sábado, 31 de enero de 2009

This canNOt be allowed

I'm putting as a picture, a poster made by the White Hand (Student) movement for the campaign against the Amendment that it could allow Chavez or any other to be re-elected as president indefinitely. It says "They offer us living in peace but they can't control the violence of their groups?". I'm not publishing this poster today because of the NO campaign. I'm doing it because last night, a group of men armed entered a synagogue causing several damages and leaving hate messages on the walls of the temple. I often feel confused about the ways the Revolution defines itself, specially when it comes to define the enemies.

The Revolution has new "enemies" from one day to another and they could be certainly anybody from any group: the high class, the old oligarchy, the ones who are not high class but live in places where the opposition has more votes than the Revolution such as Petare, the students (I beg your pardon: the "opposition" students), doctors who complain on the conditions of the public hospitals, Catholics... its virtually anyone the Revolution can usefully point as an enemy, to justify a speech, to keep their lines armed and ready. Of course, the motivations behind that hate are totally lacked of any justification, because the justifications don't matter at all here, to think is it not consider a valuable act. As an odd World War II flashback, the hate for the jJws has arisen between radical Revolutionary groups. Venezuela was never an anti-Semite country, to speak of the ways the Jew community has lived peacefully here is to be way too obvious and redundant. I never imagine this place as a place were crimes of hate could be committed. But as you can see, the Revolution is always in need of new enemies, no matter how outrageous they might seem to us: the ones who still over rate the value of thinking.

martes, 20 de enero de 2009

Planning a thesis defence (*)

(*) I have no idea if that's the term in english. Can someone help? How do you plan a thesis defence? What is the stuff you consider? Well, you read the about 200 pages over and over again trying to find those details on which you think the jury might have doubts on. You write possible questions they might ask you and prepare the answers. You look up over and over again on the theory and the results and the explanations you gave to see if everything matches. You go to the faculty over and over again to see if your defence has been scheduled. You are sure that your defence is probably going to be held at February 11th. You are planning to call the jury the night before to make sure they won’t forget your defence – yep, it happens, I have heard some cases…You invite some friends and family to come over to your place at night after the defence, to celebrate; if everything goes right.

You talk to the few students you know they are active at the student movement about the possibility of making activities or not on that day. You know you can’t say anything about it but you are begging inside that they don’t block the university entrance that day. You know they must protest, you know you would do the same if you were still on classes and not as busy with the thesis as you are now. You talk to your tutor and your thesis partner about using the subway instead of a car because usually the subway entrance is not blocked when the students protest, so they are better chance that we can get in to the university.

You know the elections that will decide if Chavez has legal possibilities of staying in power for as long as he wishes or not; are just days after your thesis defence. You try to think that the results of that event won’t make a difference because you are planning to leave the country for a while anyway. But you still care, you care a lot. You might feel overly happy when you finally defend your thesis (after all you have been expecting that moment for the last couple of years) but you know that if the Amendment passes; the relief you feel about finishing your career will switch into a certain sadness and anger you are used to, and you will feel the emergency –now more than ever – to get our of here.

jueves, 15 de enero de 2009

No choice

(Click on the image to enlarge, I wrote this yesterday) I woke up feeling optimist. My plans were to take a quick breakfast and go straight to the university, were both my tutor and my thesis partner were expecting me for a meeting. There was tequeños (a Venezuelan food, like cheese sticks, I’m quite lazy when it comes to explain food) and coffee with milk temptingly placed on the table. My sister in law and my mom seemed very delighted in an interesting conversation. So I decided to join them and from that minute on, it all went badly
I soon realize that their conversation topic was about the latest Chavez speech on his plans on staying on power till 2009, at least. They passed from there to comment the latest insecurity story they heard of: about the son of a friend of someone who was briefly kidnapped near by my house.

Suddenly; with the perspective of a president that I dislike so much staying in power for the rest of my youth life, at least plus those stats on kidnappings and murders hitting case by case the corners of my routine, the places were I’m ought to pass by daily…my tequeños (Did I mention how much I love tequeños?) didn’t taste so good anymore. I should have take four or five tequeños and my cup of coffee and go back to my room to fix any detail of my thesis instead of listening to that talk.

I asked them if we could talk about something else but they can’t forgive me for even trying to ignore the reality. It has never been a family habit to ignore the reality, to be updated with the events and no one wants to break this tradition. Not even me, I don’t want to ignore it, I just don’t want to talk about it 24 hours a day or I will end up more crazy than what I already am, I’m afraid.

As soon as I finished my coffee, I called my thesis partner: “I’m on my way” – I said. – “Oh, you shouldn’t” – She answered me back at the phone- “The students are blocking the university entrance. I could barely get in and they are now at the highway protesting against the Amendment…”- There’s no much to do about it. It’s funny that my thesis partner and I refer to the movement as “the students” now, that deep inside me I don’t want them to block the entrance because I have a very important meeting to attend. And a year and sometime ago I referred to the students as “us” and was blocking the entrance, or the highway myself. So no one knows better than me that this is something they have to do, they have to call the attention about the Amendment what will allow Chavez to be re-elected indefinitely. I try not to feel angry or frustrated and go back to the table.

Two hours later I could finally attend my meeting and there were still loads of students gathered at one of those familiar Assemblies and then blocking part of the highway which is located right next to our campus. My thesis partner and I went to the highway for like 10 minutes to take some pictures and see how the protest was developing and then back to our work. Except for one girl that I saw going to the nursery room and her forehead was bleeding a little (I suspect a stone from a Chavez – supporter driver but no one could give me the exact information); it was a peaceful, almost routinely event.

It is what it is. Even if you don’t like it, it gets into your life, your expectations, your dreams, your thoughts, and your hopes. It gets into your skin, it designs your anxiety. It is just like being madly in love, but in the opposite way (I know, I know… I’m not making any sense).

And to think that I just woke up feeling optimist and my day was supposed to be about nothing more than to finish another thesis chapter and discuss it with my tutor. But to pretend this isn’t happening is impossible. Same as love, you simply don’t have a choice on this kind of things.

martes, 13 de enero de 2009

Mental exile is not off- topic

In less than a month I will defend my thesis and therefore I will not have any string attached to the university or any other responsability. Its just me and the world for now, me and my plans. I hesitate a lot writing about this but I think I'm ready now. The plans I have made are not related to Caracas and not even to Venezuela.

I have made the decision of leaving the country for a while. Not forever, I don't want to even think that I could be talking about forever. The countdown for making my plans a reality starts right after my thesis defense, if I approve of course. I just made the decision, and I still don't have any idea about the details, if we are going to actually make it a reality.

I won't leave the country tomorrow, this will take me a couple of years to say the least. The Constitutional Amendment also seems to come soon and an economical situation that its already hitting my pockets but I'm bussier making some research to making my plans a reality.

Why am I planning to do this? I think some readers already got the answer in the back of their heads while others who still see a fighter in me, feel forced to ask this question. And I think it will require me a few entries to explain. For now I will just say that the things I want to do, the things that I know will make me happy (and believe me, they are very simply things) are simply very hard to achieve in Venezuela for me, right now.

So for now on my blog will talk a lot about this. It will follow my journey, my fears, my thoughts, from my thesis defense till the day I take a plane somewhere for a while. I won't give a lot of details to protect both the plans and my privacy.

Of course, I could never leave politics completely aside, so the reader can expect the usual entries from time to time.

The entries that will cover my plans will be organized under the tag of "mental exile", because if I'm making this plans it can only mean that a part of me already left, my mind is already dreaming about some other place. I don't know if you are agree with me, but I didn't consider this to be off topic. After all, no one thinks on leaving a country that is slowly coming to an end, at least in the way you once think you knew it.

PS: So I was playing the piano while thinking on writing this entry (to finally writing this entry) and trying some camera functions and this is what I came out with. Be careful with the volume, the sound quality isn't the best. I can't promise something better for the next time, the way I play can explain why I have a thesis defense in less than a month instead of being on some world tour as a pianist hehe... So, hope it tries to capture the moment

martes, 6 de enero de 2009

Inflation for dummies

When you think on a post about inflation, you inmediately drag yourself into a harsh economical analysis about prices, cost, increases, breakdowns with graphs to make the explanation a bit "eassier" and so on. But this blogger has only a very basic knowledge on economy, given by two and a half years of classes on which she hardly paid any attention to. Therefore, this blogger can't show you any graphs, can't give you numbers or estimations made of her own but what she can really do is to tell you how does inflaction feels at the streets, between normal people who are more likely to ignore what does those numbers really mean.

As amazing as it sounds, because of living in a country that has a pretty serious issue with high inflaction rather since I was born... almost; I was never affected by it directly. The kids more often than not ignore whats behind the family budget. I only knew when we were more comfortable and when we were less but my parents never gave me any reasons farther than "this is too expensive, we can't afford it now".

So no, it was not because I'm reach but because for most part, the money I used wasn't a money made of my own but borrowed from my parents or from a scholarship. Everything changes when you get to a more adult phase of your life and start working and making money of your own.

And then, that paycheck you get every 15 days or so, that justify the days coming home at dark and leaving at dawn; comes to you as a special price, as a reference to make some plans on how to spend it, how to save it, even how to invest it.

Months later, sometimes even just weeks later, the job continues same as usual, the palns and dreams continues and the paycheck does to: the exact same number on a cute check month after month. You soon realize that only your possibilities have change. Even with the adjustments made two times a year to make your salary more realistic to the actual prices it is never enough. The prices have a different rhytm, a far more faster one. You soon realize that this salary you got it might sound pretty to the people whose minds are not yet ajusted to the new prices ("Is it really thaaat expensive?") but its really nothing.

You finished your career in a prestigious university, started a terrific job, starting making money and yet, the distance from your dreams and expectations was never this big.

PS: Thanks for the corrections

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.