Jan. 20, 2005 7:38 a.m.
An airport is the first impression a country makes on you. The Caracas airport is dimly lit. There is no sign to point you towards immigration in any language. I went to the right, then back again. The baggage conveyor belt was not strong enough to move the bags. A man stood over it to regulate the flow, gently sliding down cardboard boxes containing new appliances.
There is a fixed rate of exchange and a black market rate, higher by about 15 percent. Fixed rates of exchange are never a good sign. There was a crowd of cab drivers and money changers that surrounded you when you came out of immigration. I shook them off and got in what looked like an official cab. A 40-minute ride cost me $30. Along the road there were shacks built on mountainsides, like houses of cards. They were stacked on top of each other.
The five-star hotel had no internet and no hot water.
I went to my producer Shef's room. He ordered chicken sandwiches. Always a smart move. They had melted cheese on them and a small tub of mayonnaise to dip the corner of the sandwich in.
I noticed on Shef's desk two tupperware containers. They appeared to be filled with homemade cookies. Shef opened one of them. The container had four snap handles that he snapped open two at a time. This was an orderly world.
"Your wife made you chocolate chip cookies," I said. "You're a lucky man."
"Look at this," Shef said. He held up another tupperware container. It had a woman's handwriting on it, in thin black marker. It was a first aid kit with his name on it.
"Wait until after your meal," Shef said.
I stepped in and grabbed two cookies. They were thick with a lot of chips.
Dear Mr. Harrigan,
If you find yourself out by Puerto La Cruz - eastern coastal town, please feel free to come by for supper!
My husband and I have been here since November and boy do I miss FOX News! CNN International is a JOKE! Thank God for the internet and the FOX Web site.
— Jody (Puerto La Cruz, Edo. Anzoategui)
I am really enjoying reading your "blogs." You do a fantastic job reporting in all areas of the world, and present a very unbiased view of things.
— Gail (Overland Park, KS)
As an "old school" Tae Kwon Do instructor, I was amused by your descriptions of the Martial Arts Schools you were obviously ruling out for your niece. I admire your insight. I also enjoyed the occasional remarks about how the Martial Arts contributed to your own discipline and fortitude.
Steve Harrigan currently serves as a Miami-based correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC). He joined the network in 2001 as a Moscow-based correspondent.