It is hard to think that this is the scenery for me after witnessing what it was perhaps the most radical year of the revolution: 2007. But maybe that radicalism itself it’s the reason of me seeing hope now. Don’t get me wrong, it all has to do with 3 obvious consequences of Bolivarian revolution' growing radicalism during 2007: 1) that things that it might had a smaller impact if they have occurred in a longer period of time happened faster and left a much more bigger impact; 2) the government made many mistakes by submiting this radical behavior, and 3)that this was combined with a bigger and probably smarter opposition response.
Almost uncanny indeed to think now about how the beginning of the last year was, comparing it with this one. My best friend could have not say it better when he told me after we won the elections: “I feel like I have been given a second opportunity”. For us, young people, finishing our majors and starting to work and build a life, this “second opportunity” only has one meaning: “now we can stay!”. Maybe not all of us will stay, maybe this blogger itself will leave the country for a year or two for attending some masters program or just to see the world, who knows? But we have now the choice or at least the idea of having the choice of staying. That’s something I wouldn’t even dream of months ago.
At some point between March and April of last year, I was having a coffee with the same friend who told me about the “second opportunity” and without planning to, all of our conversation ended up being about emigration ideas. We counted the relatives we have abroad, we talked about opportunities we heard in Argentina or Australia, or about his girlfriend and her double citizenship – “Perhaps I should get a boyfriend with a double citizenship too” – I joked. It was simply crazy to talk about the future without including a certain idea about leaving the country and not just for one year or two, but forever. The whole conversation let me empty and sad. At some point I realize that if we had to leave the country, the possibilities of not having my best friend around (he lives near by me) but at some country miles away, were huge. While we were just dreaming about emigration plans, some of my friends were already leaving for real.
First it was a friend from the university, one of those girls who can be in a million activities at once and still have the highest grade on her thesis. She found a job opportunity abroad like a minute after her graduation and two weeks later I put on my make up to attend her good bye party. “Its just for one year” – She said, but you could read in her eyes the expectations for staying longer than that.
Second, it was a guy from my faculty who just missed a year and a semester to finish his career. He’s one of those characters always holding books and talking to you, beers in the middle, about authors you have never heard of (and you always end up wondering how did he found the time for reading all that, if the major its already hard enough…). I didn’t attend his good bye party, don’t remember why but he’s not such a close friend so it didn’t matter. But another friend of mine did and all she said was “Good for him”, like looking at him as the lucky one who had the opportunity to escape from this madness.
Then another friend also got a job abroad and left but unfortunately I knew that a week after he took his plane when I checked my mail and found an expired invitation for his good bye party. One day you are drunk, dancing badly the tunes of “Rebelion” (an old salsa hit and one of my favorites) and another your dancing partner goes to Miami with no return ticket.
I sent him an e- mail and he answered back: “I love Caracas, but this is just a good job, so I'll stay for a while”. Everyone says that, “it is for a while”, “its just a couple of years”, “six months” and then plans change, the bosses extend the job offer because they are well prepared professionals and the rest is history. No one leaves forever saying that they will do that, it is better to think that is just for a couple of years.
Those three cases were just to name a few, a lot more people I know left the country during 2007. And many thought about it specially During November, as the reader might remember, the things got a lot rougher: almost everyday there was a protest, a riot, the horrible shortages; some bad news here and there plus that Constitutional Reform coming up as a bad nightmare. The facebook profile of one of my friends abroad said it all: “Gracias a Dios que ya me fui” which means something like “Thank God I already left”. In the meantime, many of us just thought inside “Too bad I haven’t got the chance to leave yet”.
The day after we won the elections and therefore the nightmare of the Constitutional Reform turned out to be just that: a nightmare; I woke up early (did I actually sleep at all? – I’m not sure), put on my “White hand movement” t-shirt again (being my anti feminine act of the year since I used the same t-shirt for the celebrations on the previous night…ugh…) and ran to meet a couple of friends to celebrate at the Altamira Square.
Of course, there was no celebrations at Altamira Square at 10:00 am because everyone was sleeping but us and a couple of foreign journalists who decided to make their reports with the famous obelisk as a background. We hugged at the minute we saw each other and screamed a little like 15 year old stupid girls but we owe it! After so many years of protests, after so many depressing talks to have that pure moment of joy was priceless. The atmosphere at the streets was new years like, but better. The few people who were out there smiled at each other at showed proudly their inked fingers as a proof of their participation in the first electoral defeat that Chavez has suffered in his 9 years of rule.
At one moment we entered the bank and in the waiting line, one of the bank employees recognized my t-shirt and asked me to approach her office door: - Excuse me, What university do you go to?”- I stretched my t-shirt so she could read “UCAB”, just written behind the big white hand the movement has a symbol.
- You see – She continued with her voice partially broken – I have two daughters, and one of them lives abroad and she…. She called me last night and said that if things keep being as they are… she’s considering coming home… I haven’t seen her in quite a while and now… she might come back! And I owe that to you, the students I mean. Tell them that, tell them that I say thanks.
I moved my head up and down just staring at her. I was so touched by her words that I couldn’t say anything and dropped one tear or two. My friend told me later that I should had go and hug her but I’m not really that kind of person. After a few second of just staring (and I think we told each other a million words in that look) I simply said “Gracias” in a low voice tone, then I smiled and continue my way. I don’t remember talking a lot to anyone about my small meeting at the bank except for my two friends who witnessed the event and who were equally touched. But if events like those are possible, my friend is definitely right about this “second opportunity”.
A few nights ago I met a former classmate at a club and she talked about her decision of moving to Europe because the “Europeans this, and the Europeans that, and the European mentality… I just can’t stand the Venezuelan way of thinking sometimes… and Caracas… this city has nothing!”. The more optimistic political scenery did not changed her plans not even a bit and I don’t blame her as I don’t blame any of the long list of friends who have decided to take off forever. In a world so connected I won’t claim no one to have a national identity but yet cheer the opportunities they have to look for happiness if they think that here they cannot find it. In an ideal world, maybe everyone should have that right.
I won’t be hypocritical: sometimes I’m not tired of the president or the government but of the country itself. Nothing works, the traffic is crazy, the streets are dirty, the crime is rampant and there’s more mediocrity sometimes that what I would like to see. But I haven’t met so far one person, Venezuelan or foreigner who is free of troubles, let them be political (like mine) or of any other kind. And, like one blogger who lives abroad once told me “you still have the cachapa” (cachapa is a Venezuelan meal, like a corn pancake with white cheese on top, you know how terrible I am when it comes to explain food so sue me!).
I still have the same streets I was born and grow up in, I have the crowdie busses filled with the must particular faces and that nasty music that I know now by memory, I have some corners of colonial architecture next to modern Cafes, I have theatre shows and classical music concerts once a week and more important: I have my university, my job, my family and my friends. Caracas might be not the most tourist city in the world but it has its charm if you look for it and its my place to build this “second opportunity” it has been offered to us now.
Sure I want to see the world and travel as crazy, and stand in front of one Goya painting at El Prado museum and live the experience of studying at other country but there is a whole big difference when you do it because you want to than when you do it because you have to. Well, after this my blog will probably go back to a more pessimist (or like I prefer to call it “realistic”)tone but I didn’t wanted to start the year like that. At one time my only hope was to leave the country and since I did not want to, for me it was like not having hope at all. I certainly do hate to open all kind of websites and find banners that advertise a green card with the message “your country is eligible” because last time I checked, I had a country and for whatever it means, it is worth to at least try to keep it.
About the pic: it was taken during the celebrations of Dec 2nd just after the results were given. As the reader might remember, I did not have my cam that day, but a friend was kind enough to send me a picture.