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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brucio said...

you guys are making me so jealous

and if you see andy from minneapolis please tell him hi from his pal bruce

Anonymous said...

I saw Rishi kissing his boyfriend in a Venezuelan bar.

rks said...

Again? Snap. Damn Paparrazi!