The cruising adventures of Sid and Manuela

Monday, October 30, 2006

Hectic weeks

Where do I start? It’s been a hectic few weeks and lots has been happening. The same day as Sid came back from the States, our friends Joanne and Ken on Rusty Bucket arrived as well. We haven't seen them since Cartagena. Amazing how small the cruising world is, no matter where we go we run into old friends. Chris on Colonel’s Lady is here as well, we met him in Mexico. On Joanne’s first morning back as she stepped out of the boat our neighbor Collin from England was sitting near her boat sweating profusely. Asking if he was OK she ran back inside and brought him a glass of water and as he started to drink she noticed the droop in his mouth and called the hotel nurse right away. By the time he arrived at the hospital he was in worse shape and a few hours later we learned that he was paralyzed from his chest down and was in an induced coma. Later on that evening as we had dinner with Rusty Bucket on Changes of Attitude we received the info that he needed surgery immediately, he had suffered a stroke and it was very serious. At that time it was a life or death situation. Poor Joanne had no idea what she was getting into as she speaks perfect Spanish (she was involved for 4 weeks straight). The hospital needed somebody to take the responsibility which none of us was risking to take, as this type of stroke was eminent that he may not make it or may be a vegetable for the rest of his life and such a responsibly was not what any of us wanted. We needed to find family members in England now to get the OK. Larry and I went through his boat to find an address book or something, nothing. We looked and looked, while Joanne contacted the British Embassy. We could not find any info on his family, except for some doctor’s names as he was a diabetic. Weeks later we found out that the marina staff left his address book on a chair at the hospital which disappeared. It took Joanne, the British Embassy and Collin’s doctor 5 days to get hold of his family. In the mean time we found out that it was not a stroke but a severely compressed disk, an ongoing serious problem where he missed seeing his doctor and that he still needed the surgery as he was paralyzed from his chest down and still in an induced coma. 10 days later his ex-wife arrived and surgery finally went through. Vanessa has been here for almost three weeks now, Collin is alive but he will remain paralyzed and is just learning to move his hands. They now are trying to get him back to England which is a huge process as it is hard to find an airline to transport him. We all learned valuable lessons, hospitals here will not take a patient, no matter how serious the illness, unless they get paid in advance. Luckily Gordon and Thelma, our next door neighbors, Collin’s British friends, came up with roughly $ 4000 so the hospital would keep him. Imagine that, they don't even want the money back. The second thing was to have some papers available who to contact in case of emergency. I made a list of contacts and taped it on the mast so it can be easily seen.

          Two days after the incident Changes of Attitude left for two weeks to Merida to study Spanish. I offered to take care of their kitten, who was recovering from being spayed and needed medication. The second day kitty-sitting she got so ill we had to take her emergency to the vet. She had a kidney infection and hadn't eaten in four days. Now instead of having to give her 2 different type of medication she had 5 to take at different times. She looked awful and refused to eat. Every couple of hours we injected her with some water, so she wouldn't dehydrate. Sid spent the first night with her, sleeping on the couch with her next to him. I spent the following three nights with her, also sleeping on the couch, giving her water and food every three hours day and night. It was a 24 hour a day nursing job. We thought she was not going to make it and had to force feed her with a syringe. Day 6 finally a bit of a progress, she tried to lick some water, a good sign. Then mom came back as she was worried about her baby. Evita by then was doing much better and we got some well deserved sleep. Two days after Dotty came back Evita took a turn to the worst again but recovered within a couple of days. Now Dotty had to go to Florida so we took over again, still feeding Evita with a syringe. After a further 3 days Evita is finally eating on her own, actually she turned into an eating machine and is finally putting some weight on. She was a rescued wild kitten, who witnessed her parents and sibling getting chewed up by a dog and was badly malnourished when Dotty and Larry took her on. She’s doing fine now and is as wild as ever and all she wants is to play. She spent all her toy-mice allowance and bought us a trip to Merida for 3 days as a thank you for saving her life.

          While all this has been happening, Sid has been involved in some charity work. Jenny and Jim on Three Keys (known as the Mayor of Maremares), have been here for 6 years and know this place in and out. Jim has been helping a local women, who’s husband abandoned her and her 2 kids, to build a hot dog stand on the beach. This has been an ongoing two year project. Now he’s fixing a new roof for her and Sid and a couple other guys have been helping him the last couple of weeks. Sid said its hard labor and comes home pooped every day. They are having fun.

          We still meet every evening at 6 under the tree of knowledge, Sundays we have our potlucks. The girls go to the local market on Tuesdays and daily around four meet in the pool. This coming Thursday Rosa will teach us to cook some local dishes. Beer is still under 30 cents and rum is still abundantly available, so life couldn't be better.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Oct. 10. No Rum in NC, TN and GA

I heard rumors that Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina ran out of Rum; just glad Sid came back on time as there is plenty rum left in Venezuela. A huge thank you to all our friends who made sure that Sid’s rum level was kept at the norm. He had a great time visiting you all and as of today he is starting a detox program and we hope you’re liver have recuperated as well. Sid had a long but good trip back to Venezuela and had no problem coming through customs in Caracas. Just as he thought he could recuperate from all the drinking and eating he had to do I surprised him with a 60 birthday party. It was a huge hit. Larry, Toni and Ken pretended that they needed a sports bar fix, of course the easiest way to lure Sid away from the crime scene. In front of our boat is the “Tree of Knowledge” or “Talking Tree” with a blue outdoor carpet beneath where we gather for cocktails at six and have fun potlucks on Sunday evenings. On the days of the potlucks tables with green table cloth are set up for us as well as the BBQ. When the boys left for the sports bar the tables were set up already, now minding you it was Saturday, with red table cloth and the seats were covered in white, it looked very festive. Sid always very observant had to question it. Luckily Denny came up with a real quick answer, that there probably was a wedding at the hotel and they usually set extra tables here in case they needed them. Sid looked at the BBQ and Denny reading his mind quickly adding: “Oh, wow, they delivered our BBQ already for tomorrow, that was nice.” Ugh, that went fairly well. I had just about two hours to get the decoration up, lots of balloons and Sid’s caricature face which I had doctored up, hanging all over the tree. All the guests arrived at 5 and we were barley done getting all the food organized when the guys came around the corner and up the dock towards us. Halve way Sid noticed a lot of people under the tree, but thought it must be a wedding until he saw me, that’s when he knew he was had. At this point we all placed his caricature face in front of ours, it was too funny. Everybody brought their own stuff to throw on the BBQ, a dish to share and I made sure plenty of wine and beer were iced down for everybody. Larry’s wife Dotty made his favorite BD cake pineapple upside down cake. We had a wonderful time and partied until two in the morning. At 10 we met already again where I passed BM’s around, which many of us desperately needed.

While Sid was having fun visiting friends in the States, I had the chance to get to know Venezuela a whole bunch more. Every Tuesday Dotty and I take the “porpuesto” into town and enjoy buying the freshest and most tropical fruits and vegetables at the local market, wander through town and have lunch in any of the many wonderful restaurants along Paseo Colon the board walk of Puerto La Cruz. By the way a porpuesto is what cruisers call a poor man’s taxi (used by the middle class), costs 1000 BS (40 cents) no matter where you drive and will pick up to 5 passengers and drop them off anywhere along the route. Unfortunately a lot of cruisers think it’s below them to use a poor man’s taxi and spend 5 to 10 bucks for a taxi which looks just a bad as the poor man’s taxi does. But most of them use Raul, Leo or Andy as they speak English and can be hired hourly but pay a much higher price. I like to use the poor man’s taxi as it gives me a chance to live the real live in Puerto La Cruz and to meet the locals. This is a big eye opener and I find out many times we are misinformed and of course learn a lot about Chavez’s politics.

I think I mentioned in a previous Blogg foreign vessels cannot get fuel here in Puerto La Cruz. All the cruisers think it’s the act of Chavez, which didn’t make sense to me as only Puerto La Cruz is affected. Gas prices here are really cheap but if a vessel fuels over 1000 liters the price doubles, so instead of paying 18 cents a gallon it’s 36 cents, which is still dirt cheap. The workers at the pump station took advantage by writing lot of bogus receipts for the liters over 1000 and stuck that money into their pockets. Not just that they filled fuel into the fish holding tanks of local fishing boats and sold it on the islands, so a stop was put on this and no boat is allowed to fuel more than 1000 liters. I also had a lot of talks with locals about Chavez, only the very poor like him as they are given money. Here at the hotel a worker makes roughly 110 000 Bolivares per week that’s 440 000 a month which is around 170/180 dollars but if an employer has more than 18 employees they have to give them food stamps as well. I tell you 440 000 BS is not enough to buy food and get by, even with food stamps. Food is fairly expensive here as a 14% tax is added to everything.

Chavez also has some busses he now and then sends into very poor villages, they load the bus up with the poorest of the poor, give them money a free T-shirt and take them to an amusement park, movie theater, zoo or whatever and make sure they have a good time for the day, then at end of trip a news group is organized to film the now happy poor who by now are chanting for Chavez…… and the rest of the country who sees that on the news have no idea that they got bribed. It’s all so deceiving, this guy is so corrupt.

When I dropped Sid off at the airport my taxi driver who drove me home asked me if I was German and as I told him I was Swiss he said that we was glad as he hated Americans. That didn’t sit too well with me so I asked him the reason. He could not tell me really why he “hated” us but I got a really good idea how Chavez brain washed these poor people. Chavez tells them that the US is planning to invade the country and take over and that it would be the end for them all. By the time we arrived at the hotel we discussed a whole bunch, where I assured him that the US has no plans, nor interest to invade his country. I also asked him if Chavez tells them that the US donates monthly money to his country (as a matter of fact the last donation by the US counselor was 280 million, the previous months some 57 mill, if you go online and check out the Venezuelan Embassy, you’ll be shocked how much money we pour into this country. It will make you so mad that we pay millions to the sorry sob Chavez and who slanders us all over the world), to which he was very surprised. I also found out that Chavez tells the poor already that if his opponent wins the election in December that he will take the food stamps away from them. Then when we parted at the hotel he told me that he liked our conversation and that I was a very nice person, to which I answered that I was an American Citizen. He took a moment to get over the shock, apologized to me and said that he will listen to other info now too not just Chavez. From opponents I heard that Chavez is planning, if he wins again, he wants only one party in this country, sound like he wants another Cuba, kind of scary, but enough of politics.

Life in Puerto La Cruz is great, people are very friendly, the weather is hot and humid, we live the life of the riches and pay just a portion it and I guess when Sid depletes this country of rum it’ll be time to leave.