(BET UPDATE…I WAS ABLE TO GET A BET ON VENEZUELA TO WIN STRAIGHT UP, SO¬†FORGET WHAT I SAY BELOW AND ROOT FOR¬†VZ¬†OVER PUERTO RICO TONIGHT INSTEAD)¬†
Okay,¬†today’s topics…(actually yesterday¬īs topics…for some reason it didn¬īt post last night)
Beisbol, shabbats, currency rates, Cuba and duck mixups.
But I’ll save the CIA for the next one.
Since Cuba and currency rates go hand in hand, I’ll start with them.¬†
One would think that it would be a breeze getting into Cuba from Venzuela given los presidentes involved.¬† That was my thinking at least going into this part of my trip.¬† Seeing as it’s illegal for US citizens to go, I figured¬†with all the animosity from PreZ Chavz that he would practically be ¬†airlifting in ¬†any US citizen looking to defy the government¬†embargo.¬† Turns out you’re limited to one airline and the price is exhorbitant for a foreigner.¬†
The official govt-manipulated exchange rate effectively makes everything here 3 times as expensive for anyone changing dollars as it should be.¬† If you go the black market route you can get a much better rate.¬† Unfortunately my stash of US dollars is running lowI can¬īt go that route and istead am relying on ATM withdrawals which kick out local currency…at the crappy rate.
Amazingly Caracas is¬†the most expensive place I’ve been on this trip.¬† You could get by cheaper even in Paris.¬† Which gives Caracas the unenviable combo¬† of being expensive and dangerous.¬†
I’m happy to do cheap and dangerous.¬† Or safe and expensive.
Not so keen on expensive and dangerous.
With fees and departure taxes tacked on as well, the Cuba ticket is already pricey.¬† Now triple that and it’s way out of my price range at this point in the trip.¬† I did consider saying, screw it, and putting it on a credit card–I mean how many chances do you get to go to Cuba?—but even that’s out fo the question as they wouldn’t take a US credit card for the purchase.
So, looks like I’ll have to save Havana for the sequel.¬†¬†
Bummer because I had looked forward to betting on the Cuban national team in the World Baseball Classic that’s currently playing out.¬† On the plus side, VZ is still alive and I’m going to put a bet on them their next game (note added today…Caracas has turned out to be not exactly the best place to find a bookie.¬† Straight robbery would likely be my BEST case scenario, so this go around I¬īm using my online site.¬† They don¬īt have the line for VZ against puerto rico, probably because one is too big a favorite¬†but I can get a bet on Total Runs Scored being an Even Number.¬† I like the 50-50 nature of it as well as the fact even if someone is getting blown out the outcome is still in the balance to the last out.)
Okay, that’s Cuba, beisbol and loan shark-esque exchange rates.¬† Now for the Shabbat…
I’ve been terrible about pictures here in Caracas, so I don’t have any from¬†it, at least not until Arlene emails me the ones she took.¬† I do have this picture of David and Arlene–the couple that my parents hung out with here back in the¬† 60’s.¬† Their hospitality has been legendary.¬†
This particular picture is after they took me out for dinner to celebrate my birthday the other night.¬†¬† And David refuses to let me get around the city on my own; instead insisting on sending someone to pick me up and drive me around.
Here they are back in the day.¬†
David is the guy to the left, leaning back.¬† Arlene’s upper right, next to my father giving the toast.¬† My mom is two to his left.¬† Walter, who I’ve also met here, is the guy looking up at the camera.¬† He, David and Hector Senior used to have a weekly Monday night poker game (coincidentally ours too, ¬†back when I first lived¬†in NYC).¬† It’s interesting what random things stick in peoples minds–the last recollection Walter has of my father was lunch together and a worm crawled across his lampchop.¬† Then again, eating wormy lampchops¬†is something that would sear its way into my brain too.
One of my favorite stories I heard from my parents’ time in Caracas was when at a cocktail party they were talking about my parents¬ī recent trip back to Vermont.¬† My mom was telling the assembled group that my father had been hunting with my Uncle and they¬†had¬†shot something like 10 ducks.¬† Nothing about this would have stood out had she been relaying this story in, say Mexico City.¬† But the word for duck that she used; in Venezuelan Spanish, I guess it’s slang for homosexual.
The other night David and Arlene continued their hospitality by inviting me to Shabbat with their family–which included their four children and 12 grandkids (with an odds-defying 11 boys).
Apparently, there are no rules against having an agnostic at a Shabbat, so there I was drinking manashevits (?) wine and chomping on the challah bread.¬† My Hebrew’s a little rusty though so they were spared from being subjected to my singing.
I had a blast.¬† And ate¬†like a king.¬† I think I’m going to have to give my buddy, Adam, crap when I get back for never having invited me to one all these years.¬† Speaking of my Jewish amigo, I want to congratulate Laurie and him on their engagement yesterday.¬† It¬īs about freaking time.¬† I¬īve been paranoid that I would blow the secret to LAurie, as I¬īve known he¬īs had the ring for the last 3 months.¬† It¬īs actually the real reason I had to leave the country for two months.
One side of me is tempted to¬† stick in Caracas for awhile–I have standing invites for a trip to Los Rios, another to an island called Tortegas I think, a Peter Gabriel concert and a round of golf, among others.¬†
Caracans sure don’t lack for hospitality.¬†
But time is ticking on the trip, and I’m already shedding countries, so I’m going to grab a bus up the northwestern part of VZ and head into Colombia overland.¬† Check out what the US state dept has to say about the border crossings.¬†¬†¬†
Obviously they have to err on the side of caution, but it does make me wonder if I even need to bet baseball this segment.¬† The bus trip should be gamble enough.