December 11-14, 2007
I stayed at Eduardo's place again for a few days in Bucaramanga. I finally got to see his famed gallery of native artwork lots of exact copies of ancient pottery, statues, gold jewelery, and even a red coral necklace.
Ana Maria's friend Carlos was able to give me a lot of info about Venezuela, the most important being the monetary situation there right now. It turns out that Venezuela is going to switch to a new currency in January (where 1000 bolivares=1 strong bolivar), and nobody wants the old money anymore, so dollars are in high demand there. I'll have to bring US cash, but it should make things pretty cheap there.
Ana Maria and Carlos also showed me around town some more. We went to the main market, which had lots of fruits, natural remedies, meat, pets, fruit juices, and even witchcraft for sale. As usual, seeing the meat hanging everywhere at room temperature made me want to become a vegetarian, if only it were possible (such a thing doesn't exist here). The most disgusting thing was the skinned goat hanging upside down with its head still attached to prove to customers that they weren't buying a dog.
We also went an historical town nearby called Giron. It had a much more laid back atmosphere than Bucaramanga, with several plazas and restaurants made from old mansions. Late in the afternoon, Carlos informed me that we still had time to go to either a Christmas decorations exposition, or to a cigar factory, and of course I chose the latter. We found the factory after lots of asking around, and after pleading with the workers, were allowed to watch them do their thing. The people separating the tobacco leaves, cutting the cigars, and bundling them together was straight out of 1950's Havana. We found out that since the tobacco is grown in the region, a roll of fifty normal-quality cigars only costs $1.50. When I told the employees that cigars cost $3 at home, their reaction was, "Wow, $3 per roll, that's a lot!" Uh, actually I meant $3 each, but that that would've been too much for them to handle methinks.
The photo album for this entry is here.