January 15, 2003, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
With our boat as vehicle, the ocean as highway, we continue to travel from one culture to another. It was with great sadness that we left Venezuela in late December. After three months of Latin culture (and salsa music wafting over the anchorage), magnificent wildlife, friendly people, and wonderful cruising friends (including other teens for Chris and Amanda to hang out with) it was wrenching to leave. But the world beckons and we had friends to meet in Bonaire mid January, and more in San Blas, Panama in February.
I hope none of you were too worried about us with all of the hyped-up news reports on Venezuela's political struggles. The island of Margarita was as far from turmoil as you could be and although the "paro" (Spanish for work stoppage) caused some inconveniences, we never felt in the least scared, threatened, or in danger. For those of you who've not lived in Latin America, you need to know that these kinds of political messes are very common, taken with a grain of salt by the locals, usually non-violent (except in the center of big marches), and are part of the continuing political scene in many countries (Venezuela being one of the most prone). We found it fascinating, entertaining at times, and it always made for good conversations. In a nutshell, this was a strike by the super rich against the democratically elected government. The rich believed the government had become way too interested in the needs of the country's poor (80%), and was not corruptible enough to twist to their own (power-hungry) ends. The American media played up the close relationship between President Chavez and Castro and middle-Eastern leaders (Venezuela is, after all, one of the original organizers of OPEC and the 5th largest oil producer), but the press didn't talk about how it was the super-rich fueling the work stoppage. Venezuela's middle- and upper-middle class, while they don't like Chavez for his pro-Cuban leanings, also didn't like having their commerce interrupted by the elite. Everyone seems to agree that Chavez needs to go, but no one is sure how or when it will happen. A minor problem -- there's no other leader with enough backing to take his place in an election. The turmoil will continue. Once the "paro" is over, I wouldn't hesitate to return (if I could). If Venezuela could get it's political scene under control, it has the potential to be one of the Caribbean's prime destinations.
After one year of cruising I feel that we are still just getting into the swing of things. The kids have grown and matured so much this past year, it is a delight to see. Hard-core school work takes far less of our time than I had imagined, but they are still keeping up with math, science, English, and foreign language. We have had some wonderful night sails, night-arrivals in strange anchorages, spinnaker sails, and big seas. Our three-day haul-out in Chacachacare, Venezuela was a (surprisingly) painless and almost fun time. Chris and Amanda rose to the occasion with flying colors, and I can't recall even one teenage-defiant moment as we all worked like crazy in dusty, hot, dirty conditions. They are learning to take pride in the boat and understand the importance of keeping it in good shape. All great experiences, and just what we're out here for.
I have had medical problems for several months and that has pre-occupied me and shifted much of the responsibilities for shopping, cooking, cleaning up onto Jon and the kids. First it was endless (seemingly) dental troubles which were attended to in Grenada and then Venezuela. The worst, though has been a hip/back problem which became so acute I was unable to walk more than a couple minutes without great pain. Now that we are in the Dutch islands I have been able to get better diagnostic help. The doctors are (thank goodness) ruling out nerve/back trouble and focusing on sacroiliac joint strain. (Leave it to me to strain an unused joint. Jon casually refers to it as Sue's strained butt. Thanks, dear.) We will stay here until we have a clear path to recovery in hand -- hopefully in a week or so.
I miss our extended families and land-based friends terribly, but email correspondence helps sooth the separation. We have made some wonderful new friends as well, but the cruising life tends to keep us all sailing in our own directions. This is a life of hello, hello, goodbye, goodbye. Chris and Amanda have learned the value of making friends easily even with the bittersweet knowledge that we will be sailing away from each other at some point.
Jon installed a new washing machine on Ocelot in January. Boy, is this decadent, to have a washing machine on board!!! Never fear, though. It's not making us into wimps. We still have to leap down into the fo'c'sle, crouch for 15 minutes, pass up buckets of water (we can't drain the machine anywhere except into buckets that have to be thrown overboard or re-cycled for the next wash.) I was afraid with the constant motion of the boat (even at anchor) that the machine would register "unbalance" and turn off. But no problem. This sure beats finding an expensive place ashore, or doing it ourselves.
We have had some wonderful music evenings with cruising friends Dave and Gail, on Fifth Season. Gail is a professional harpist/soprano and while she entertains us with her beautiful voice and ballads and harp, she also loves jamming with others. We've had up to 12 people on our boat or theirs (also a catamaran) with 2 guitars, harp, mandolin, harmonics, maracas, make-shift drums (peanut cans!), and tambourine, singing our heads off. I don't know how much the boats around us like it, but at least we have fun and quit by 9 PM or so -- unlike the bars ashore that usually only get revved up at 10 PM and then go till 2 AM.
More news later.
|In October we spent 2 weeks in the Andes of Venezuela, reveling in the cool air, mountain food, and incredible scenery. What a great vacation from the heat and humidity of sea-level. Jon and I took some delightful hikes on the trails that criss-cross the mountains from village to village.|
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