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Chapter XXIX - Venezuela

Helen, living in Venezuela, was not able to come to her father's funeral because she was expecting her second child. She was very unhappy about being away from all of us at a time when a family is unified under a common sorrow, and she longed to have me with her to share our loss.

Her birthday was in September and her baby was due in October. She wondered if I could come to celebrate both occasions. However, her child arrived prematurely by one month and I made plans to visit my two grandchildren and their parents. I contacted a travel agency to arrange a booking. I had intended to go by boat but I found out the price was much higher by water than by air so I decided to fly. I had never been in a plane but that did not deter me from taking the trip. I was looking forward to the trip and the plane would take me there in only a few hours. Irma and her husband came with me to the airport first stopping to pick up Marie in Brooklyn, New York. She was sharing an apartment with a friend.

At Idlewild Airport we found we had plenty of time since the plane was late in arriving. Danny suggested we have a cup of coffee. Irma insisted that we have a drink, a sandwich and coffee. By the time we finished eating it was time to board the plane. My luggage had already been checked and I had a seat assigned. We kissed good-by and I boarded the plane. When the plane's engine hummed and started to rise I still could see them waving to me.

As the plane roared I made the sign of the cross and prayed to the Lord. I said, "I am not afraid. I am in your hands. Take care of me."

It was after one o'clock when the plane left the airport. It was dark outside and nothing could be seen. I decided to try and get some sleep. The drink I had taken contributed to my drowsiness. When I awoke I saw lightning in the sky. I thought of a storm and tensed myself but we passed the storm without discomfort.

Next came the most beautiful sight I had ever seen at any time. Miami, at night, bathed in the splendor of the color of millions of lights, was a scene I shall never forget. The stewardess announced we had reached Miami, and the plane slowed and came to a stop. The passengers began to descend in the early dawn of morning. There was a long wait before the plane would leave for Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Prior to the trip there were many details to be taken care of. I had to have a visa from the Venezuela Consulate in New York, a vaccination certificate signed by a doctor and a picture taken for the passport and the visa. All this I had to attend to before September 15. I spent a whole afternoon at the consulate to obtain the visa. I wondered why it was taking so long and I was getting worried about leaving New York for Seaside Park, since the 6:00 p.m. bus would be the last one out.

Finally, about 5:00 p.m. I was interviewed and granted the visa. I had twenty minutes to get to the terminal to board the bus. I decided to hire a taxi for the short ride from Fiftieth Street to Forty-Second Street and Eighth Avenue. I could not afford to miss the one bus because the morning hours are very important in the grocery business. The traffic was heavy and the streets of New York looked like a solid bed of cars. I decided to get out of the taxi and walk the balance of the way. In fact I ran the rest of the way and I reached the terminal as the conductor was closing the bus door ready to leave. Fortunately there was a vacant seat. I was exhausted from the last minute rush but at least I had achieved what I had come for.

I dozed on the bus, relaxed by the thought that now I only had to wait for the departure. The two weeks before I left were very busy as I proceeded with the chore of closing the business for the winter months.

But here I was now in the airport in Miami! I sent a telegram to my daughter Irma. She had insisted that I should do so in order to assure her that I was all right. Then I walked outside to see a little of the city. I could see that it had rained explaining the lightning I had seen on the plane. There wasn't much to see so I went inside and bought a meager breakfast.

At 9:00 a.m. the plane taking the people to Venezuela ascended into the sky. The plane had just stabilized when it hit an air pocket. The stewardess was just handing me my breakfast when the coffee cup banged on the tray and spilled into the eggs. I never would have eaten at the airport if I had realized we would be served on the plane.

Before I even knew what was happening, the plane had passed the air pocket and I felt as if I were sitting in my living room. I wanted to observe all that I could during my first trip on a plane. However, the plane was flying over water and there wasn't much to see. From the altitude of the plane the Atlantic Ocean looked like an immense hole and I even imagined I could see the bottom. Most of all, the sky attracted my attention. The blue of the clear sky reflecting in the water gave the water a clear color of blue. The clouds were so interesting! At times they looked like fragile lace and then at times they would appear as solid as white cotton. Then they would change to a steel color and solidify, maybe because they contained rain.

All considered the trip was very instructive and interesting. The first plane stop was at Montego Bay where the passengers were allowed to descend from the plane. The airport was very primitive with a store selling liquor and ladies' bags. I felt that it was very hot.

Our next stop was in Colombia to refuel the plane. We had enough time to stretch our legs.

At 3:00 p.m. I arrived at the airport in Maracaibo where my son-in-law John was waiting for the plane to arrive. After leaving the plane I had to walk over a path of burlap saturated with some liquid to disinfect my shoes.

Then I had to go through customs so they could check for possible violations. Helen had asked me to buy clothes and shoes for the children. The clothes had to be washed and not ironed so they would look used. The shoes had to be scuffed looking.

The bundle containing the clothes and shoes was emptied on a table and examined. The inspector looked at me and said sarcastically, "You have a lot of shoes and clothing."

I said, "Yes, I have many grandchildren." He pushed everything back into the bag and dismissed me.

My son-in-law took hold of the bundle and carried it to the car parked nearby. John had to stop at a Sears Roebuck Department store to buy some hardware and a toy for his daughter Linda. We had some refreshments and left for home.

To get to his home we had to cross Lake Maracaibo on a ferry. I had never seen an oil well before and there were many wells dotting the lake. They had a perpetual motion of up and down, up and down like a seesaw.

John pointed to an island in the lake and said, "That is where a leprosy colony is."

On the other side of the lake, the ferry stopped. John waited for his car, which had also been transported on the ferry, and we resumed the trip home.

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