July 3, Hotel Potomac
This is our first report from Venezuela. We are set up in an unpretentious hotel called Hotel Potomac, accent on the first syllable. Looking out at the afternoon sunshine from our hotel rooms we can see why Caracas is called beautiful. The city is situated in a high valley and all day long fluffy clouds roll along and over the tops of the nearby mountains. Many of the old buildings in Caracas are low and rambling, with the famous red tile roofs reflecting the sun and green tropical trees peeking out here and there. But what is most impressive is the number of new modern structures, not only in the downtown area but also private homes and apartment buildings. The weather today has been typical of Caracas: cool in the morning, warm during the middle part of the day when the sun is high, and cooling off again as the evening approaches. The office hours, they tell us, are designed to take advantage of the best part of the day: the Embassy day starts at 8, then an hour-and a-half siesta; then work again til 5:30. It looks like we are going to like Caracas very much, in short.
July 5, Hotel Potomac
Yesterday was the Ambassador’s reception to celebrate the 4th. Bob [brand new Press Attaché] had a good chance to meet many of the local Venezuelan press and radio people, as well as Embassy people, including a nice young fellow named Al Hansen who is a trainee for this type of work [Al became a life-long friend and did Dad’s USIA exit interview thirty-two years later.] Today is the Venezuelan Independence Day. We saw a parade to end them all yesterday. About eight o’clock in the morning, groups of school children started gathering outside our window carrying flags, growing bigger and bigger until they started off down the street about ten. And on it went. On and on, I might add. At three the bands finally stopped — for an hour — and suddenly they started up again, coming from the other direction. There were 40,000 school children, we heard. This all of course kept traffic tied up for hours, but that seems of no importance here! We have heard that when there has been an accident, all traffic stops where it is until measurements have been taken and details noted. Hundreds of cars end up waiting. North Americans’ great concern with time must get an overhauling.
July 12, Hotel Astor [at $40/day for room and meals, well over the $17.50/day government allowance, the Potomac was a budget killer]
I wish you could hear the street noises here, from the plain old noisy buses that backfire to the most terrific street peddlers’ calls. One has a big megaphone that he sings into selling treats like Dairy Queen. Another has a combination of flute and mouthorgan: he sharpens scissors. The ice cream man has a huge music box on top of his big truck. And the noisiest of all are the men peddling the national lottery tickets: they just bellow.
Bob has started at the office at last after spending all last week looking for living quarters. He says the people he works with are tops and that is so important. His first job now is to make the rounds of television, radio and newspapers; I think there are eight papers in town. Imagine, Minneapolis only has two and owned by the same outfit. Bob’s Spanish is doing well by him. Of course, there is so much to learn and we have to get used to the accent: the final “s” is dropped, so it’s “mucha gracia” instead of “muchas gracias.” I must get busy with my language. I feel like an idiot when I can’t think of words. [And when you try, sometimes it’s funny, at least in re-telling the story over the years: looking for 7Up to settle a stomach, she asked for “siete arriba” only to learn that Caraqueños called it “Seve Oop.”]