It's the gringo
(August 9 - September 4, 1998)

Due to the fact that we don't venture too far from the hotel here, it has been a quiet week and weekend.  It's really too bad there is such a crime problem here, along with the fear factor, because the weather is like being in paradise.  The temperature is a pretty constant 80 degrees or so and beautiful every day (just one rain storm the past week).  Caracas is 2300 feet above sea level and is also not very far (just north) from the Equator and that helps create a great climate.  It's a good thing they put us up in this Tamanaco Hotel even though it is pretty expensive ($200 per night).  It helps make the stay here bearable.

Our manager, Sue, was here this past week, so we were six in number and walked down (the hotel is up on a hill) to check out some of the local restaurants during this past week.  Being six in number allowed for more of a sense of security, however, one of the folks on our team said he felt uncomfortable every time we walked down to dinner.  I guess I would have felt uncomfortable if it were just two of us, but I didn't think anyone would be so stupid as to bother a group of six people.  But, of course, one never knows.  We did have some good food, including tapas at Las Tapas de Madrid.  I learned about tapas when I was in Madrid in 1995.  I guess it's like having a meal of starters (appetizers).  We let the guy taking our order select a sample for our table and he gave us a great selection.  There were no complaints from anyone about the food, wine or beer.  It was obvious the restaurant was an 'in' place because it was full of locals and was very noisy.  It was a fun evening.

There have been many times when we visit an IBM site to do our system security audits when we are relegated to whatever space is available, sometimes not very appealing (maybe because we're auditors?).  ;-)  This time we are on the penthouse floor and share a couple of offices facing the mountains surrounding Caracas.  The view is marvelous.  It is very green and the different cloud formations over the hills are also interesting to watch.

We have encountered the normal setup problems when we first get to a site in setting up for printing and connecting to the network.  There is a local help desk here, but most people speak only Spanish.  The other day I had a need to call about a problem and some guy answered who spoke no English.  After a couple of frustrating minutes, he called for a colleague who spoke a little English, at least enough to know what I needed.  The next day I had a need to call again and, sure enough, I got the same guy who spoke only Spanish. 
However, this time, as soon as he realized who was on the phone, I could hear him say something roughly translated as "Hey Jose, it's the GRINGO!".  Now I've never been called a gringo before but I guess 'if the shoe fits.....'   ;-)

That's it for this week.  I don't expect there will be anything very exciting happening during our stay in Caracas.  I am not normally in a hurry to leave a site that is outside of the USA.  I like to take in as much culture and sightseeing as possible in the four weeks we normally stay in a country.  However, this team is unanimous about trying to finish up a week early and head home.  If everything goes well, we'll be out of here by August 28.

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