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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

First Trip to America - Venezuela

Last month I was lucky enough to be invited to a meeting in Quito, Ecuador, South America. It was funny that this interesting trip was a part of a project that I almost refused two years ago. Well...I took the project a bit against my will but later it paid back by sending me to Kenya last year and to South America this year.

Funnily this trip was not meant to be easy. Jelica's due date was February 2nd and if Andrej had been 12 days late like Boris his delivery date would have coincided with the trip. This would have meant no trip of course.

It was a long but nice 10 hour trip with Alitalia from Milan to Caracas. I had a lot to read and after all this is so much shorter than the endless 24-hour trips from Sofia to Prague I used to make 15 years ago. We slowly approached the Carrabean Sea, islands like Barbados, Aruba and Curacao. We were almost there. Then I landed in Caracas - my first American touchdown. The airport is right next to the sea and it almost seems that the plane would land on the water. I was expecting a smoky Latin American airport but to my surprise it was modern, clean and efficient - Simon Bolivar of course. Honestly, I didn't know that much about Venezuela, maybe a bit about Hugo Chavez's crazy but successful oil-funded social policies, images of him and Castro and nothing else. I knew that Venezuela is one of those crazy left leaning semi-communist South American countries together with Bolivia (at the moment). Lucky for them they have oil so actually Chavez can deliver on his promises......

....and there is enough to be done even in Caracas and it is visible from the 40 km trip from the coastal airport up to Caracas which is almost 1000 m. in altitude. Numerous neighbourhoods are scattered on the hills and I wouldn't call them prosperous. I guess these are the Venezuelan favelas - small houses, old American cars from the 60s and the 70s, children playing baseball in the 30 degrees heat.

I came to my shabby hotel, however excellently located in the very centre, next to Bolivar square. I dropped my luggage, put on my shorts and slipped in the pleasant summer evening. I was quite tired and content to see that they are showing a free Charlie Chaplin film on the square. Children and old people were enjoying and laughing. I remembered Novo Cino Paradiso and the people watching films in Sicily. It is such a great idea to show free movies in the open air. Why don't they do it in Europe???? Then I went for a dinner - squids, squids and squids again. I am a squid maniac.

My only chance to walk around Caracas was the next morning. I woke up at 6 and had amazing 3 hours in the old centre of Caracas. I poked my nose everywhere, drank fresh juice, coffee, watched the people go to work, set up their music stands, hang around. I bought some nice Venezuelan music. In a word I was happy I chose to travel through Caracas and not through Miami. Then off I went to the airport, then Bogota, then Quito.......

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