domingo, 4 de enero de 2009

White cheese or tranquility

I love December. During that month there are better chances to see friends and relatives who live abroad. For a few days it is more likely for us to stop being “the family in a box” (the box is the computer screen, showing our faces from Caracas to the rest of the world, thanks to the web cam and Skype) to be just a regular family. There are a lot of dinners and lunch and meetings, a lot of conversations, a lot of stories that for some reason sound different when they are re-told face to face than the way they sounded on a Facebook wall post. But as soon as January comes, they leave again and I find myself at the airport carrying a bitter sweet feeling.

They left the country for many different reasons and not everyone is planning to make a life abroad forever, but they have something in common: this country didn’t offer them enough or, in other words, this place limited their chances of having the life they dreamed of. After they finally got the job, the scholarship, the visa, the European passport and took the plane, they started to miss us, and we started to miss them.

They come back here one day and envy us, and take as gold things that are simply ordinary for us such as the white cheese or a chocolate or to look at the Avila (the mountain that surrounds Caracas) They feel thankful about the weather and beg us to plan at least a short beach trip “At least Puerto Azul, please!”.

But we envy them, we envy their stories on which they escape a few words; unintentionally, that reflects a freedom we don’t enjoy: “so we were walking home from the movies at night and decided to stop by at some place…”. We envy the way their eyebrows raise when someone complains about not being able to find this or that, or when we comment about how expensive is this or that when in the countries they are living is as cheap as a subway ticket. We envy their naïve questions when we came back home with a product of a brand they dislike and we say like it was normal that “this is all you are going to get”. We envy their peaceful looks, the tranquility they reflect; even if they have some money troubles abroad and feel that they can’t live without white cheese; I know they feel safer than us.

As their trips approach to an end, as soon as they have hugg us and kiss us enough, at the minute they took way too many pictures and eat Hallacas, Pan de Jamon, white cheese (the mano kind) and Susy and all that Venezuelan stuff; their faces look tired and I know they have stopped to envy us. After weeks of seeing our daily lives struggling to finding what we want, of hearing our complains and sorrow about the Chavez crazy ideas that sooner or later become an awful reality, after seeing themselves limited to do what they originally planned to do because “it is too dangerous to go there”, “call us”, “don’t come back home late”, “don’t stay at the front door for too long”… After all that everything comes back to their minds.

For a minute they missed home so much that they even thought about coming back. But the white cheese is expensive. They remember all over again why they left the country in the first place, why they are living at some place cold, away from their families, speaking a foreign language, making loads of paperwork for remaining legal on those places and counting the cents to keep some decent life standards if they are lucky.

During the whole holiday season there was not even a single conversation where the question “Are you planning to come back some day?” arise. There was not even a glimpse of that. We know they are better off outside.

On the contrary, as we bought their dollars on black markets prices; we asked them questions about their journeys, about “how is it like?”...not to hearing them saying that it’s hard and that they wish they could come back; but to check if we can follow them. That’s when I realize that our envy is bigger than theirs. That’s when I knew that I would follow them tomorrow if I could. Its hard to admit it and totally antipatriotic, but these days I would happily trade the white cheese for some tranquility, just like they did.

About the picture: Here's my family, part of. Just one of many Venezuelan families that meet again in Caracas on December. I covered their faces because I still don't feel comfortable about revealing my identity.

1 comentario:

  1. "We envy the way their eyebrows raise when someone complains about not being able to find this or that, or when we comment about how expensive is this or that when in the countries they are living is as cheap as a subway ticket." Julia, I try as much as I can not to complain like this, as well all do but I some times fail. Forgive us, please! We have never had to live the experience you and other Venezuelans have for ten (going on eleven) years or Cubans for fifty years. I hope it is over soon for you guys. Nobody ever deserves to live in hell like that (where milk is a rare find, where you're an enemy of the state just for not toting the party line, etc.). Un abrazo


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