Thursday, September 25, 2008


I came back from vacation with various souveniers, including:
-Relaxed mind
-Crystals from a coal bed
-Insect photos
-Insect bites
-A massive infection on my knee

I have gotten over the bad stuff and am ready to write again. Anyone who wants to see a photo of my knee from this morning can click here. On my screen that's a bit less than life-sized. It no longer hurts and the infection is going the way of the harlequin frog (that is, it will appear to be extinct even as it hides in nooks and crannies) thanks to my friend Dr. Pfizer. The insect pictures will be up soon.

I guess the most remarkable lesson from a week in the oilfields and steamy jungles is the same lesson I keep learning here and it's one that may get a bit dull for all three regular readers of this blerg: quit fearing.

In our first day on the road, my gringo (as in speaks very little Spanish tall curly-haired big-nosed frisbee geek) friend and I:
-Drove in Venezuela
-Talked to drunken Chavista oilworkers
-Used several ATMs at night
-Entered an oilfield with two drilling rigs in use
-Slept there without asking anyone

Drilling rig in San Joaquin oilfield, early morning Sept. 14

On their own, any one of these make many of my Venezuelan friends freak out with nervousness. And that's before I tell them about
-Meeting the poor homesteaders in the oilfields, and accepting their offered cup of ill-boiled coffee
-Hiking with one (Rafael) over a barbed-wire fence, where he argued with the shotgun-toting oil company guard
-Looking for giant snakes in a pond
-Climbing a ladder to the top of an oil well's "Christmas tree" to pose for a photo
-Examining the oil residue atop a wastewater pond

This is all the first 24 hours, and these are all things that are against the rules. Some are against the law, but most just violate the kind of keep-your-head-down good sense that permeates life in Caracas. Of course, nothing happened. This day of adventuring opened neither the door to perdition nor to salvation. But it did open doors of experience, and for that I'm glad to be free. For a country with such a power-mad bureaucracy in Caracas, it's amazing how little the police state intrudes on everyday life. It also helps, even today, to be a pale-skinned gringo in a nice rental car. The "down with the man" mentality that perfuses the States is almost completely absent here except in rhetoric. There is a nearly complete willingness to accept white privilege and wealth privilege.


mgrace said...

Good to have you back. I like your writing!

Hedgehog said...

Thanks! You wouldn't have wanted my back a few years ago, but physical therapy is great.

I like your writing too. Keep in touch.

mgrace said...

har har har.
seriously though. try a cheap bolivian hotel and a concave matress. that`ll give you a bad back!