Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I cannot believe that I am here, that I will live here for at least one more year; that I am having, to a big extent, the exact kind of life I have always wanted to live. Considering where I come from, I am extremely lucky and lack of any reason to complain.
Yet, as dreamy as it might look, my life is not complete nor it will ever be. Something is always missing. To put it short: Venezuela is always missing. My city, Caracas, with its big mountains and its perfect weather, with the smells of just-baked bread and fresh fruit in the streets; and even with its chaos, its disorder, those things that used to annoy me. My family, with their distinct personalities, their music, their constant and endless gatherings because any excuse is a good excuse to meet; and their engaging conversations built in the history we all share. My friends – although most do no longer live there -, their discussions, their advices, their drinking games, the dances, walks through the city (dangerous parts or not), their stories, their dramas, the way they have to show they truly care. The food. The ease to be in a place that is yours and because it is yours, you are allowed to study and work, no complicated visa procedures in between… I miss all that. I am doing my best to adjust to the culture in the US (or “cultures”, because it is hard to come with a single “culture” in this place or any other) and even if I succeed, I am afraid I will still be hurt inside, longing for the place where I come from, the people I grew up with, the place where I was no outsider nor stranger.
Thanks to the aid of a smartphone, I am in contact with my family 24/7. I send them pictures of my husband taking the snow off the car or something I cooked that they would have never believed I was capable of cooking, had I not send the pictures. In return, they send me a short video of my niece singing her own strange version of “Let it go” (from the movie “Frozen) and pictures of those family occasions that I am missing. In Whats App, Skype and Facebook, the bad news also find their way here between what it only look like happy lives pictured in shining images. More than it pains me to be far from them, it pains me to see they are going through that while my daily life is completely different: calm, safe and happy.
Today I called my mom to congratulate her for Mother’s Day and she told me that she cannot find body lotion anywhere. “Not even a simple, cheap cream” – She says- “There is nothing. Nothing!” – Since food and medicine shortages have been with us for so long, she does no longer mentions them in our conversations. I know that the lack of a body lotion and other feminine cosmetics is the less of her worries. My family and all families in Venezuela have a hard time finding, if they can; basic products such as milk, chicken, eggs, butter, corn flour, all-purpose flour, bath soap, toilet paper etc.
Near my sister’ apartment, a group of students hanged a couple of dolls symbolizing the deaths this conflict has brought. My sister just happened to drive pass by, with her children in the back seat of the car. My three-year-old said “Look mama, is a piñata!”- Her older brother “corrected her”: “It is a dead piñata”. They soon started discussing about the death of this piñata and whether piñatas are allowed to go to heaven or not. My sister quick reaction was to turn on the music in an effort to end the conversation and make them forget, somehow, this “dead piñata” deal. The anecdote might be “cute” but it also says a lot about those daily moments where the children see or sense the violence that surrounds them, the way they deal with it and the way their relatives try to keep them safe in an effort to make their childhood last as long as possible.
In the meantime I will send them pictures of my husband wearing a cap and gown, smiling under an arch that has the name of the university we have been living in for the last couple of years. They will send me pictures of them cheering for us. They will ask me for a video tour of my new rented apartment. I will add funny faces to the video. I will continue living my almost perfect life in a “divided way”: partly enjoying my luck, partly missing what I left behind, partly worrying about the news back home. They will continue maneuvering through the crisis for the sake of saving precious moments of joy that are always allowed, no matter the hardship. They will continue adjusting to the challenges life presents there, creating new routines and getting used to them.
We will continue missing each other. Until either this chaos ends (hopefully in a desirable way) or the unlikely possibility of a visit stops being so unlikely; they will wait for me. And I will wait for them.