Friday, November 2, 2007

I Am Leo, Your Taxi Driver

The area outside of the marina quickly deteriorated into abject poverty with warnings of violent crime close by. Cruisers did not walk far and used one of the many taxi drivers who “resided” at the marina. Leo the taxi driver is an urban legend in Puerto La Cruz He learned his English from watching American cartoons and is constantly practicing! “How are you my friend?”, he would say to everyone. Every morning at 8 a.m., Leo would announce in a staccato tone “I am Leo, your taxi driver” and his services on the VHF cruisers net. There were times I had to drag him out of stores because he just liked to talk to everyone. “OK, we go.”, he conceded “Taxi drivers make almost as much as doctors”, we were told. Most all of them were former employees of the national oil company that were fired for not voting properly. At $5-6/ hour when they have a fare, they are highly paid by Venezuelan standards. When not taking a taxi, the “barrio bus” was the “experience” for under a quarter to go to the open air market.

Andre, Leo’s competition, arranged a city tour for all the families. Angie coordinated with five families take the trip to the privately funded museum of modern art and metal sculpture. We had the place to ourselves and Andre jazzed it up for the kids. At Andre’s suggestion, we saw the “world’s largest tree fort”. Unfortunately, it was a funky art deco building with pod apartments cantilevered out to give the look of a tree. Angie had to berate Andre for this false advertising; the kids were expecting a real tree fort they could climb on. Kid’s museums, libraries and non-school parks were non-existent in these under-developed countries. The ½ day tour was a welcome break from home-schooling and the confines of the marina.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Cruising Kids, Tooth Fairies, and Halloween in Puerto La Cruz (Port of the Cross)

We motored just 5 miles, though worlds apart from the desolation of the out islands, to arrive at Bahia Redondo Marina in Puerto La Cruz. What a surprise and relief, the place had cruising kids! Parker and Sabrina were free to go and explore, only to return moments later with a whole bunch of kids to play with on our boat. Children from England x 2, Brazil x 2, Canada x2 and America x2 descended on Side-by-Side. The marina was nice, security was tight and the price was right ($7/night).

Halloween, though not recognized in Latin countries, was celebrated at the North American dominated marina. The children helped decorate the marina bar/restaurant with spiders, cob webs and their craved pumpkins. Squash was purchased in the local market so pumpkin craving was not missed.

On the big night, the kids took turns whacking a piƱata with a stick until finally candy was dispersed everywhere. After the kids party, the families joined the nearly a hundred party revelers for dancing, drinking, and costume judging. To our delight, one of the condo residents made a haunted house that was really creepy. All the kids bravely walked down the hallway to enter. When it came time to going in, over half (mostly the boys) dispersed saying, “I need to go to the bathroom”, or “I need to find my parents.”

Parker dressed as a pirate and Sabrina a vampire, complete with fangs that came from my office. Non of the kids could top Joshua’s (from Sea U Manana) Capt. Jack Sparrow outfit. It was excellent! Angie was a sexy cat…meow! As for me …well I was the Tooth Fairy! I had wings, a tutu, magic wand and black knee high rubber boots to express my man side. My skin tight shirt and minimal undergarments were quite popular with the ladies. In the end, I was runner up to the King and Queen of Beer. I was so happy, I just wanted to “prance about” having won a case of Polar beer.