The train of time can not be stopped. In less than one week I must attend to classes, read the material assigned on those classes and to finish a thesis project without (ever!) letting the protest and the work with the movement behind. But the reader must not consider this situation as awkward (although it is specially challenging); for me it’s almost as normal as brushing my teeth every morning.
Just make the countdown: my last year of high school was briefly interrupted by the events of April, 2002; then I went straight to the university just for seeing my first year of my major interrupted because of the strike (during December 2002, January and part of February, 2003).
Then, more moments of tension were about to be expected because of the hard struggle the opposition passed to demand a referendum just for lose it on doubting circumstances in August of 2004; at the end of my second academic year. Comes third year: also briefly interrupted by the events called “guarimba” which consisted of a series of radical protest that I will tell in detail later in this blog.
Fourth year, a little bit more calm than the previous year just to welcoming the 5th and the last year of my career where we lost the past elections on December, 2006 and now we are facing a world where the students lead the protest against the media monopoly of the government and the lack of other basic civil rights.
They have not been exactly the easiest university years one can think of. The school of life has been rougher for us than probably for other western students across the globe. I can almost lose count of the times when I wonder if the circumstances would ever going to let me come back to class and keep up a normal life. And I feel lucky because even with all that I was able (as the rest of my classmates, mostly) to reach to my final year of the university without failing or losing any previous year.
We have reached to a new sense of normality. And I don’t think many of the things that we live should be normal but you must take it as normal for surviving the suicide routine of spending your days crying in the corners. Two years ago, during a discussion in class about a movie that tells the story of a family in the Soviet Union under Stalin’s regime; a classmate reached her hand and say “I think this movie shows the man’s ability to get used to even the worse things. Seems like one can get used to everything” – A moment of silence filled the class for a few seconds; in my head one question kept repeating and repeating: “Do you think we’ll ever going to reach that point?”
A few days ago I was at a demonstration with some classmates. The start point was the square of a public university in Caracas, at 10 am. All of the soon we hear some explosions: “Wonder what’s happening…” Then we see from the distance the clear image of the tear gas smoke. The people just walk (not running, not screaming) only a few steps away and you hear things like “Hey! Pass me the vinegar! Who took the toothpaste?”, - “Mom, I’ll call you right back, they are dropping some bombs here”, - “Tear gas bombs for breakfast at 10 am? Please folks, don’t be that rude and wait at least till lunch…” All those phrases spoken in the most relaxed, and calm tone; the same you use when you are comfortable sitting with a friend having a coffee.
A couple of more tear gas bombs were dropped and a few minutes later a mass of students as relaxed as they were going to the beach, walk through the streets for showing their request for civil rights.
I didn’t walk till the end of that demonstration, I was feeling hungry and tired so I decided to take the subway like one block ahead from the end of the demonstration and met a friend for lunch. At the restaurant there were some tables around us filled with students which were visible also coming back from the demonstration.
They were joking and laughing while they ordered one or two “arepas” (Venezuelan meal which consists on a corn round bread, kind of, filled with almost whatever you want: from chicken to jam…). My friend looked at them and then he asked me: “How many students that attend to the demonstrations do you think take this as serious as it is?” I thought a little and then I answered: “80% I think…” – “80%?!” – “They might be laughing on the outside but it’s a different story on the inside”.
I know it because I laughed and joked like they do even in the most terrible times. I’m familiar with the empty feeling made of questions that fills your soul even on the happiest times: “Are they going to close the university?”; “Are we going to start experience the shortage of… (Put here any product you would expect to find in the supermarket like toilet paper or rice)? “Could someone steal the car where we just parked it?”, “Are these friends going to leave the country eventually?” In the meantime you just ask for another beer, cheers and continue looking for ways on having a good time.
Along with the terrible events that have filled my university years, I have also lived the best parties and moments of pure joy. I don’t think it’s fair to let the government take us away even our right to laugh. And in an ironic way, to joke over the tear gas bombs falling and the pain behind it’s also a political laugh: it it’s a way of resistance. The tears fall us apart long before we can bring the democracy back to our country. The fear, paralyze you before you can even start thinking on facing it. Many people look at the pictures of demonstrations and they make stances like “this looks like a carnival” but the laugh of the moment is not enough point to reject the pain of every day. No matter what happens, one most still have the right to laugh, and therefore, to live.