flirt and giggle with you has got to be one of
the straightest experiences of my life. It was also incredibly fun,
even though I felt vaguely worried that someone was going to walk up
and denounce me as a fraud.
Two Vanagons fit into one of these containers
Today we got to take our vans out of the shipping container. We drove
with Jesus to the port, where we met Johnnie Bizot, the operations manager
for APL. He's a great guy who speaks excellent English, has travelled
quite a bit to the U.S., and loves to talk politics. He drove us over
to the yard containing our shipment. Two other nice guys from the shipping
company came over and ritually cut the steel seals holding the containers
closed. The doors swung open, and our vans were inside. All of our hearts
sped up. They were here!
Jeanne's van was slowly backed out of the container, and Jeanne was
excited to note that there was no puddle of fluid under her engine.
Tyler's van was next, and it emerged from it's container like a butterfly
from a cocoon.
they tried to take out mine. Nope. The engine wouldn't start. It wouldn't
even turn over. Unfortunately, the key had been left in the ignition,
and the lights were left on. The battery had gone completely dead, and
my backup battery refused to even kick in. We tried to jump-start the
engine and the motor would lazily turn over a few times without catching.
Meanwhile we were all standing on black asphalt under a near-equatorial
The port is about 20 square miles of asphalt and metal containers.
Planes flying overhead rise 10,000 feet from the intense thermal column.
Even after someone (Jeanne?) had the good idea of moving our vehicles
into the warehouse, we were still streaming with moisture. We would
have been surrounded by small individual puddles if our sweat didn't
hiss and instantly vaporize on contact with the ground.
Our vans awaiting customs clearance
After trying everything else possible, we finally removed the battery
(difficult), and the guys who maintain the container cranes took it
to the shop. We went to lunch while they connected it to a charger.
We went to a restaurant in town which is popular with the tele-novela
stars. The restaurant was surrounded by school kids in their uniforms,
and as we waded through them they would hopefully say 'buenas tardes'
to us and smile sweetly, hoping that we were famous in some way and
that it would rub off. I smiled and tried to glitter. Mostly I just
The restaurant is air-conditioned in much the same way a refrigerated
tractor trailer is refrigerated. They seem to keep the huge overhead
air-conditioning unit cranked down to 40°F. We sat around eating
dishes of hot soup and warming our hands with cups of coffee. It was
After lunch we went back to the container yard where we fetched my
van from the garage. After reconnecting the battery, my van started
right up! I wanted to hug someone.
Unfortunately we also found out that though our customs agent had gotten
us 28 signatures and 15 stamps, we were missing two more signatures
necessary to get our vans out of the port. They'll have to stay in the
warehouse until Monday morning. Since I'd pessimistically guessed that
this process would take a week, I feel like this is a victory. Neither
Jeanne nor Tyler seems terribly disappointed.
Right now the lobby of our hotel is filled with teenage boys and girls
getting autographs from twenty-something stars. Because I don't watch
Venezuelan tele-novelas, I am completely immune to their star quality,
leaving me free to watch the social phenomenon. It's pretty amusing.
They seem to be generally nice people, and when one of them catches
my eye, they smile conspiratorially. They seem to find the whole adulation
both fun and silly. I like to think that most film stars are
like this... tolerant and kind and more than a little amused by their