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Sometimes I had time to sit in the hammock on the  balcony, contemplating the beautiful view of Maracaibo, looking far way and thinking: what have I done so far in my life? Yes, many fun things: whisky, cocaine, orgies, romances and same serious work as a model traveling everywhere, but as an actress I did not have what it takes. I was a very good model. I did well and even taught younger models at several modeling schools, one of them Jocelyn Ryan. But partying was always my first choice. I was selfish, vain, arrogant. I was very elegant, young and with an interesting beauty, even though I did not think so. Every man and woman said so, and I was still living in my fantasies, high on that swing, higher and higher I went but no higher in my career or the stardom I had dreamed about long ago!  I had fun, that was all: me me me, parties and more parties!

Even after my three abortions with William, I did not know what sins I was committing. I realize today that not only was I a sinner but a criminal also. The worst part is that I would regret this later, even for the rest of my life and miss the children I might have had. But back then I only wanted to do as I pleased.As the saying goes in Russian, “Every pig  has his day.”  Well, soon enough my day of reckoning arrived, but in the meantime I was  drinking, partying promiscuously in total  libertinage, although I could not hide my pain from myself, or take it away or make it disappear. God, what have I done with my life?

The White Storm

The White Storm

So the time came that I really wanted to have children. When I was in jail I had a chance to meet a very good specialist in fertility, so I consulted him, told him I am trying to get pregnant to no avail. I want children to love and take care of and protect. I tried with Jack and then Jose and now with Tad, but nada nada….So taking advantage of the jail I consulted this famous doctor, I went through all kinds of exams and tests,  they put a microscope inside of me with a long tube with a camera at the end. They inserted it in my uterus and made other tests, very unpleasant and painful too! As a rule they did not gave prisoners anesthetic or pain killers, so cruel!  But I had to see why I was not getting pregnant; eventually this  specialist in Maracaibo came to the conclusion that my tubes were closed, calcified, obstructed by a growth in them as a result of bad abortions. The sperm could not  pass inside, and that meant that I would never have children, never would I hear  the word “mama”  At home I still had the magazines and books I bought when I first learned I was pregnant. I remember I was so happy about it! How did William ever persuade me to do this horrible thing? All the cocaine and alcohol I guess! I was so happy reading about my pregnancy,  preparing, until my beloved convinced me to wait until Patrick was born, jajaja!

This advertising  was even in Maracaibo, on a billboards in the streets

This advertising was even in Maracaibo, on a billboards in the streets

As it is my life today : I think that is O.K..not to have children because I was not capable at 16 and half to raise any children properly with no education or career and money or husband to help me!  I was just a lost soul, as fragile as the wind going in all directions at once.

Still today, once in awhile I get very sad and tears roll down my cheeks, thinking what would they look like and how would they be?, then I say the prayer, God gave me the serenity to accept the things…”. in that time I did not know any better prayer except the Our Father.”

The life in Maracaibo was uninteresting to me, I just wanted out. So off I went to the airport and after updating my ticket with no problem I got on the plane to Maiquetia, the Caracas airport. My cat was in my bag quietly sleeping and the flight was no longer than it took me too have a couple of martinis with Beefeaters. That gin in of course, one of William’s  exclusive concessions for his liquor business. I was still thinking about William, so how sick was I? What power that man had over my life! Even now if he whistled, I would  run to him.During that flight I remembered a story when he flying to Maracaibo, the plane was hijacked and ransom was paid!  It was all over the news papers.  

Dye my hair black so I woud blend whit the local woman

Dye my hair black so I woud blend whit the local woman

Landing in few minutes,: there was the  coast of the Caribbean, we are landing in Maiquetia!

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“YES, I AM OUT!”

Kitty and I were now leaving in a Penthouse, and life was getting more to my liking! After I drank  a whole bottle of very good wine and smoked a cigarette that was in the cabinet, now I was  relaxed and “feeling no pain. Now, I realize how totally unconscious I was about another people property, I was so arrogant and proud (of what?)

I proceeded to take a nice hot shower (the apartment had air conditioning) and then feed my kitty, put my Indian dress and some make up on, and I was ready to go out to explore and see what adventure or mischief I could get into next! Well, saved by the bell– the doorbell rang, and guess who, Pedro and the other policeman  that we yousto played cards when in jail. Well, come on in!

One of my last jobs, not even in my nightmares did I think I be soon in jail

One of my last jobs, not even in my nightmares did I think I be soon in jail

“Ola Pedro, pasa pasa. After the usual bullshit, I said to them (without inviting them to sit down), sorry I was just going to eat something and look around the city with a friend. Why don’t you guys come tomorrow evening and we’ll play some cards. O.k, okay,. hasta pronto, goodbye!.

How in the hell did they know where I was, unless they followed me? They must have been shocked that I had such heavy connections, but these were important society people, great friends of mine. Of course there was the incident at the border from Colombia to Venezuela and then the marijuana, (which was over I hoped), but I could continue with my life now, right?

Maybe I should have married Daud after my divorce? And maybe would not been in Jail?

Maybe I should have married Daud after my divorce? And maybe would not been in Jail?

Life was okay for a while, I was gambling drinking going to places, but most of all I enjoyed being in a nice place and relaxing. I think I finished off all the good wines , because my friend Javier when came back he was not happy! He did not scold me, but I could tell he was angry, so I moved out, seeing  that his girl friend was coming to stay with him, I got the hint! So there I go again, looking for a place to stay until I could get a permit of some kind to leave this infernal heat!

.

Now I was staying in a hostel where the bed was a hammock. Because of the unbearable heat you just can not sleep on a bad  without air conditioner, or you would wake up as I did many times wet  all over  with perspiration!

So from morning until the sun was high in the sky I went site seeing, I just walked back to the hostel shower and ate and lay on the hammock in the patio with other people living there like me. We entertained ourselves with small sweets notinsings talk, then on the afternoon taking a siesta with a drink in our hands, of course rum and coke with some ice–a strong one for me, and maybe watch some tv for an hour or two- then go back to sleep!

Maracaibo, 1960.

Maracaibo, 1960.

Maracaibo is a very rich, busy city because of the large reservoir of crude oil in the Lago de Maracaibo and being so near to Colombian border, he merchandise both legal and illegal, There was a market of Indian art and goods, so it was a  picturesque and fun city, and at night by  the lake their were lots and lots of bars, cabarets dancing ballrooms “a la latina.” So sometimes I would go there, to feel that  tropical breeze and smell of the sea air, in the gentle breeze with  the palms trees  swinging and the drinks coming, and that languid, romantic music of  Boleros and Tangos y Pasodobles and Rumba and Mambo so popular at that exotic time and why not to say sexy embrace of a hot man,  without any commitment, no cuchi cuchi involved..

So I managed to have what I call a good time.

Lots of very famous Mexicans were there at one time or another– Pedro Infante and other Mexican singers were in town in one time, and then others famous  performers Andy Williams , Mario moreno, etc,  but I did not want them to see mi in the situation I was in. To meet then I would have too been staying in the best hotel with the best clothes.

How strange it seems to me now that I needed that facade then, so people would like me or love me, only now I really it is O.K. to  be myself and show the real me…

 

As I am writing this blog,  a few weeks ago my mini Chihuahua Linda died and then two days ago my beloved companion and loyal friend Herbie,  a gorgeous beige champagne and white Chihuahua,  died of a heart attack.

I really don’t feel like writing now, but this is life on life’s terms and I am no longer a child that wants only to play charades and pretend to be happy. I want to do the responsible thing and be who I am,  and that takes work, faith, and courage, there is plenty of time for fun, this time is for mourning cleansing the soul. It so happens that this is strict Lent in my Orthodox church, and a time for crying.

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Well,  very early next morning there I was in the office of the secretary, making phone calls.

First I needed money, but I cannot call my friend the General in Miami after what I did there, so I will call the friend of my ex- husband, no… not Frank Hunter either, he was not very happy with the border situation, from Colombia to Venezuela. Well, I have only one possible choice,  it must be this one,  I have no other choice, I will call Howard! He is a true friend of my brother and me, since a long time ago.  ( I don’t remember exactly what I told him, I think I said I was robbed in the street, lost my wallet and purse, luckily I left my passport  in my hotel room.)

I hoped he would not ask the name of the Hotel, but knowing his discretion he did not, ( what a lie, the police have them, along  with all my credit cards and money). I just needed to borrow a couple of thousand Bolívares to get too my brothers Island.

Me In same place in Maracaibo awaiting my papers

Me In same place in Maracaibo awaiting my papers

(As I see it now I began to lose friends slowly but surely, because people were tired of this beautiful young lady being a drunk, constantly needing to be saved from one situation or he another.)

But how could I  tell him where I am it this moment,? But I did not need too,  I need say no more,

so I humbly ask for a loan.

 He ask, when? I replied  As soon as possibly! Can you get to my cousins office?  Well our Boulton office is also in Maracaibo and my cousin  Luis Javier will have a envelope for you.  Luckily, he did not go on asking me too many questions, and just said,  “see you when you are in Caracas. chauo, Chauo!”

My mama used to say good news travel far but the bad once travel even further!.

This is Monday,  well, how am I going too go too his offices on Wednesday? I am in jail…

……. Monday came and went.  Tuesday I awoke to a noise of lots of people, more accidents and officers everywhere, and as I got up from my hammock I noticed an envelope with no names and inside was my ticket to Caracas and my passport  and may small cash,Thank you my dear God.

This deserves same vodka or rum, I’ll see if I can send someone across the street to get me some with my gambling winnings and this cash to reciprocate there’s generosity, invite my police gambling friends..

But tomorrow I need to be in the offices at the embarcadero, the port offices of the Boultons is on Blvd. Marina,  down by the piers. How am I go to manage this one.? That evening I did not even look for a game of cards just put the bottle of Rum on their table,  and  I went too may hamaca with my Kitty lying thinking how  can I get out from here? when Pepita knocked gently, came on, she  said, “You can leave tomorrow morning early before everyone arrives at the offices, is that  O.K. with you?” , I mumbled something.  I think I was in shock or in fear?  What’s now?

I did have fun in that penthouse

I did have fun in that penthouse

About 5am I pick up my bundle of small possessions and my kitty, the door was unlocked and the guards were snoring endlessly. Silently I squeezed thru the doors, made the sign of a cross and very slowly start walking out of jail! I was out of this hell, but I needed money, so see about my ticket and get back to Canaima directly. I didn’t even want to think about stopping in Caracas the way I looked, so I thought, I will go as soon as possible to Anatoly Island and stay their for a while!.

That free air and the indian woman walking everywhere with the same dresses I bought for myself, only theirs were in different parents and colors, past the market place, had a cup of coffee very good that Andes coffee! everything look so new and different and bright, different aromas I smell and colors and he bluest sky I eversen , of course was hot most being on the late 90 already and is only early morning, don’t know but it did not disturb my happiness or erase the smile on my face,.

Now breathing the air from the sea, I knew I was going in  the right direction for the Boulton building.

After about an hour, I was by the piers full of cargo ships and oil pumps in the distance, in and out of the waters, that is what I smelled long ago– a mix with the salt and fresh air, it was not bad!.Actually I love at!.

There it was– the Boulton Building and by now it was about 8am almost, I still had my gold watch that Bernard gave me. I waited until the  doors  opened at 9 am. exactly, very English,  I walked into this nice building. Well, nothing to write home about, but they had a very pretty receptionist who said,  Welcome, can I help you? ( I did not expect less from the Boultons!) Beauty was a very important part of their lives and in the whole of the Venezuelan high society, some real aristocrats like the Boultons were descendants of the U.K.Lord Ships, So  I asked  for the office of Senor Luis Javier?  I  did not even  finish saying my name when she showed me into  his office, and closed the doors behind me. Sr. Luis Javier was  in the phone, showing me with his hand to come in and sit down.

He was slowly walking towards me while finishing the conversation, with his hand stretched out in salutation. We said hello and talked some little nothings, as I looked around this gigantic office, all mahogany walls, original paintings of pirates and Ocean views, fantastic wood  floors, giant beams on the ceiling, probably from some old ship. It  looked  everything was so rich and big, It reminded me of  one of the offices of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez very rich, only the Generals was knew money and this is old money, could help but  admire this incredible office,

just like in that office, the desk looked small in comparison to the gigantic room.  He offered me a cup of  tea or coffee, so I politely  accepted, and then he asked “Where are you staying?” I could not tell your, at the moment I am looking for a place for couple of days, ( I could tell he liked me, he had the  family taste,)   I said for the moment I left my place of residence and am looking for a lovely hotel; can you recommend one not very gregories!  (I forget to mention that my dear jailer said be sure to wait for my papers before leaving the city, so I still cannot go anywhere out of Maracaibo). It was like I was on parole until then.

Here is a envelope that my uncle Howard sent you, by our  courier, which I almost forgot (little did he  know I would not forget.)  “Thank you very much for that good coffee , Venezuelan ?  Yes, you know Luis I prefer the Venezuelan coffee from Colombian, which is very good, but in my opinion  “Caffe Imperial” was the one we bought,  when we lived here, we love it.

Then it was goodbye, adios gracias, I got up to leave, when he said  would you consider this?, you see I have to leave for Caracas in the morning and in my apartment I have everything anyone would need, with two bedrooms. You can stay there for few days until you are ready to leave.

“Oh no I couldn’t!”  “But please, my uncle would want you to stay–  please!” “Well, I accept but only until I find something suitable for me;

I be leaving Maracaibo shortly myself, I hope!”

So  I accepted his offer, he gave me the keys and the address and send me with one of his workers down to his place.

Things were looking better! of course, probably he thinks I am a girlfriend of his uncle, so he better be nice to me, this will probably  stop him from making a pass at me..

“We are here Senorita!” I have my things, just a bag of nothings and my kitty which strangely nobody said anything about, purring away happily. There we were on the third floor which is the last floor of the building the Penthouse! As soon as I closed the door, before even taking a shower or taking care of kitty, I looked for alcohol. Well well, he is very well stocked! There was all kinds of wines,whiskies, brandies, rum and other liquor! Whoopee! CHEERS.

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All was quiet again in the evening, everyone went to their homes. I did not see Senor Rodriguez or Senorita Pepita that day,  just the two cops, policemen sitting at the table and talking and drinking something.  I noticed they had a deck of cards and I thought: this is getting exciting, maybe I can win some money so I can get that  Wayuu dress I want. I have very few Bolívares, so I have to be very good, or they have to be very bad!

Ludmila before the arrest

Ludmila before the arrest

Ola Officer Pedro! He responded, Señora? Is Pepe okay? Sientese. Thank you,  I will.  Then came Carlos,   now there three card players with Juan there. I said, “So now we are four is good for playing poker no? “

Pepe agreed, “Si señora, you take the dice and tirelos to see who deals!”  Bueno, I picked up the dice and rolled them fast and I had the biggest number, double six, so I dealt the cards. Juan pulled a bottle of rum out of the bag he had with him (a mochila) and passed it around discretely, while Pepe made sure to give me a glass too.

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An empty sardine can was our ashtray, and we smoked and played for hours  I was tired and nervous that  if I won too much they would get pissed off at me , so I said I was tired and needed to go to bed. I had made some extra Bolívares that I did no have before! Well, we sure did finish the bottle that night; and to my surprise they were very much the gentlemen and did not say nothing outrageous or crude, simply saying goodnight. Pepe only said, “Señora be prepared- that  there may be  lot of noise tonight, this is Saturday and there will be a lot of rum and aguardiente (these is the local cheap alcoholic beverage)  and ” muchos accidentes. ” I could only imagine what he meant, but I said, “I understand, okay?  Buenas noches,  gracias” and I went off the bed with my winnings.

Anatoly awaiting Ludmila in Canaima

Anatoly awaiting Ludmila in Canaima

But as soon I was sound asleep on my comfy  but dirty hammock, (have to wash it tomorrow),  the noise started up: drunk people with bandages still in:

after they were attended to by the medics; I don’t know what they were doing there, but they were making  lots of racket.

When it cooled off a little and everyone was back where  they were supposed  to be, Pepe knocked on my door and said,  “I have a surprise for you!” He handed me this little black bundle of fur– My kitten! “He was  right by the main street door, you want him?”   Si , si!   Back on my hammock I had the sweetest sleep in a long time,  with this little thing purring into my ears, it sounded just like a lullaby!!!!

And the week went in and out, and it was next Saturday. By then I hand a Wayee Indian black dress with the winnings of my gambling every night, a party accompanied always by rum or aguardiente or sometimes cheap vodka.

This is the third week in this reten (holding place jail), with some medical nurse por mainer things ,  the series once of course stay in hospitals, not here,.   After they  area will,  then they bring them here.

I still hadn’t heard or seen a familiar face and to tell the true I really did not worried  or care I hand booze,  cigarettes , gambling and thats all I care at the moment.

Saturday  before they close the milk giving and all paper worked in all this accidentes , people either went home some and others not  ,The secretary Pepita came to my room, my I came on , of course,( is your  place I  thought to myself,) They worked until 11 in Saturdays and invited me to the office of Licenciado Rodriguez, which by now was familiar to me, with me almost being a working person here for free. “Si Senor, at your service,” I said.  “Please sit down. Are they treating you good?” So. of course Senor Licenciado si!”  I called you in,  for this reason; my wife asked me  to ask you if you would like to go to the Cathedral tomorrow, where? is  Sunday  and is going to be a good service? We would be happy to take you, in our custody of course.”  “Yes yes ( thank your God) yes  if that is possible?  I would love to go with your charming wife and yourself, Senor Licenciado!”

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All the Guajira Indians wore these cover up dresses; so now I know why the Wayuu dress goes with this incredible heat and scenery!.

Waking up, on this bench, just as the people were starting to come and go, there were lots of cops and men with everyone looking busy and worried.

Now that confirmed my suspicion that this place was a sort of retencion place, half jail or halfway house  for people that have car accidents. Venezuela, like Mexico and most Latin countries, has Napoleonic law codes, which means, you are guilty until you proven innocent! Contrary to my beloved free country the USA. In Venezuela, if you have a car accident you go straight to this type of carcel!

That was why there were  so many men dressed in suit’s (lawyers) and some of this men were wounded with stitched and bandages and almost walk they just went in  the patio and lay down in pain,  mooing.

 I guess women had a different place, or may be they did not drive?

 I will never know and don’t really care!

Some how I managed to get breakfast a bread whit butter and coffee with milk, and after that I stood by the door of that big room that resembles almost a store, in there were two woman giving out containers of milk ,to each women that  walked on with a child I guess a container of 3 Kls. for each child?, with a paper on hand, mark with some code, and a date on it. So I asked, can I help and they were very happy to hear that, with a smile they said yes, came in here and just do what we do and  gave a big can of 3 kilos  of powdered milk to each señora with a paper.  yes very good, I will help, that was the easiest job I ever had and I loved it, it gave me a chance to speak a couple of words and forget about my situation.

Maybe I will call Peter Lawyford"

Maybe I will call Peter Lawyford”

But still, I had this empty space inside of me that only booze seemed to fill up, so the day went fast and easy, and when I realized I had free lunch given to me in the kitchen (a  bowl of soup made of bread and and egg), I thought it was so simply but delicious. Then it was siesta time , so I went back to my bench.  As I sit down ready to curl my body into the shape of the bench again, the cop Pedro (Pepe like everyone called him) said to me, pointing over to a corner room that had too big tall doors, “Go there,  there is a hammock es for your, your  can stay there, its the womens’ room.”  I walked over and there were of course no one there, but there was a hammock no so clean but large

.  As you will remember  I slept on one for a long time, in the Island of  Margarita, Porlamar where we lived before and with my fiance on long time ago.

As I opened the door, the first thing I see is a window and a small desk with a rattan chair and nada más. Well, I did not need anything, I had nothing with me anyway, though I would love to buy one of those dresses that the Indians wore. But I had no money, just a few bolivars, not enough for a dress. Maybe I can call someone to help! But what  would I say?  No , I can’t say I am in jail!  for what?, they would ask?.

To leie down and rest is what I need,  but I could not take myself from the window as the outdoor was so inviting and looking this window had no bars of iron on it,  would be so easy to get through and out of  this jail,  but then what? How am I going to get to the airport with no passport and no money? My ticket! Where is it? I don’t know, but they must still have it, so I should just stay, relax and think about nothing. You can call me a coward I guess, but today I call it smart move.

Standing by the window, I looked out at the road, and  a baby black little kitty was crossing the street. Meow meow! Like me, it was hungry and lost and lonesome! I went to Pedro who was sitting on his chair leaning against the wall, smoking a puro cigar and relaxing. “Senor senor, there is a baby kitten outside! The cars will kill it!” He just sat without moving and continued smoking, it’s O.K. not worried ma’am, so I went back to my hammock , but first I look through the window ,  to see the cat…  and the kitty was gone.

“Oh well, I thought,  just as will how would I fed him (  there’s milk)!  jajajaj,  but he is gone, lastima!, it would been a nice companion!, and talking to myself, I  said just relax Ludmila, God will help him, as he did help you, , as he has done so far, yes?.

The sky was so  blue, the heat very high and the  clouds they look like cotton….

……

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Book Scans Two0002

“Yes , I guess, yes , but you cannot leave this office or go outside. You must just stay in that corner, so  no one will see you , but I must put you back inside there at 5 am because the other jailer is coming to relieve  me and I would not be back until this evening. Hopefully you will be O.K.”.. What did she meant by hopefully? Well I couldn’t think,  I  just sat on the floor and tried to rest between her desk and the corner wall,  away from the rotten, broken door left open all the time. So I could hear the noises of the giant square cell outside and the women cursing and laughing and screaming at each other with words that I had never heard before (and I heard plenty of curse words since childhood!. They even expelled me from one school that my sister tried to put me in, because those was the first words I learned when we arrived in Venezuela). O my dear God, Help me!…. but the night went by amazingly fast.

5 am: “hey, let’s go, let’s go!” My jailer walked  out only couple of meters from where we were, and I was following her very hesitantly.  Then she opened that giant iron gate door, pushing the women away and telling them to back off. “Go in!”  In there? “Go!”  and she almost pushed me. I was carrying my poetry book of Khalil Gibran against my chest, clutching it for dear life, when they all  surrounded me and I barely get to the first bed I saw and just sat there, with them all around me. One of them was walking towards us screaming “Let her breath mariconas!” They just backed off a little, and this one came up and grabbed my book. ” What is this?”  I humbly but forcefully said, “That is dried flowers that I picked up hitchhiking from Mexico to here.” “What?” Ha ha ha ha!” All of them laughed,  but she just stood there and said too the others, “let her be.”  Looking at my book she said, “This is not Spanish,” and  I said, “No it is Ingles.”  “And your read Ingles?” she asked?  “Yes, si”

The cockroaches were still flying everywhere, it was getting later, and the morning wanted to come in,  even into this pocilga, pigsty. The smell was horrendous and the rats, well,  they could not care less for these humans. I put my feet under me in yoga position  and  did not move. One of them brought a beat up steel cup (very dirty in my opinion)  with water, and saying  “Drink this and relax you are going  to be okay.” “what?”, “The men are gone.” What did she meet by saying the men are gone?  Oh my God!

Tad picking Tomatoes through our trip

Tad picking Tomatoes through our trip

After a while, I don’t know how long. some jailers brought in coffee that tasted like pee water, and I had a chance to say “Please may I  speak to an officer?” Yes,  one was just here. “Si,  please can I call again the American Consulate?” No need,  the officer said, “they called last night and someone from the Consulado will be here this morning.”  “What time can I ask?” “Who knows? later…”

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So I went back  to  my bunk, and they all still were  there sitting on my bunk, all talking at the same time, and many if not all of them were scratching their heads. My head was spinning, because I was powerless over the situation for the first time in my life. All I could think was, a drink would be very welcome now, to soothe this pain!”

There  were some ugly faces and there were some sweet faces, and faces  with cuts through their cheeks, some women with one eye,  some limping, some had their arm in a cast– but they all had lice in their hair! Oh God!  No!  I have  long hair, it  was in a ponytail, I thought,  I  must roll my hair around my head,  to not get these  lice or hair mites!

The hours went by miserably, slowly, and very disgusting, but I will not go into that at this point, everything I seen in their,  I will leave it for my book…

About noon the American Consul arrived, but he did not even speak to me. They just went straight to some office, with several people, and I could barely see them through the iron gate. In  about 15 minutes or so, no more, they left without me. Why? I was about to cry or scream or do something crazy, when the head jailer came in with two others and opened the gate and said “Follow me, Ludmila Millman.” That was my last name from my marriage to Jack.  Oh God, what now? I could not believe hearing my own name. So now I am out? (wishful thinking!). There was a police car and a black van, and the Jefe said “Get in!”

My dear God,  what’s now?

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The night finally came, so I would be able to rest at last. I was so tired– if I could only lie down and close my eyes maybe all this would disappear!  I needed to rest after this turbulent day ,they were finally taking me to a prison ( located on the outskirts of Maracaibo–)  Dear God  I don’t like this, this place doesn’t look so good!  It is horrible!

Ludmila before the jail in her car in Beverly Hills

Ludmila before the jail in her car in Beverly Hills

So far I had not seen or heard from Tad,who’s probably scared to death and worried about me. Well, I can understand that, but I would sure like to see him, even for a minute or two. Its a very lonely feeling, to be abandoned after all the incredible journey we had!  I did not understand it- it seemed cruel, to say the least.

The jail

This is the Maracaibo Jail  were they took Ludmila

We pulled in through this big wooden gate,  then we went into a parking  delivery area where they let me out of the van to walk to another gate with iron bars.  There were officers and rooms around this  square space, then it led into a pasillo with another enclosed square space where the jail began. There I could just

see the crowd of women prisoners.

Now they gave me back my belongings: the book by Kahlil Gibran I was reading on the  daily path of our incredible trip, inside of which I had a collection of dried flowers from every city and countryside we had been to, and my little black book of telephone numbers. That was all: no clothes and no blankets (not that I would need them in this 100 degree heat!). This horrible nightmare of a place, with ugly and scary murderous faces staring at me, worse than that pirate captain  crew on the boat from Panama!

So we walked to the jailer’s little corner with a big desk, almost as small as the first room they took me in the airport, just one chair and keys hanging on the whole wall, next to the entrance to the horrible dirty jail where she is taken me on.l.

Inside the jail I could see some activity.  There was one big common area, the whole space of the square where all activities took place out in open air and against the walls there were what looked like beds? for sleeping and above this wall was one little piece of roof where I could see men walking by with guns- they could see everything, even where the women would bathe. Thank God,! inside there were  only women, luckily; IT this point, I didn’t not see any man’s cells.  So that meant that you wash yourself and bath there, out in the open, outdoors and on that little roof at was were  the guards were patrolling the inside and  the out of  the  whole place, walking in top this tiny roof, and of course that way they can see everything inside (most been a reason, some of this  woman were not good women some where real murderers, . The bathroom was a closet,  I could see all this from outside , not in their yet?) into this whole, you could say that, with almost no construction, unless you call the cardboard boxes a wall.?  The latrine was full of excrement, and the smell was horrendous, even from  here where we stood on the other side behind the big iron door.

My jailer was looking for her key’s, to open this gate  to let mi in, in their? I ask saking  and let me in their just like that no not number for a bead our my place? or? or? any  instructions/  nada?  just go through me in the mouth of the wolfs, with all these women screaming, “Hey whitey!” hay “Americana!” whistling and laughing, with their heads sticking between the iron bars of the entrance gate.

It was a nightmare, for sure! walking with her  Name Maria,  “Come in,”  she said, “I need to get the key in my room on my desk.

So almost in a panic and mumbling a prayer, I walked behind her like a child, holding her arm very gently. She had a pleasant, almost a happy face, different from the other officers. The women inside the gate were sticking their faces through the iron bars and putting their hands out,  and screaming “La  Americana! Ven aqui, linda!” (Come here, american, pretty one!)

But we kept walking the few steps to her office, another hole in the wall. I grabbed her sleeves and knelt and said, “By your mother and daughter, for the love of God have pity on this silly woman! I am not guilty! Please let me stay here tonight until my consul arrives in the morning? with you, under your desk, so no one can see me- please?”  Tears were running down from my eyes as I pleaded with her “I will be quiet! I will die if you put me out there with all those women, I beg you, just for tonight.”  I was panicking!

I looked out thru her open door the cockroaches were flying around, so that meant they would be crawling all over us all night and probably all day! I thought I saw a rat running across the dirt floor! God please help me! Then I noticed the rats were everywhere: they owned the place! My God, I whispered to myself.  “Wait here,” she said, and went get herself a coffee, back in,  with her cup, she set at her desk looking for her key, which she found under some papers on this rotten wood desk of hers.  I only wanted a little water: “Por favor, un poquito de agua?” I humbly asked her. She said, “there’s a cup and there is a faucet, help yourself.” I almost didn’t want it,  then, thinking, who knows where this water comes from? But I thought it over: “You’re going to be here all night, and no water? So drink while you still can, God bless this water.”  I was very thirsty after a whole long day of purgatory, and now I am about to enter  hell!

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“What’s that you have there in  that  little box? Why do you have those little seeds?”

“Well, well!” let see the other pockets, frisk,  frisk………….!

The officer called for backup as she slammed the handcuffs on my wrist like I was a big wanted criminal. But since I’d had a drink or two at the aeropuerto I didn’t feel very panicked, I knew I was not a criminal- after  few minutes they would apologize and send me off to continue my trip to Canaima with Tad. I had nothing to fear, wrong!!!!!

THINKING what is next.?

THINKING what is next.?

Well it was not exactly like that!  Now the two of than he once on civil clothes she call on earlier  and her (officer Salazar) were looking at me. The big one sad possession of drugs, si? I said no no no let me explained, silence and answer the questions,  then officer Salazar said “Follow me please,” and we entered into a little room, and suddenly she closed the door, saying “:Wait for me here.”  Like I could go somewhere out of  this hot dirty hellhole! Claustrophobia was already setting in and I began to sweat.  I didn’t like this at all! I was going to lose my flight.

After about ten minutes which seemed hours., she walked back in with a paper saying that the contents of my pockets, the little silver box with seeds of marijuana and maybe 3/4 of a roach, was ILLEGAL. “Take off all your clothes” What!???? ” Officer Salazar  I don’t have anything else,” I said, trembling, “only my paperback and my address book and some Bolivars (cash), which you already have.”  “I said to take off your clothes!” I thought I should be must humble and  behaved  it will be  better for mie but with dignity –after all I know a lot of important people in the Capitol.

Shaking, I started unbuttoning my shirt and pants, but I was still reluctant to take them off. “Dear God, this is not good,”  I started praying (to myself, so she wouldn’t get mad), and holding my cross which I would never take off, even in a doctor’s office. I would put it in my mouth in those cases of taking a Xtray, so it is always in me– my mama put on my neck that cross a long time ago when I was baptism. “Okay, you can keep your cross on.” Gracias, señora , official salazar!

 

I continued undressing. “No , that’s good enough,” she said, as I was hesitating to strip completely she looked at me saying, “Put you arms up and turn around”– “Okay, now dress yourself.”: She left the room again, this time with the door slightly open.  Thank God, I can’t stand being closed in! Soon she came back, picked up the evidence and the papers she was working on, and said simply “Follow me.” We walked into a bigger room where there where those  two  officers. Directing his voice toward me, one of them was trying hard to speak English.

“Please, senor, I speak Spanish muy bien!”

“Okay, why were you carrying this marijuana? and these seeds?” he continued, in Spanish.  Not caring how stupid I sounded ,in my innocence I said, ” I just wanted to see how they looked when they grow!”  ( In those days, before the internet nobody knew these things exactly.)  “I just wanted to plant them on my brother’s island, just for fun, if I will remember to do so, when I am their?. But with all the drinking that goes in there and partying, I would probably forget and leave them in my pocket, and that would be very bad for me when I went back to the United States.”

Caracas, Ludmila on the cover of a most famous popular magazine"  ""MOMENTO"

Caracas, Ludmila on the cover of a most famous popular magazine” “”MOMENTO”

I kept talking: ” I think they would be just concerned as you are here! I  am very sorry,  let me tell  you the truth–  I don’t even like the weed, it belonged to my boyfriend  I  was just saving that for him. It was only for his personal consumption ,for his migraine  headaches. The doctor prescribed it for him and said it was okay!”

“Well ma’am, here in  Venezuela it is a serious crime,  and worse than the roach is the box with the seeds for growing! Do you have an abogado? Do you need to call anyone? “

“Yes, sir, the American Consulate, if you will allow me. Could I have the telephone and phone number please?”

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A few minutes down the little trail, there was no one around us, but their was this big tree for a tropical jungle that is, down on the ground, so I said “Let’s have a drink”  “From where?,” said Tad, “there’s nothing here not tiendas.”  Will I said it happened that I have a bottle of rum and some cookies. So we sat on a limb of of this dead tree near the entrance of a small river, where there were many places for little boats to get in and unload their merchandise. We were too tired and hungry to be concerned about anything but getting to Medellin for a hotel, rest and relaxation, after all this ordeal.

The sun was up  and getting warmer, the tropical  humidity will be very high on this shores now .

But we  still had to walk and walk looking at this unknown land, when  finally  we saw a real road! Heyy look it this, we are getting  close!  Then we walk too what now became a highway with cars going  and coming, so we hitched a ride too Medellin. What a beautiful city!  We went to the first hotel that seemed okay, even if it was not any class, and we took a room; at this point  we did not care .

After sleeping and resting for a few hours and getting ready to see the city and exchange some money, Tad asked me, where first? I said the Bank I think, so we went to the Bank to change money.

There was music everywhere playing in the early  afternoon, with people dancing on the streets, and it seemed that happiness prevail everywhere.

Which bank I don’t remember, but the exchange rate was not so good as we expected. So we went outside to see if any of the guys by by the door,  who were approaching the people that enters the Bank, to see if maybe they  would have a  better  exchange,  and they did.we proset to exchange the dollars Tad head too change .

Border Colombia and Venezuela waiting for Help S.O.S. .from

Border Colombia and Venezuela waiting for Help S.O.S. .from

Tad counted the money  that the guy  gave him too caunt the exchange moneys, then I counted the money giving back too Tad he counted it again and then the Columbia gay took the money from Tad and counted it again in front of us,  then gave us the change money back correct , yes correct, and we went satisfied with the exchange of the money, happy,  to the hotel to pay our bill.. .

But when we sat down and counted the money again,  surprise, what? Tad with a loud voice what?….. The whole amount  was half what it was supposed to be! we counted it once, twice, a  third and fourth time. No, no,  no good!,  We have been fucked.

All of this  contributed to my university, now I know people call some fantastic people,  saying that they went to the university of life. Many famous millionaires and other amazing people were educated that way, but I had  the heart of a gentle gazelle, which was soon turning  into  a Cossack Warrior , awakening that nomad in me, including the drinking part..

Well,  we had certainly been taken by these Colombian con- men, for all that money, which did not stop Tad  from taking us out to dance and see a little of the nightlife in Medellin .

Oil in Maracaibo, Venezuela

Oil in Maracaibo, Venezuela

We stayed in Medellin for a couple of days, and on the third day we ventured off to continued our journey to Venezuela then reached the route  to Maracaibo.

We went through an incredibly beautiful jungle, with houses along the route, little huts of vendors of tropical fruit and the smell of  mangos, bananas , ananas or Pineapples like delightful flowers well, it is a flower, like a tomato is a fruit.

We spent another couple of days enjoying the Colombian countryside from Medellin to the border with Venezuela, and from Maracaibo we were to fly to Canaima. Maracaibo is located in the Lago de Maracaibo, Edo. Zulia, Venezuela, which is the largest lake in all of Venezuela and one of largest places for oil extraction. The temperature is over 100 degrees F. every day and only a little cooler at night.

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We sat on  a broken bench with all our belongings, near the boat dock, and watched the sunset; then slowly, hesitatingly, we went over to the boat where the captain’s men were loading refrigerators and boxes and boxes of other things, we waited to the side in the background until they finished loading. Finally, it was getting  dark, and that night there was no moon, so that a smuggler’s perfect night’ so the boat would be very hard to see. There was contraband on board for sure, but  even if they were transporting drugs nobody would be able to see us…

Waking around the Las Palms looking for a owner of a boat  that may takes to the shores of Colombia

Waking around the Las Palms looking for a owner of a boat that may takes to the shores of Colombia

Captain Juan made a sign to us with his big hand – “Come on…” , so we got onto his boat  while the crew  made ready to cast off out, untying  the ropes. We put our belongings in a little corner space and just watch the show.

The sailors were just like Captain Jack Sparrow’s pirate crew; one of them had a scar all over his face, another had one arm,  and they all looked very terrifying. We were as careful as could be not to leave our things out, and even so, we were soon missing some money from Tad’s bag.  But I had nothing of importance, so I was just watching Tads stuff.

We were too excited to go to sleep, so we asked for some sodas and paid for it.  About 4 am we stopped in a shallow of a small river, and the captain, machete in hand, came to us (almost scared us to  death!) and said, now my friends you are to go with him, pointing to this ugly deformed man down there in the water on a small dinghy, loaded with couple of boxes from our boat. “He will take you ashore to the Colombian shore!” So it was gracias  adios! I didn’t know if Tad  knew about this arrangement, couldn’t tell.

When and how some money disappeared from one of his bags remains a  mystery to me because I did not leave his things,  maybe when I went for a minute to the boat galley for some aguardiente or rum when Tad was an sleep?

As we were walking, this women was standing next to this rotten boat whiting for her connection,  maybe her husband whit a contraband merchandise from Panam

As we were walking, this women was standing next to this rotten boat whiting for her connection, maybe her husband whit a contraband merchandise from Panama

Now we step down carefully on this small boat, that I looked and the water was almost  up to the gunnels. I knew enough about boats that this was no good,  plus this was a river of water poisoning snakes and big crocodilos– Our new Captain Raul is telling us with a knife on has sinch and a machete next to him, explaining that was why he was very well armed  meaning  that the has a pistol , slowly I whisper too my partner your know? he can just kill us and we would never be found in these crocodile infested waters.  Lets keep looking at him and be very alert , we had no “Plan  “A”   or”  B” what  to do on that case?

We had no  weapons, not even a decent knife,  I begin to Pray and forget about my bottle of rum that  I got from the cook.  We said nothing, and sat on the end opposite to (our new captain) jajajaj his name he said is  repeatedly  Raul ,  si we said,. I am sure none of this names were real! He held a knife on has cinch and a machete next to him,  we whisper to each other as he started the little motor and we departed from captain Juan with a big smile, which boat seems safer now?,  this one is scarier? what should we do if he attacks us, takes our things and throw our bodies in the water?

Now we were really afraid.  Will, we said to each other, let’s set a little further away, separately from  each other, so we can defend ourselves better,  just in case he  attack us.  “OK?”  I said to Tad.  Yes was the answer, but we also did not want to be apart too far from each other in case the boat sinks.   We were going almost with water to the  gunnels  of this little boat  I started a conversation with captain Raul,  to distract him from looking at our luggage as much as possible and at me, Tad was telling where we from and that I was his aunt, etc, etc. Raul  said  it should soon be getting morning, we said to ourselves we  hope.  Dear God help us.

Tad was asking him how to get to Medellin from where he was going to let us off. Captain Raul said, its too far from the Pacific shores beach , your walk straight, It was still  dark– we still can be killed by him or others that are waiting for him at the shore. At this time  the stars became  fewer  they seemed to have disappeared,  a sign that very soon the sun will soon be coming up,few hrs . ago, it was a full sky of stars, not  that there were more starts, they just that they were  much  brighter,  I must say it was hard not to notice that fantastic sky in the middle of the dark waters and we were navigating in a very dark night, one of the darkest I ever remember seeing.

The. light is coming slowly,  slower than what we wanted!    Tad can you see land? Yes,  we’re on the Pacific side, Colombia here we go! Hush, we are not completely safe yet, a long ways from Medellin remember?  Finally, after a little while we stop, gave a tip to the captain and said our goodbyes and thanks gracias adios. . With the outboard motor the boat couldn’t go any further, so we had to walk in the water to the shore. Captain Raul said adios, again we said  goodbye, after helping us out,  he had a  big  smile  on his face, with all the front tooth broken, was a even scarier face in the morning   letting to let us off,?   Those last dark minutes , we knew  this last minutes  we can still be killed by him or maybe others that area waiting for him  and has cargo at the shore.  At this time  the stars became fewer.  It seems that  they slowly are  disappearing, a sign that very soon the sun will be coming up.  I sad too Tad there were many  more stars the sad they were  breiter earlier in the night,  that is why they were  much  brighter,  I must say, even with  all this fear,  it was not  hard  to notice that fantastic sky in the middle of the  dark night on this river waters when we were navigating  in a very dark night, one of the darkest I ever ben, that I remember saying.

Our  bravery only can be  described as naive, or a case of muchas bolas!

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