Oil in the Water, Oil in the Empanadas

After taking a day to rest, I (Kyle) am back in the NEXT offices! What a trip!!! Let me quickly list some things that happened:

1. CRAZY flight stuff - smoothest landings and takeoffs I've experiences in years, but the logistical side was a total nightmare! We were already on the plane at DFW ready to take off for Miami when our pilot came over the PA and said that they were getting "something that could be potentially hazardous" checked... a puddle forming underneath the left engine. Although I knew there could only really be three things it could be (oil, fuel, or water), he said it as nonchalantly as though our plane had begun leaking chocolate milk (which would still have been bad!). 30 minutes later, we were back inside the terminal, staring at a screen telling us that our flight had been postponed until 1:30pm; busted fuel pump. This meant that we would arrive in Miami already too late to make our flight to Maracaibo. Therefore, we took the chance of going to Caracas (the capital) and making a flight to Maracaibo the next morning.

2. American-started riots - well, not actual riots, but near enough. There was drama at the ticket booth in Caracas and the luggage counter in Maracaibo. Some people were mad that we had arrived an hour and a half earlier than them at Caracas International and had been put on standby quicker than they had. There is no real logic in what they were yelling about. No one came to physical blows, but many verbal ones were dished out, of which I had no clue, because Spanish isn't one of the languages I speak. Also, Maracaibo's American Airline's service desk kept claiming they didn't have our luggage until our partner, Ernesto, had American on the phone and they suddenly appeared with a black suitcase and big yellow and black North Face duffel.

3. More oil-production than I've ever seen (including West Texas) - as we stared across one of the world's largest lakes (Lake Maracaibo... more than 100 miles across at some points) I understood how the claim that there was nothing alive in the lake could be true... just within my line of sight, I was told there were some 7,000 drilling and pumping platforms, and it certainly looked to be true. The exact same sight that you would see staring across the flat West Texas landscape on a typical night was amplified greatly in the myriad lights on the waters of Lake Maracaibo, as 10 million barrels of oil were pumped that one day.

4. Oil in the water? - That's right, there is so much oil in the water of Lake Maracaibo that nothing lives in it. There was oil flowing out of the river banks in the towns around the lake. There was oil floating on the water in numerous puddles (Venezuelan "lakes") in the towns. There was even a nice sheen of oil as I looked at the water in the toilet. Showers here made it seem as though you were worse-off than when you got in.

5. Oil in the empanadas - Oil, seemingly mineral oil, in the breakfast empanadas; Clint and I are still recovering

6. Numerous people taught / preached to some 50 people - the cool thing is that I felt I was supposed to speak on the courage that we have in Christ and the pastor came up afterward and told me that it was as though someone called me and told me what their congregation was going through, as they had just tragically lost a girl in their congregation and I spoke directly on courage to face death and hardships

Anyway, I'll stop there. Thank you all for your support and prayers while Clint and I were hanging out down south. To go ahead and answer the question: No, I did not fulfill my goal of playing ultimate frisbee with Hugo Chavez, but I did bring back one of his political party's shirts that I got from one of his supporters, HA!

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