May 17, 1999

Dear Mariann, Mom and Dad,

Hi! I miss you so much! I think Venezuela is a great place to live. I live in Caracas, the capital. Though there are 11 more cities in Venezuela, I think Caracas is the best place to live.

The climate here is 65 F in January and 69 F in July. You should bring pants and light long sleeved shirts. You should also bring sweaters, T-shirts, and turtle necks. The precipitation annually is 840 mm (23 inches).

Venezuela is located in northern South America. It borders the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, between Columbia and Guyana. You should learn how to speak Spanish because it is the official language. The highest point here is Pico Bolivar, which is 16,427 ft.

The religion is 96% for Roman Catholic and 2% for Protestant. When I walked around I heard the Venezuelans sing the national anthem, Gloria al Bravo Pueblo (Glory To The Brave People).The Venezuelans have a folk legend which is the llanero, the South American cowboy. I also saw many people dancing the bropo, which uses instruments such as the maraco (a small harp), and the cuarto (a small guitar).

I visited the rural parts of Venezuela yesterday and was wondering if you want to live here. I will describe it for you so you can choose where you want to live in Venezuela. Most of the people here farm coffee, sugar cane, and cacao. The rural people also cling to there traditions. The rural parts contain many quiet villages and towns, which would be great for you dad because you love to sleep. The entertainment here (for all of you) is local festivals.

The food here is very good. Hey Dad, I know you love this food so listen up. Here they grow crops, rice, coffee, sugar cane, cacao, maize, wheat, tobacco, cotton, beans, and sisal. Also there are fruits, fish, cattle, and oysters.

There are two ways of eating which are the continental and the United States style. The continental style is where the fork is in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. The U.S. style is where the fork is in the right hand and the knife picked up to cut something. The tips of the utensils, not used, are rested on the edge of the plate. It is not appropriate for adults to eat on streets. The parents sit at the head and foot of the table and the children and guests sit on the sides. In a restaurant a tip is expected and a service charge is usually added to the bill.

Mom, listen to this paragraph because it's going to tell you about the recreation (I know you love it). The most popular spectator sport is baseball. Bullfighting, horse racing, and soccer are enjoyed in Venezuela. Venezuelans participate in : fishing, hunting, swimming, tennis, basketball, and golf. The entertainment includes dancing, movies, or cultural events.

For the money (just so you should know), the basic unit is bolivar consisting of 100 centimos. One U.S. dollar is 455 bolivars. You might not have to bring that much money.

Don't worry you won't have to quit your jobs as doctors because there are many people with diseases in Venezuela. Two-thirds of all infants are immunized against childhood disease. The infant mortal rate is 28 out of 1,000. Life expectancy from here ranges from 71 years to 78 years. Malaria is active in some rural areas.

The best way to get here is the way I went. I went on an airplane. Going on ship would be hard and long. On the airplane it was nice and you probably can see parts of the U.S. and maybe Mexico. It depends on which route you take. That is all I have to tell you about Venezuela. I love you! Bye!

Kristina M.