I can't believe they are paying me to do this
(August 9 - September 4, 1998)

As I mentioned in the last travelogue from Buenos Aires I was told that it would not be safe for Diane to go to Caracas with me and roam around the city by herself.  The thought was that being hotel bound for four weeks weeks would be a big bore.  Little did any of us know about the great resort hotel they were putting us up in while we were in Caracas.  Diane would have loved it.  You win some, you lose some.

Given that Diane wasn't with me in Caracas, I don't have any photos of our team's stay there.  I only have video.  So there are no photos for the Caracas travelogues.

We wrapped up in Buenos Aires (BA) last Thursday and my four colleagues and manager left on Friday to go to Caracas.  I stayed an extra day in BA because I was not able to get Diane out of Sao Paolo (which is where she was connecting with a Delta flight to Atlanta) until Saturday.  It was either have her go home a week earlier or me spending an extra day in BA.  Now that was a no-brainer decision if ever there was one.  The final week in BA was uneventful compared to the first three weeks...no mustard people, no bus #93.  It was almost boring.  ;-)  Since I was traveling on Saturday, I took Friday off and spent it with Diane to go visit some things in BA that I hadn't had a chance to see, like the cathedral and a beautiful mission church in Recoleta that was built in 1732.

We headed to the airport on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, I had to leave about four hours before Diane's flight left for Sao Paolo.  We have traveled so much together that it was a strange feeling to have to say good-bye (and we hate good-byes) and head off in different directions.  Those are never easy times.  I was actually in Caracas after an almost nine hour flight at about the same time that Diane's flight took off from Sao Paolo.  I called Delta as soon as I got to the hotel to see if she was in seat 12C and the plane was in the
air so that I could sleep easier that night.  All went well with the connection and our stay in Buenos Aires was officially over.

My arrival in Caracas was via Bogota.  We had to deplane, but I didn't venture too far into the airport during the hour wait.  The flight was with Aerolineas Argentina and was great.  The service was good, the food was good, the seats were GREAT because they reclined almost to the horizontal position.  Everything was on time and the guy that was arranged to pick me up was standing there with his IBM sign.  Thank goodness for that.  We were told to NOT go with anyone else.  I had to go exchange some dollars for bolivars and my driver stayed close.  There were two guys lingering on both sides of me at the change window and one guy asked if I needed a taxi (as he closely watched how much money I was getting).  Now you have to understand that one gets 554 bolivars for every US dollar.  I exchanged $300 and thought I had just won a lottery as the changer gave me 166,200 bolivars, mostly in 5,000 denominations.   You should have seen the huge wad of cash I had after that exchange.  What a weird feeling to have what seems like a fortune in cash in your pocket.  I asked the driver how much I should tip the bellboy for carrying my bags and he said 500.  Of course, that was about 90 cents.  The only other place I remember trading in such large denominations was in Italy with their lira.

On the way out of the hotel I noticed lots of police and soldiers.  After we exited the airport grounds there was a soldier every few hundred yards for miles and the each had a MACHINE GUN.  :-(  I wasn't sure whether I should feel safe or be worried, but my anxiety level goes up when I see things like that.  Although, I have seen soldiers with machine guns in the Paris airports, too.

The hotel we are staying at is the Tamanaco Hotel, part of the Intercontinental Hotel chain.  It is actually a resort and is quite nice.  There must be 5-6 restaurants in the place.  I haven't totally scouted it out yet.  It is the place they put up visiting IBMers to Caracas and is close to the IBM building and is secure.  I had a message to meet my colleagues for breakfast at 10am this morning and we ate out on a patio area.  The weather is GORGEOUS and a welcomed change from the constant 50s we had in BA.  It was so great to get back into jean shorts and t-shirt.  This afternoon we all decided that we would just lounge around the great pool.  I just had to take some video to show how hard a life we IBM auditors have while on the road.  ;-)  Too bad we have to work.  Tonight we decided that we will eat at a restaurant out near the pool and under a thatched roof. 

I was told by the manager who interviewed me for this assignment back in 1993 that there would be times during my tour in audit that I would be somewhere that would elicit the feeling of "I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY ARE PAYING ME TO DO THIS".  I have experienced that several times during my assignment and, although I'm not exactly ecstatic to be in South America, being at this hotel is one of those moments.  :-)

The url for this hotel is   http://www.interconti.com/pages/t/tamica.html   if you want to check it out.

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