Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Clearing in VZ & a few “Juanisms”

Note May 28, 2013:  Crime has gotten very bad and we would not visit VZ today.

June 20, 2007  Wednesday

It is so nice to be here in Porlamar out in the anchorage rather than in Trinidad in a hot marina.  There are constant pleasant breezes and even though it is 83F inside the boat, we are comfortable.  It would be unbearable in Trinidad this time of year in a marina with no hint of air movement.  We prefer leaving the boat open rather than being cooped up inside with the air conditioners running. 

Yesterday we used Juan Baro at Marina Juan as our agent and cleared in without incident,.  This involves bringing in the boat documentation, last clearance paper (zarpe) and our passports at 9:00 a.m.  Juan handles all the paperwork and gets it to the appropriate offices.  At 3:30 p.m. the captain goes back to Marina Juan and is driven the short distance to the Immigration and Customs office, where their identification is confirmed and all papers are signed.  The captain’s thumbprint is taken and recorded on the paperwork.  Then you go back to Marina Juan at 5:30 p.m. to pick up the completed documents.  At least that was the process last September and was supposed to be the process when we arrived this week.

However, officials from both Immigration and Customs arrived at Marina Juan yesterday afternoon and wanted to meet with Juan just as the 5 captains of our flotilla arrived to pick up their completed documents.  So we sat around and the guys drank 33 cent Polar beers while we waited for Juan to finish meeting with the officials.  They were at a table within 15 feet of us, but we could not understand any of the conversation because their Spanish was so rapid.  But from the hand gesturing and facial expressions and body language it appeared that Juan was not a happy camper. 

After about an hour and a half the officials delared the meeting concluded and left.  Juan then called each of the captains into his office and distributed the final clearance documents.  We were the last ones officially cleared in.  Of course, they again switched names of the captain on our forms and put Bill as the captain instead of me.  But I signed my name over Bill’s printed name and they took my thumbprint and confirmed my identification.  They also indicated that we are on a catamaran with one mast instead of a monohull ketch with two masts.  Language barriers and not worth trying to get corrected on the clearance papers.  Maybe they can get it right when we clear out.

We also learned the purpose of the meeting with the officials.  They are changing the clearance process.  Not sure how this will affect Juan’s services as clearance agent.  Starting tomorrow the Customs and Immigration officers will visit to inspect you and your boat before you are allowed to do the paperwork to clear in.  They plan to visit the boats in the anchorage around 2:00 p.m. each day.  We probably will have to do this procedure whenever we clear out of Isla Margarita.  No one wants to deal with this hassle; but in all honesty, it makes perfect sense to us.  After all, you could easily smuggle people around the way it is handled now.  This way they will confirm exactly who is on each boat when it arrives and leaves.  However, it also presents another opportunity for bribery.  Juan told us that if the officials try to collect any money from us when they inspect the boat when we clear out that we should not pay anything and to call him immediately.

Which brings us to the topic of “Juanisms.”  Here are 3 Juanisms:
  1. You are either the hunter or the prey
  2. Manana does not mean tomorrow
  3. In Venezuela, to be completely legal you must also be illegal

Juan has lived in VZ for many years but he used to be a sailor and has been all over the world.  He speaks English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Italian.  He is a socialist politically.  And he is somewhat of a character.  He had several things to impress upon the cruisers when we cleared in.  The most important of which is about hunters.

Every morning some people wake up and say to themselves “what am I going to eat today?”  Those people are the hunters.  Think about what a hunter does; his senses are heightened and he is aware of every detail of his surroundings.  He does not let his guard down and assume a false sense of safety.  Well, there are people who hunt like this every day; their survival depends on it.  And they will look for the easiest prey: the prey who has assumed a false sense of safety and that is not paying attention to the details of his surroundings.  So, you decide for yourself whether you will be the prey or if you will maintain heightened senses like the hunter.  Juan said that if you think about those times in your life that you had “bad luck” and misfortune found you that those are also the times that you did not act like the hunter.  Get complacent and you will be the prey.

Juan also explained the definition of “manana.”  All these years we thought it meant tomorrow.  That is what the Spanish-English dictionaries will tell you.  Not true.  Here in Venezuela, manana means “definitely not today.”  So when someone tells you that something will happen manana it does not mean that it will happen tomorrow; it simply means that it definitely will not happen today.

The third Juanism of: “in Venezuela, in order to be completely legal you must also be illegal” can be explained with an example.  In Venezuela the citizens are required to carry identify cards.  These identity cards have a photograph and thumbprint.  When a person goes into the government office to obtain his identity card, he is given a piece of paper saying that he has applied for the identity card.  There is no telling how long it will take to receive the identity card.  So, a man is stopped by the police and asked to present his identity card.  The man shows the police officer his receipt showing that he has applied for the identity card.  The police officer gets angry and says why are you showing me this piece of paper.  The law says that you must carry your identity card, not a piece of paper.  It is illegal for you to carry this piece of paper.  The man explains that in order to get the identity card without waiting he would have had to pay a bribe.  It is illegal to bribe a government worker.  So he is being legal by not bribing the government worker.  In order to be legal and carry his identity card immediately, then he would have to be illegal and bribe the government worker.  (Sounds kind of like Catch-22, doesn’t it?)

Today we took the free bus into the Sigo shopping center.  This was just a reconnaissance trip, not a real shopping trip.  All the people from the 5 boats who came over in our little flotilla from Grenada last Sunday night went on this shipping trip.  One thing has struck me really funny lately.  It started in Grenada.  Suddenly we are the experienced cruisers and others are looking to us for answers to their questions.  We have only been out here just over a year.  And we are the experienced cruisers with all the answers????  I guess we seemed just as clueless last year as some of these people seem to us this year.  The ones who came to Margarita are not clueless, just unfamiliar with this new-to-them area.  But a few of the people we met in Grenada were totally clueless.  Made us wonder how in the world they made it this far south without someone leading them around.  One woman in particular seemed to know nothing.  She could not hear right and did not wear a hearing aid and misconstrued almost everything said to her or around her.   She asked me dozens of questions but couldn’t seem to grasp the answers.  Poor lady really needs to get a hearing aid.

Yesterday we had diesel delivered to the boat for a whopping 32 cents per gallon.  With government controlled prices on fuels and meats, Venezuela is a most economical place for cruisers.  Labor rates in the boatyards and marina rates are far less than elsewhere in the Caribbean.  The quality of work is good.  Only problem is that you must bring your own materials because there are shortages in VZ.  They also have periodic shortages of various foods.  Nothing serious but sometimes inconvenient for the locals.  We also learned yesterday that VZ has a new flag.  It looks like the same flag but they have added one more star.  We have the older flag with 7 stars arched across the center.  The new flag looks exactly the same except there are 8 stars arched across the center.  Supposedly the Customs officers will fine you if you are flying the older flag.  No one has visited our boat yet to complain about our flag, but if we see a new 8-star flag in a store we will buy one.

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