Saturday, August 18, 2007

Lessons from Venezuela

I just returned from a weeklong trip to Venezuela for business (although I have a hard time distinguishing personal from business, while on business, as those I do business with become my friends, thus I truly enjoy spending time with them...making it personal). Prior to making this particular trip, there was much angst in the house and at work. I've traveled to a lot of places mostly due to two careers (one with the Navy and the other with a global corporation) - Mexico, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Morocco, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala...I'm sure there's more...but this was my first trip to Venezuela, one that I should have made several years ago, and should have been made multiple times, but due to the angst, the trip kept getting put off.

Why the angst? Well, frankly their President (Hugo Chavez) hates our President...and frankly our country and way of life. He's a proponent of socialism and uses every opportunity to pumel the negative impact that Capitalism has had on his nation...and as poor as things are, it plays well to the poor. And, where there's major poverty, there's crime...mostly aimed at those who are not impoverished.

So, the family is nervous, I'm a bit nervous, the folks at the office tease a bit - but this is their way of showing nervousness...

But I cowboy up and go...

Boy was I surprised.

So here are my brief take-aways...

1. There are nice people EVERYWHERE. And, to take it a step further, most of the people are nice. They smile when you say hello. They want to help you. And, they are glad you are there.
2. We have dangerous places in the US - Liberty City, Miami...Harlem, NYC...Compton, get my point...but really here's my point...I would rather walk the streets of Caracas or Maracaibo alone than any of those three places alone.
3. If I ever watch US National news again, it will be with gritted teeth and against my will. The sensational way the we deliver the news, and dwell on fear, is a major cause for our angst.
4. The last two places I've traveled internationally (France and Venezuela) have drastically reduced moral standards than the US. What you can watch on public (free) TV, what you see people wear (or lack there of), the amount and duration with which they party...makes the US seem downright puritan.
5. Gas is $0.40 (that's 40 cents) a gallon in!
6. The US dollar is very strong much so that there is a black market for dollars...meaning you can get twice as much of their money (Bollivars) on the street per dollar than if you exchange it at the hotel or bank or pay by credit card...that takes some getting used to...but my $400 hotel bill at the end of the week was $400 if I payed with American Express, but was $200 if I exchanged some cash on the street and paid in Bollivars...not sure how to flush that out morally, but I took a "when in Rome..." attitude.
7. Lots of fat guys (men) with really hot appears fat and out of shape is a status symbol for success...intially repulsed by this, then the lazy in me said hmmm, then thought about it from a Christ perspective relative to the poverty...made me think.
8. The people I hung with down their for work have a certain machismo about the percieved danger as it is percieved by the international community...for example, my main contact for the week drives a Jeep Grand Cherokee that has bullet proof glass and reinforced side panels and blow out proof tires...he said he paid $70K US for it...and is somewhat proud of the crime and how he deals with it...seemed odd to me.
9. Wealthy people everywhere, do just fine. And frankly we were wealthy, very wealthy down there. We stayed in the nicest places, ate at the nicest restaurants (in fact one night a famous local TV star came in our restaurant and sat down a few tables over).

I'm sure there is more to share, but these are the big points.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

I love my church.

We've been studying Matthew in the AM and Romans in the PM since we got there.

Our Sunday School Class (the one we party with, since we teach 3rd graders) is a bunch of cool adults who are being taught Grace...and..."where the Bible speaks boldly and with authaurity, speak boldly and with authority, otherwise, everyone may be on a different page than you."...with specific references to Halloween, Santa, Music, etc.

Our worship rocks.

Our youth are growing in Christ.

We have a servants heart and I see true Joy.

My church Rocks. More to come.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Dirty Mac

I think I'm fairly normal...I channel surf on occasion...especially while traveling alone and there's no one to keep me in check.

I'm also a sucker for the PBS fundraisers...I recall in the recent past stopping to see James Taylor live, on a bar stool, knocking out a the remote sat idle for 17 minutes, until the guy comes on asking for $90 so they can send you the DVD of JT live at the acropolys. I've also stopped on the Moody Blues (much older than I expected), Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young...etc.

So the other night, I'm in the hotel room, surfing the channels (it's much easier out of town, as you don't know exactly where to find "the Office"), and I see a close up of a big nose...the camera pans out, and that coupled with the 3 seconds of name that tune in my brain...I think "that looks like a very young Pete Townsend"...within seconds I see Roger Daltry, about 23 years old, lots of hair and I think "COOL", the WHO.

Well, they were almost done with their song, so I'm anticipating some more Who, but then Jethro Tull takes the stage...and they're all like 21...except Ian Anderson is an old looking 21 if you know what I I'm hooked.

Then the fund raiser guy cuts in, but I gotta stay and figure out what the heck this is. Turns out it's a rare video of a Rolling Stones production called "Rolling Stones Rock & Roll Circus". So I wait though about 14 minutes of begging for money to see what's next, because the guy says that "Dirty Mac" is coming up...and I'm a pretty big classic rock guy, who's never heard of Dirty Mac.

Well, frankly, it was worth the wait...Dirty Mac has John Lennon as the front man and lead singer, Eric Clapton on guitar, Keith Richards on guitar, and the drummer from the Hendrics experience. They play blues. And it rocks.

This whole video was made in 1968 and you can check it all out on you tube.

Side note: you tube rocks, by the way...saved me $90...I think the good folks at PBS may need to come up with a new fund raiser tactic, 'cause every song I saw the other night, I've now seen two or three more times.

Anyway, Tull was huge, the Stones rocked, The Who was on fire...and Dirty Mac was very, very cool.

Hooray PBS.