So my intentions to blog regularly appeared to have been a little ambitious….
Anyway my washing is on just now and this means I have approximately 45 minutes to kill before it goes in the dryer. Then another 45 to get through before it is ready to be folded and put away. This process needs to be completed with military precision or I am likely to lose the shorts and t-shirts I have remaining after a number of fairly catastrophic washing campaigns. My latest botch job occurred when my washing operation was hijacked by someone who took a liking to my ´ropas´. Due to the shared nature of the laundry room, located in the apartment blocks basement – 18 floors below my pad – and it´s slightly inconvenient opening hours I am locked in a constant war to keep my pile of sweaty sports stuff at bay. Another added challenge is getting your hands on washing powder. In my first, disastrous washing attempt I managed to tie dye almost my entire wardrobe after accidentally using bleach – the only thing available on the shelves of supermarkets at the time. Queues for such luxury items as washing powder are currently around 4 – 6 hours – however today I have my hands on some Peruvian stuff smuggled through Venezuelan customs late on Thursday night. Add the chronic water shortages to this cocktail and you have a fairly constant fight on your hands.
This is a fairly good example of the daily challenges of living in a city as crazy as Caracas. At the moment nobody is brave enough to venture out on the streets after about 9 o´clock, an uneasy silence floods over as people stay inside and look nervously out of their windows. A gun battle raged last week in the middle of the night. There is often no paper to print with, no milk for your tea or water to shower with. Inflation is currently running at over 100% since I arrived and getting flights out of the country is almost impossible.
It would be easy to stay inside, curse at my ever devaluing ´bolivares´ and berate the lack of butter on my toast. However, as the saying goes life isn´t about waiting for the storm to pass it ´s about learning to dance in the rain.
And in amongst the minor daily difficulties there is much to smile about.
I have been attending a few baseball matches in a bid to ignite my passion for the national sport. People here are mad for it. The two big teams La Guaira Sharks and the Caracas Lions are vociferously supported. Both are pretty hopeless – especially my team the Sharks – but beers are about 20 cents, they have a band in the crowd and sitting alongside thousands of Venezolano baseball fanaticos it is hard not to have a great time. That said games still last about 4 hours and not a lot really happens so I am not too upset that the play-offs are over and football season has begun.
Although there are 4 premier league outfits in Caracas the big team is Caracas FC ´´Los Rojos´´. A recent trip t the Stadio Olimpico with my friend and neighbour Brummie Sean far surpassed my expectations. Tickets were 100B´s – around 50 cents and the fans were pretty crazy. Flags, dancing, umbrellas, smoke bombs and constant singing provided the backdrop to a season opening 2 – 1 victory over last seasons champions Trijullanos. Played out in 25 degree sunshine on a Sunday afternoon in the middle of January meant that missing freezing ones private parts off in the rain watching Rangers v Raith Rovers wasn´t really on the cards.
In my personal playing career I have recently signed for amateur side Real Libertad. This mottly outfit who play their home matches out in the Las Adjuntas barrio, last stop on metro line two, wear a mixture of red shirts and whatever shorts and socks you might have to hand.
All the boys live within sight from the pitch and speak nada English making it a great place to practice my ever improving, yet still incredibly dodgy Espagnol. The nickname Peter Crouch seems to have stuck and although sliding tackles seem to be outlawed in the Venezuelan amateur game – possibly due to the lack of grass – I have made a fairly decent start to my South American career. In two halves at left back we are yet to concede and I have made some new friends. Tomorrow we are playing our last friendly before the serious business of league duty starts.
Travel highlights have included a weeks visa run to Trinidad and Tobago. Liming on the Caribbean island, all expenses was not a bad way spend the October break. The mix of Indian and Caribbean cultures, Soca meets Bollywood, makes it an incredibly unique place. Trinidad is more busy, Port of Spain its capital is a hot, sweaty hive of activity and then Tobago is the quintessential tropical paradise, layed back with white sand beaches.
On Thursday I returned from a 5 day trip to Lima, Peru. The motive behind it was to complete a Service Learning course however with it being only one day there was ample time to sample what Lima had to offer. We arrived at 2AM on Saturday night after a typically round-a-bout route. 2 hours north to Panama, quick change and then 4 hours south to Lima. Something about an unpaid 200 billion dollar bill makes Caracas an unattractive place for airlines.. Driving through the streets of Lima en-route to our hotel it was striking how alive the city was. People out and about moving between Cafes and bars. Coming from the ghost town of Caracas this was a change. After checking into our hotel myself and fellow Scot Shirley thought it would be foolish not to take advantage of such circumstances and popped next door to a small bar. We took a seat in amongst the Valentines day couples and ordered up a few Pisco Sours, Peru´s national drink. After one of these and a Peruvian beer we slept like bears.
Lima is a city of around 9 million inhabitants and is located on the Pacific coast. It seemed to have a pretty idyllic climate, sunshine and sea breeze. I was able to catch up with Clare Hildrew, former colleague in The Hague, who after bumming around South America for the last year has finally decided to get back to work and happens to have a job here. Other highlights included eating copious amounts of Cerviche, drinking gallons of Inca Cola and stocking up on washing powder. Which reminds me to collect my now dry / fresh washing! The battle has been won this week.
Whatever storm might be ensuing don´t forget to go outside and dance in the rain every once in a while, or do as Clare did and go for a year…