Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Highlights of Venezuela!

Top 10 Things We'll Miss

1) The women - My god, Venezuelan women are beautiful. They take care of themselves and they just know how to walk.

2) Polar Ice - Such a cheap, flavorful beer. I think El Cuatro consumed nearly 500 of these during our two weeks there.

3) Guaky - The mascot embodied the spirit of the tournament and was not nearly as cheesy as that damn Leo the lion from Deutschland.

4) Corruption - From getting us beer when it was illegal, to offering us super-powerful chew, corruption only benefited us.

5) The fact that everything cost 33 cents - The official exchange rate is VEB 2150 = $1. The Black Market i.e. the only place you change money offers a rate of VEB 3500 = $1.

6) Y Va Caer - One of my my lasting memories from each of Korea 2002 and Germany 2006 is the stadium songs of the hosts. It is no different for Venezuela 2007 except that the Venezuelan stadium songs had nothing to do with football.

7) Hamburger Stands - It seems like every place has its preferred late night drunk food: In NYC we have pizza, in LA there are tacos and Pink's, in Europe you have Doner Kebab. In Venezuela - you have hamburger stands like Freddy El Negro and Whopper Express.

8) The Random Futbol Fans - James from Ireland, Carrie and Todd from New Mexico, the Gang of Four from New York and Victor from Barinas. Meeting people makes these trips special.

9) Free drinks from prostitutes - One night in Maracaibo 4 American men held the line against a troupe of aggressive prostitutes and scored 3 free rounds of beer. Magic I tell you!

10) The Women - it starts there and ends there.

Top 10 Things We Could Do Without

1) Hugo Chavez and the Chavistas - Wake up. Your vision of socialism will not work. Your country has tasted democracy before and is full of passionate, intelligent people. Equality is a great idea, but let it develop organically. You are pushing your country towards irrelevance.

2) Kasey Keller - Dude, please just retire. You were pretty awesome right through 2005, but you have fallen apart since. Please pass your knowledge on to the next generation and be done with it.

3) Mosquitos - Thy have some nasty, nasty bugs. Luis and I both were receipients of terradactly sized mosquito bites. The bites would welt up and puss like an oozing volcano - not sweet.

4) The Sidewalks - There is no reason for a sidewalk to be more than 4 inches higher than street level. Toes are a good thing.

5) Icebox rooms - On more than one occasion I thought I was going to pull a Hans and soil my sheets. Someone needs to introduce the thermostat to Venezuela.

6) Small Bills - Nobody has them and when you're drinking, you definitely need them. People would get visibly annoyed when you tried to buy a round of beers with 50,000 bolivars.

7) Organization - The ticketing process was as big a clusterfudge as I've ever seen. In the end, all worked out well. However, if we had opted to wait on line in Maracaibo, I'm pretty sure we'd still be waiting for the cop to call out my name.

8) Broken Glass Bottles - Well, not all of us hated them, just Luis as he had a penchance for stepping on them and cutting his feet.

9) ATM's - it took us nearly 10 attempts to figure out that when the machine asks for the first2 digits of your ID number, it really means the last 2 digits of your ID number.

10) Lack of Beer Sales at matches - This is a stupid idea. Stadiums should always sell beer.


More will follow!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

U-20 World Cup

After the US boys came from behind to knock off the dirty Uruguayans last night, I, along with several ESC guys, have made the decision to hit up the U-20 World Cup quarterfinal in Toronto this weekend between the US and Austria. This will make it 3 tournaments, in 3 weeks, in 3 countries, on 2 continents.

By Friday, I should have the first batch of pictures from Venezuela up. My recap of Chavismo will follow next Monday, as well as the aforepromised top 10 lists.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

POS Toyotas: 1 Gringos: 0 (2ET)

In what can only be described as sheer devastation, our last night in venezuela ended at the unexpected hands of a goddamned 1978 toyota corolla.

While Roger remained sidelined in bed all day after succumbing to two weeks of pure awesomeness in this wonderful slice of heaven called venezuela, Luis and I ventured a whopping three blocks to the local mall. We searched in vain for vinotintos jerseys as Venezuela played what turned out to be its last game today. We met up with Fabio to watch the games and then headed out to meet some friends we had made the night before.

If the night were a soccer match, it could only be compared to the Italy vs. Germany semfinal in WC 2006. The night was certainly headed towards legendary status when our friends' car broke down. The damn battery died which forced us to seek assistance from some drunk guy who was looking to practice his english. His jumper cables were complete shite and were not even connected to one another. I'm pretty sure the conductors were plastic too. We finally got the car started and then headed home. My flight is in less than 2 hours so Luis offered to join me at a local diner to consume our last Polars of the trip while we lamented our misfortune. Oh well, sometimes you beat the game and sometimes the game beats you. And when in a country like venezuela, sometimes a piece of siht car beats you.

Keep reading the blog. I will be posting lists of the things we loved and hated about venezuela, as well as a full review of my observations on the socio-political situation here. Oh yeah, there will be pictures forthcoming too.
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Saturday, July 07, 2007

It cost more than 33 cents.

Emboldended by our hotel bill of 2.5 million bolivars, we decided to up our game. It began with the lunch yesterday, which, despite our celebrity status and willingness to take a picture with the owner for him to hang on the wall, cost us a whopping 250,000 bolvars. Towards the end of our meal, more people approached us for autographs and photos ad after the told us they had an official program with them, we quickly finished our meal and fled.

We arrived in caracas and almost made the decision to ditch the city and head to the beach. We had our driver take us to the nearest beach/shantytown and quickly had him drive us back to civilization. We nearly ran over a dog, and then nearly ran over him again three blocks later.

For dinner, we searched for benihanas and ended up at some awesome seafood restaurant called El Braquero. Luis and I ordered paella and the waiter asked us if we wanted it special with lobster and prawns. Too be we had a fat, drunk old chick karaoke singing right next to us because we said yes without really knowing what we were saying yes to. The bill: another 500,000 bolivars.

While waiting for a cab outside the restaurant, we witnessed a couple guys across the street getting into a brawl. Must have been a full moon because we saw some guys roughing up some chicks earlier in the night too. Sorry, no heroes here. Some spectators to the fight threw a large brick at the fighters that fortunately missed them. A guy on a motorcycle that may or may not have been a cop drove into the center of the fracas and immediately pulled out his gun. He engaged the aggressor in the fight and popped a shot in the air. Can't believe I had to come to Caracas, and its uber rich area of Altamira no less, to see my first gunshot.

We met up with Fabio and a buddy of his at a club, where, from the bathroom, I sent the live blog last night. The place was pretty awesome and we dropped another million bolivars. We spent just over 5 million bolivars on they day. Adios budget.
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Live bloig: caracas nightclub

A cioncept I should have introduced earlier, the live blog coming at you fresh and fueled on alcohol. I have been officially rated the worst dancer in venezuela. This is bollocks. They needx to play some house music. I can dance (terradactyl jump - thanks venku) the siht out of some house music. Full failure to bag a venezuelan chicl blog forthcoming tomorrow. Some douche is banging on my stall right now. In case you have not realized and comprehemded, this blog is my brain. You are looking though it. Hanjoy!
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Friday, July 06, 2007

Good Luck and Play Hard

Currently sitting at a restaurant in Barquisimeto called El Mana. Our cab driver had to ask if we were allowed in because we are all clad in shorts. Despite the intense heat, this country does not respect shorts. Bollocks. Pretty sure our cabbie may have implied that we are players as the restaurant accepted us. When they asked if I was a player, Luis told them yes. Free salads just arrived. The food here is amazing. I started with an apple cuury soup which was delicious. They just brought us a salad that is covered in a fig-caramel hairnet. Its awesome.

Several women wanted to take pictures with us and wanted my autograph. I signed: "Good Luck and Play Hard". This trip is doing wonderful things for my ego. Some lady at the hotel last night asked me if I was Rambo's brother. Not wanting to dissapoint, I of course answered yes. I'm just happy people do not recognize how out of shape I feel.
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Match Report: USA vs. Colombia - it was boring.

We woke up on match day with three things on our agenda: 1) pick up our tix; 2) chill poolside; and 3) get to the match. We stayed at the Hilton during our time in Barquisimeto and the US team and a few other US fans were also staying there. It's always a little odd when you're a fan staying at the same hotel as the team. You never want to seem like a freak groupie and at the same time you want them to know you're there so they know they have the support. The results on the pitch naturally dictate the mood and the staff was definitely very uppity over the way the team performed after the first two games. My elevator ride with assistant coach Piotr Nowak was a little tense to say the least. Also, there were a number of autograph seeking kids in the hotel and a few approached me. I informed them that los fanaticos son gordos y los jugadores son flacos. I think that set them straight for the rest of the day.

The ticket office in Barquisimeto employed a logical distribution system - ranges of order numbers were assigned to different windows. The only problem was that the lines were at least 4 hours long and required us to roast in the blazing hot sun. Not sweet. Luis suggested that we just play dumb and cut the line. In the process of doing do, we encountered a future chavista cop: a 17 year old who demanded $20 for letting us cut in front of him. Again, we refused to pay and offered him beer instead. We got to talking and he and his friends were very knowledgeable about MLS. They asked everyone's favorite question: "Where is Donovan?"

After returning to the Hotel with tickets in hand, we met up with Fabio and some other US fans at the hotel bar. The bar interfered with our ability to chill poolside as it turns out you cannot just pick it up and move it to the pool. We met a 12 year old at the bar who was drinking cappucino which we all found pretty impressiv e. He informed us that the coffee was nothing special and that at 12, kids drink cucuy, a. mixture of tequilla, whiskey and gasoline. While we were sitting there, the Gang of Four from NY showed up with their bags in tow as their other reservations had been canceled. I think we jung out with those guys for nearly 3 days and the only times we did not have beer in and were on the raft. James from Ireland also met up with us and set out for the match with us. One of the great things about these trips is the people you meet along the way. Fairly certain this will not be the last we see of James.

After many beers and recollections of the rafting trip and our chance encounter with Ramon Mifflin, we arrived at the stadium to find it unfinished. Once completed, it will be as magnificent a soccer stadium as I've ever seen. The game pretty much sucked. I've never been to a lame duck game and hope that I never have to again. The US team was so impotent in attack that it seemed the Colombians were cheering for us at the end of the game. I got so bored that I spent the better part of the second half staring at chicks. Apparently, there is a big Mexican population in Barquisimeto as the crowd would whistle and catcall whenever a ultrahotchick would walk by. The crowd, as has been custom, took the opportunity to engage in massive anti-chavez rants. After my world cup trips, the chants of the home country have always ended up being stuck in my head. What is weird here is that the Venezuelan chant that will stick in my head is "Lo va cayer! Lo va cayer! . . . El govierno va cayer!" Which means "it will fall! It will fall! . . . The government will fall!". What made the chants on this day more interesting was that it was the Venezuelan independence day. I have some videos that I will post to youtube which you should definitely check out. People literally cannot contain themselves when these chants get going.

Post match, we encountered a massive traffic jam of people. Turns out no one planned for how to get people out of the stadium and back to the center of the city, which is a good 25 miles away. We walked 5 miles or so because nobody paid heed to my attempts to hitchhike. After finally catching a cab back to the city, we met up with our new york pals again and dropped a few more cervezas and cucuys in the tank. We watched Bobby Boswell try to hit on a chick with the aid of a translator. In the end, he gave her his shoes. As punishment for their shoddy performance, the team had to leave in the wee hours of the morning. So long US boys, see you in spain.
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Sorry for the delay in blogging, apparently somebody forgot to install a cell tower in Los Llanos, the beautiful mountainous plains (think Montana) on the periphery of Barinas. The area is filled with llaneros (cowboys) who marshall cows, goats, sheep and giant cocks (seriously, the biggest roosters I've ever seen).

After a dodgy escape from Barinas (we lost the ginormous key to one of our rooms), a Guamanchi Expeditions land cruiser picked us up for our two-day rafting trip. We had planned to meet up with the rest of the US crew at the rafting camp and we were joined by Tuckman, Johnny Agua, Rodger, and Clint (" the Gang of Four from NY"). The Gang of Four from NY were in the land cruiser when it arrived and had the foresight to suggest that we pick up some bevvies along the way. Our stop at the liqueria would be the first of three. We arrived at the camp and were treated with a delicious lunch featuring chicken. Our first day on the river was supposed to be a training day. We were divided into two boats: the purple boat aka the douche canoe and the red boat (consisting of El Cuatro and the Gang of Four from NY). Our boat was captained by Alfredo who has a limited grasp on English. First, he assigned me a front position on the boat after he explained that the front two set the rhythm of the paddling and also after I protested that I have no rhythm (I don't actually believe this but it is hard to refute the claims of several of my venezolana dancing partners). Then, he explained the commands and repeatedly confused "Left" and "Right", mistakes that would prove near fatal the next day.

After some initial training, including Alfredo intentionally flipping the raft (something that would prove useful on our second trip down the river), we succesfully negotiated the rapids save for Johnny Agua, true to his name, taking the initial fall. Upon reaching our landing, we realized that we were at the same liqueria where we had made our earlier cerveza purchase. Because we had eaten lunch, we decided we need to supplement our now depleted three cases of beer by adding another four to the warchest. This decision was poor. We cruised through the total of seven cases and a bottle of rum (yo ho!) by 11:30. Because the camp's directv receiver had magically disappeared (read Fredo prolly stole it away to his secret MJ smoking hideout), we were left to beer and our own devices to amuse oursekves. Naturally, drinking challenges ensued and Johnny Agua was forced to live up to his 3 beers in 3 minutes for being the river's first victim. To keep with the aquatic theme, we set up a boat race between the left side (clint, roger, rodger and tuckman) and the right side (rishi, luis, johnny agua and kotas). Just like our performance on the water, the right side demolished the left side, and then we did it again just for kicks. As a punishment, and in an effort to level the strength inequality on the boat, the left side did pushups.

(Side note: as I am writing this, we are hanging out with Ramon Mifflin of New York Cosmos fame. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.)

Fortunately, before I went to bed, I found the last unopened beer and hid it in the fridge. Smart move by me because that served as a proper brekkie over the cardboard toast provided by the camp. Shampoo effect indeed.

Our second trip on the rapids began with a jump off of a 30 foot bridge. Awesome. At the end of our first trip, Fredo commented on how impressed he was at our strength and ability to make hairpin turns. Again, he did not heed my advice when I assured him that after drinking 7 cases of beer our responsiveness and endurance would not measure up to trip 1. Our second adventure was at times exhilarating and at time like LA traffic. We repeatedly found ourselves stuck on large rocks and rocking the boat to free ourselves. Early on, we lodged ourselves between two rocks and our boat filled with water. Tuckman, Kotas and Johnny Agua bit it. Kotas recovered to a rock and sat down while the rapids flowed over him. The rest of us were forced to abandon ship so that Fredo could free the boat. When it finally broke free, I dove into it and Fredo recovered part of the team along the way before having to pull to the shore to let the rest of our now terrain-traversing team back in. Over the remainder of the trip, I was the fortunate (or un-, depending on your persuasion) one to fall out solo, twice. We got stuck mamy times, for which the fault I blame on a triumvirate of unfortunate events: 1) somebody decided it would be a good idea to stick the 8 biggest guys in a single boat, pushing out weight damn near 2000 pounds; 2) Fredo not being able to quickly shout the correct orders (methinks his difficulty discerning whether to say left or right had something to do with this; and 3) somebody forgot to tell god to turn the rain on the night before. Dammit.

We ended up putting all of Fredo's training to use on the backend of our trip. After successfully negotiating one of the more difficult series, we were lounging about while our raft was floating downstream sideways. Out of nowhere, a hole in the water appeared and I found myself underwater with Clint's feet on my head. When I surfaced, I looked back and saw all of red boat floating in the water - well, all except for Fredo. It took some herculean efforts to reassemble the team, but we did it. After finishing, we found ourselves back at our favorite liqueria so we picked up 3 more cases of beer. Natch.

The entire red boat had to return to the Barinas city center so after lunch and a case of beer, Fredo drove the red boat back, and not wanting to leave any soldiers behind, we nearly polished off the remaining two on the way. Once there, we parted ways with the Gang of Four from NY and said goodbye to Backdraft Kotas who, for some reason decided to return home (his girlfriend cracked the whip). Roger, Luis and I set out in a cab for Barquisimeto. Along the way, we picked up, and polished off another case of beer. I know, you're prolly thinking we are alcoholics, but, don't judge so quickly, our cab driver had 3 of them. Along the drive, we were stopped at several police checkpoints where passing motorists are expected to pay "tolls" (corruption in its purest form). Luis, ever the penny pincher, offered them beers instead. Shockingly, they refused the beer because they were working. Hmm. . . okay to rob people while on the job but not okay to have a beer. Seems inconsistent.

We reached Barquisimeto and chased our beer filled afternoon with two bottles of wine and some awesome plates of meat. I even ate some intestines which basically taste like mac and poop. Gross.

Full match report tomorrow, but the US is out.
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Wednesday, July 04, 2007


WARNING: This post will be long. I highly recommend copying the text into a Word document, printing it out and taking it with you for your afternoon deuce.

We began the day with hope in our hearts. We did not have a place to stay in Barinas, we did not have our match tickets and we did not even know where to pick them up. All we had was a 4 hour ride through the Andes mountains to Barinas in the back of a land cruiser. The ride itself was not so bad, despite the lack of forward-facing seats. The route was scenic and the soundtrack consisted of some sweet bossa nova covers of Guns 'n Roses, U2 and Bob Marley. We passed through the highest village in Venezuela and just so happend to see the Charlotte Hornets team bus. Approaching Barinas, we stopped for lunch at an awesome roadside restaurant that grilled up the world's largest kebabs over a large firepit.

When we finally reached Barinas, Luis and I left Roger, Kotas and our new compadre Fabio under a tree guarding our stuff while we set out on foot to secure accomodations. Barinas is a town illI-equipped to host an international soccer match and the conventional wisdom says that they only received the right to host a match because Chavez is from Barinas. A piece of shit from a piece of shit town (strike that, this town is beautoful). It should be noted that the people of Barinas are awesome and the women are consistently beautiful.

Our plan was to head to the US team's hotel and either stay there or seek assistance from that hotel in finding other accomodations. We had to go on foot because the street was blocked for vehicular traffic by soldiers, none of whom looked like they were older than 15. At the first checkpoint, we lied to the soldier and told him we had reservations. My jersey threw him off and he thought we were players. He was visibly disappointed when I told him we were not. More lies ensued at the next checkpoint. When we finally reached the hotel, the general in charge of the security stopped us from entering and ordered two young soldiers to keep us at bay, at gun point - machine gun point. Fortunately, two guys who worked for the State Department were inside and helped us hook up with two other Americans, Todd and Carrie, who were staying at a hotel just down the road. After locking up rooms, we returned to the tree by the bus station to pick up the rest of our crew and set about to pick up tickets.

Our good fortune continued at the hotel when we ran into a guy who knew where to pick up tickets. Kotas, Fabio and I arrived at the ticket center to find our buddy Juan at the front of the line. He was wearing a USA tanktop and a white USA hat, just as he told us would at dinner the night before. Thinking that we were in Venezuela, we tried to jump in line with him. Those thoughts proved poor as a soldier (the military presence in this town cannot be overstated) clad in plastic armor (think fisher price) told us that we had to go to the back of the single file line. Much to our surprise, the line moved efficiently and we quickly obtained our tickets. Kotas had some extra tickets to get rid of and I notice a white, white guy in the line to buy tickets. That line did not move at all while we were there and it appeared the match was sold out. The guy turned out to be James from Ireland and after we sold him a ticket, we invited him to hang with us for the day.

We returned to the hotel with tickets and James in tow and everyone took a moment to celebrate. Because no celebration is official without alcohol, Luis and Fabio pleaded with a cop/soldier stationed in the lobby to show us a place where we could buy beer. For some dumb reason, the town was declared dry until after the game. For this alone, I hate Chavez. The cops turned out to be the perfect amount of corrupt and Kotas and I hopped on the backs of their motorcycles with backpacks. The cops took us for a 10 minute drive and stopped at a beer store that was definitely not open. The cop in charge pounded on the wall and the store owner opened up a 2 foot by 2 foot hatch. We passed him our backpacks and he loaded them up with beer. Mission Accomplished.

We then warmed up for the match in the innards of our hotel as we had to hide our booty from the public. Stories were exchanged and Kerri informed us that she self "cockblocked" herself while hanging out with the Paraguayan national team (her words, awesome, I know). She and Todd were just friends and apparently, the hotel would not rent them a room unless they were married. She borrowed one of Todd's rings and forgot to take it off when they met the team. A delegate from the team hooked them up with tickets. A good show of sporting friendliness or some Paraguayan basura trying to get laid, you decide.

We managed to scrape together a semblance of a US section by ignoring section, row and seat assignments and just broke into song when ushers approached. The crowd was generally receptive and even broke into a U-S-A chant every now and then. They were very amused when I showed the crowd a yellow card for screaming Par-A-Guay!

The match speaks for itself. I pretty much went batshit when we scored and Kotas, Roger, Luis and I busted out a pseudo congo line. You may have seen this if you watched the match. Towards the end of the match, the Venezuelans broke out into chants of Libertad and The Government Will Fall! Unlike in Maracaibo, other parts of the crowd responded with chants of Fuerza! Which is a pro-Chavez chant. Not surprisingly, the chavistas booed us every chance they got. Tossers.

We did meet an awesome Venezuelan business student named Victor. He had his face painted half us flag - half venezuelan flag. Unfortunately, on the way out Carrie was overcome by pickpocketers. As we were reporting the crime to the cops, many Venezuelans stopped to offer assistance and apologize. Like I said, they we're pretty awesome people.

Victor led us on a march to find a bar to watch the Argentina - Colombia match. Along the way, many school kids took the opportunity to practice their english with us. Amazingly, a kid approached Kotas and I with Carrie's wallet, credit cards and I'd intact. All that was missing was 20,000 bolivars, which equals about 33 cents.

We settled at a pizza place and immediately ordred 20 beers as the ban had been lifted. Several venezuelans asked to take pictures with Kotas and I. One woman even asked me to sign her Venezuelan jersey. When Fabio asked her why, she told him that it would probably be worth something someday. Sweet.

There was a giant propoganda-fest / concert in the Plaza Estudientes and we stopped by to let them know gringos were in the house. We definitely were not heeding State Department warnings to remain inconspicuous. I did some pushups for the crowd and was rewarded with 500 bolivars (33 cents) for my efforts. Being that it was a monday night, the town was dead and so were we after a very emotionally up and down day.

Today, we attempt to kill ourselves again with some rafting.

Oh yeah, Kasey Keller, thanks for your years of service. Now go coach.
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Monday, July 02, 2007

Amy from Detroit.

Do you have any pictures from the game. The consensus amongst El Cuatro is that you're either hot or not. Please advise.
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Missing parts of my brain found.

We are currently driving through the highest (altitude, not weed) village in Venezuela which sits at 3000 meters. Apparently the altitude has disgorged some blogworthy gems from the residual alcoholic goop in my head:

At the US-Argentina match, I took a picture with a Venezuelan solider with my flag sprawled across him. He was none too pleased. Sadly, you will not see this picture due to my aforementioned douchebaggery.

On the way back from paragliding, a car tried to lodge itself in the backend of our land cruiser so I started making kissy faces. Said faces elicited the expected response: the bird. Thinking we would taunt the bird flippers, we held up our beers. The driver's response, he held up not one, but 2 beers. It should be noted that the front seat passenger also had a baby in her lap. See, Britney is not the worst mom alive.

After dinner in Merida, we set off in search of a bar on a sunday night. Nothing was open so we sent Fabio and Roger in a cab to find a liquor store (because we didn't have to leave the next morning till 7 am) while the rest of us walked back to the posada. Bloody Knuckles continued to wage war against insects and stomped a cucaracha to a gooey death. We also passed a couple prostitutes on the street. Sweet.
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Son Mexicanos?

Our adventure day in Merida was by far our most productive day. Upon waking, Luis imposed a moratorium on drinking until 7am the next day. Tanto (Roger), Backdraft (Kotas), Bloody Knuckles (Luis), Freddy (Wes) and the Mexican Assassin (me - duh) set out on a canyoning trip through a river in Merida. The excurison required us to don wetsuits (not a pretty sight) and hike uphill, downhill (you know its downhill when the land ahead of you is lower than the land you are standing on), through streams and under misbehaving brush. We had one of our few encounters with wildlife when Luis took pictures with some hill-dwelling family's goat. I surmise that our lack of wildlife encounters had something do with the sight of us in wetsuits.

The canyoning itself involved hiking through a river and down waterfalls, repelling through waterfalls, jumping off boulders, and sliding down waterfalls. At one point, our guides instructed us to jump off a 20 foot peak into a hole in the river that was no larger than 4ft by 4ft. Pretty damn amazing. We survived the trip without serious injury, although Luis did take out some pent up aggression from the dumb blonde dropping his camera by punching a rock. We had another encounter with wildlife when we broke for lunch - the guides whipped up some jamon sandwiches replete with fresh tomatos, onions, avocado and you guessed it, mayonnaise. In what became a theme for the day, Luis decided to harass some red fire ants.

After returning from the canyoning trip, we were pretty knackered so we rested in some hammocks at the posada with some beers. So much for the moratorium, it lasted all of (insert amount of time in which we did not have access to beer).

Not quite satsified with surviving the day to that point, we, along with several other gringos, decided to go paragliding. We drove up to a 1600 meter cliff and then ran off with venezuelans and parachutes attached to our backs. I wanted to fly with the flag tied around my waist but my pilot had a better idea: he jerry-rigged (debate ensued over the spelling of jerry-rig) the flag so that it would fly free behind us as we sailed over Merida. The other pilots joked that if the Mayor saw us, he would order the military to shoot us down. The pilots were a bunch of life-loving hippies. When Patrick, of some unknownst to me Asian descent (guessing Korean), had trouble launching, one of the pilots quipped that it was due to his inherent vision impairment caused by his lack of round eyes. Brought back memories of Kamikazies.

Special mention that Minnesota Andy wins the POTY award for puking midflight.

After returning to tierra firma, the pilots took us to their neighborhood bar where we saw the most badass SUV ever - untill we saw the rear window which was adorned with an ad for a baby store. Becuase one of the Land Cruisers (complete with military style backseats) that took us up to the cliff had yet to descend, Tanto, Backdraft, Bloody Knuckles and I hopped on the roofrack. Anything goes in Venezuela. At the bar, Luis lunged at another opportunity to harass some ants and did a Mexican hat dance on an ant party. If anyone out there knows why Luis hates insects so much, please explain in the comments.

Famished after a day of adventure, El Cuatro along with Fabio and Juan headed out for a steak dinner. We ordered a couple rounds of tequilla shots which caused the waiter to think we were mexican. We convinced him we were swedish.

We are currently rolling 12 gringos deep in 2 land cruisers on a 4 hour trip to Barinas for the US - Paraguay game. Sam's Army indeed.

None of us have shaved since arriving in Venezuela. When the US finally gets some points, we are going with moustaches.
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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Las Adventuros del El Gordo y El Flaco

After our expedition up the montana yesterday, we stopped off for some nourishment at a pizzeria. We ordered some caeser salads and were presented with a jumble of lettuce, bacon, croutons, and the ubiquitous and ever-present mayonnaise. I will never understand the rest of the world's affinity for the white sludge.

While walking around the city looking for venezuelan jerseys, Kotas noticed a burgundy Pontiac Grand Am with Florida plates that expired in 1998. I'm guessing that car was not purchased legally.

Fortunately, the Vinotintos (the nickname for the Venezuelan national team) defeated Peru which livened up the people of Merida. An activist group put on a rap concert in the center square. They rapped about the things that most activist groups rap about: the environment, peace, the poor and unity. Guess those things are important.

Roger and Kotas decided they'd had enough fun so they left Luis and I to sample the nightlife of Merida. We donned our Venezuela shirts so that we could celebrate the victories with the locals. Luis wore one adorned with "El Flaco" and I sported "El Gordo". Not sure that I'd ever go out with a buddy wearing the exact same shirt at home, but it seemed acceptable in this situation.

We took a cab to La Cucaracha which turned out to have nothing to do with cockroaches, but everything to do with 16 year olds. The cab driver did not have enough small bills for our change so he reached in his glove box and pulled out two condoms and said "you are going to the disco, you'll need these." He had more faith in us than we had in ourselves. (We let him keep the change). The first level of La Cucaracha is a nascar themed chuck e cheese come nightclub. Luis and I made a few laps while sucking down some cuba libres and realized that we were way too old to be there. We were relieved when we saw some people older than us, but then were again dismayed when we realized they were chaperoning their 16 year old daughters. Keep in mind that La Cucaracha is the hottest club in Merida. We decided it was time to leave and on our way out, the bouncer asked in a disbelieving tone why we were leaving so soon. After we informed him of the generation gap, he informed us of the adult section on the lower level.
We re-entered and consumed more cuba libres. Luis asked a chick to take our picture and she dropped his camera. Yup, she was a blonde. Turns out dumb chicks travel in groups - her friend was a chavista, the first I've met in venezuela. She had lived in miami and was married, but divorced the man and happily took him to the cleaners (she bragged about this). Her winnings provided her with a house in miami, a house in merida, the ability to not work, and the custody of her kids (listed in order of importance to her). We couldn't take being around the db chicks so we pulled the ripcord.

Upon arriving back at the posada, we saw an irish kid who is staying at our posada stuck outside and piss drunk. When Luis showed him the doorbell, the irish kid looked as if he witnessed the second coming. Turns out venezuelans call irish gringos as well. That news pretty much shattered my universe I thought we americans had that term by divine right. Bollocks. First report of a mugging as well: one of irish kid's buddies got mugged at gunpoint. Good thing Luis and I took a 30 minute stroll home.

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