Volunteering and Sampai

Buenos Dias,

Today is 21 December - the shortest day of the year. This doesnīt mean much when at 4 degrees latitude. It did rain quite a bit which is "unusual" during the "dry season", but I tend to have that effect on weather. (I went to Joshua Tree and it rained). In any case, weīve been through a couple days of exploring and volunteering and generally enjoying Venezuela. The volunteering bit was a tad more complicated than we realized before arrival. Thereīs 2 ex-pat German groups here, Manfred with whom we had original contact, and Giorgio and Claudia, who are working with the Indian village and running the hostel. So we live with G&C, and work with Manfred M-W-F, and in the Indian village Tues and Thurs. In between thereīs lots of gossip, some Spanish, some German, and cheap Venezuelan beer which comes in these cute little 0.22L bottles. I think the theory is that the bottles would get warm before being fully consumed if they were made any larger. At least theyīre only about 35 cents each.

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A short explanation of internet access: I can use the computer here at the hostel, but the bandwidth is maybe 14.4 on a reallly good day (satellite phone). So I write these long winded things and then send them out. I can usually drink two beers in the time that takes. But to actually read email we need to go to the internet Cafe downtown, which has a very reasonable data rate, and a pretty good latte as well. Thatīs a 40 minute walk each way, or a shorter bike down, and a walk-bike back depending on level of darkness, so doesnīt happen too often. we were going to head into Sta Elena tonight, but wussed on account of the rains. On the one hand, itīs nice and quiet here (well, sorta, when the neighbors arenīt letting us enjoy their music choice of the evening), but itīs pretty hard to run into the big village for some local flavor, internet, or snacks.

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We've learned a lot about politics since arrival. On the local level, we have the natives Vs. the Indians, who are trying to break off a corner of Brasil, Guyana, and Venezeula (including Sta. Elena) for their own nation. Fat chance, but thatīs the general attitude. On the national level, thereīs lots of fun with Presidente Chavez, who is moving closer and closer to Dictador Chavez. This has prompted a number of interesting developments on the economics front in the last few years, hereīs a few: