A Dream Fulfilled

At last I was given my passage to Maracaibo by Shell in 1952. England was recovering from the war. Food was still rationed and as I passed through London there were great holes all over the place waiting to be filled in and reconstructed, to repair the damage done during the war. The general atmosphere was bleak. We were just getting out of winter and much as I loved London I was very pleased to leave it behind. First, I crossed from England to Holland by ship. I spent the night in Amsterdam and embarked on a Dutch liner the next day. I breathed a sigh of relief. The ship was very comfortable and the food was superb. It was the height of luxury. I felt I was leaving behind everything I was tired of. I enjoyed that trip more than any of the others I was to experience in the future. Every day was warmer than the last. I spent many a happy hour reclining in my chair on the deck, watching what was going on around me. It was wonderful to be waited on without having to raise a finger. The sea and the sky were constantly changing. We saw flying fish who sometimes landed on the deck and were thrown back into the sea. At that time, very few people went on cruises. Most of us were removing to new jobs abroad. I met more than one young woman who was also going out to join her husband. The further I moved away from England the happier I became. We stopped for a few hours at the island of Madeira which was full of beautiful flowers and buildings. Finally we disembarked on the island of Curacao and Bob was waiting for me. We spent a few blissful days together. We were lost in the joy of being reunited. I remember very little of it now. We went for walks on the beaches after dark and were fascinated by the softly crackling sounds of hosts of hermit crabs. We arrived first at Caracas and then to Maracaibo by plane. We were driven from the small airport to a rather gloomy two-storied house in the old part of the town. Ours was the ground floor, with large, heavy doors at the back fastened by locks. An American who worked for Shell lived on his own upstairs. Outside the house was a long American car. “That is ours” said Bob. You can now drive wherever you want to go. I gazed at him with horror. “Oh dear. I have only just got my licence!” I had only the basic number of lessons in England. “You’ll be alright. You must take your chance.” said Bob. I had already noticed the number of cars whizzing past and it worried me. However I got used to it, although I had two or three small collisions in the first few weeks. Opposite our house was a very ramshackle building that looked as though it had been thrown together with sheets of metal. The door was open and I saw a massive refrigerator within. Outside was a big car. All the people who lived around us were Venezuelans. Many had big cars so that they could make some money by taking foreigners to such places as the open market where we could buy fresh vegetables meat and fruits, many of which I had never seen before. We soon found out why the locks on our massive back-door were necessary because a lot of thieving went on, especially late at night. I found this un-nerving. Most of we foreigners lived in ground-floor houses, painted white, in compounds built by Shell for their foreign enployees. Each house had a small room with its own bathroom at the back. They were for the housemaid. Most of us employed one because it was too hot to do anything very energetic. I had never enjoyed doing housework so I was delighted with this arrangement. I had a huge advantage because of my Spanish skill. Most of the wives never tried to learn the language and gave orders to the maid in a peculiar English with a few Spanish words thrown in. There were some women who only did ironing. Poor things! They could always find work because the office men had to wear white shirts that often had to be changed two or three times every day. You always knew where they were because they kept up a litany of “Ay! Que calor!” that is “Isn’t it hot!” Even when we lived in the compound ourselves there were still break-ins occasionally. Most people were very poor. It was the younger men who would try to grab something they could sell. If they were caught in the act they would give you a wide grin, wave in a pleasant way and saunter off. At that time we felt much safer than we are today There were no drug transactions then.