domingo, 27 de diciembre de 2009

The end of Love as I know it

I met my boyfriend back in February, 2008. On our third date we went to El Hatillo (a small colonial town, very popular tourist spot in Caracas) to have some hot chocolate and talk. About midnight, all the places in the town were closing so it was dangerous to stay there for long. But the conversation was going great and it was clear that neither of us wanted to put an end to that date yet. “So, where you want to go now?” – He asked me at the parking place. Since streets are forbidden because of insecurity and we didn’t wanted to go to a nightclub because is too noisy to talk, I proposed him to go to a mall and find some place quiet to have a drink and talk.

We parked at “El Tolón”, a classy mall famous for its movie theaters and restaurants, thus always open even after midnight and filled with people. We went straight to one of the top floors which haves many restaurants. But most of them were as noisy as a night club or ridiculously expensive.

After walking and walking without finding any successful spot to retake the conversation we left at El Hatillo, we decided to just sit on a bench and talk. I think we spend about two hours or more there just talking and talking and talking; getting to know each other a bit better, same as everyone does on first dates. I finally got home about 2 am. Those talks after midnight at some bench in a mall were the basis of what is now an almost two year relationship.

Why am I using this blog, which is a space, made to give a personal perspective of the Bolivarian Revolution, to tell a corny story about a first date? Could you think of something more off topic?

In George Orwell’ 1984, there’s a scene that has always shocked me. Winston and Julia, the lead roles, agreed to meet at some field. Once there, out of the sudden, they are making love. But, they are not just making love. By doing that they are going against the principles of their current government, they are being carried by an emotion even more important than “Big brother” and thus making love in Orwell’ 1984 is not just making love, is a political act. I didn’t get it when I first read it, about three years ago. I got many things but not that part. How does a political system can dig so deep to end up even inside your bed?

Now I got it. I don’t know when I started to get that. I just know I own this recent enlightenment to those daily prohibitions, to those arbitrary moves, to the paranoia they produce around us, to the fear. When you live inside of a Revolution, no part of your life is left outside. It is not just a matter of politics. It’s a matter of moods, opportunities, expectations, economics, history, entertainment, and love. Even love.

The government just recently launched a new move. From January 1st, 2010; the malls of Venezuela will only have right to use the power service from 11 am till 9 pm. If they dare to turn on a light after 9, they will be punished with 24 hours at least without power service; plus real expensive fines. The government says that this is due to global warming, and excessive consume. But we know that ever since the government bought the electricity company, thus having the monopoly of the power service about – two years ago? -; we started to have troubles with power. Blackouts are now frequent especially outside Caracas and not because just when the government bought the company, coincidence acted and we started to use more power; but rather because of the lack of maintenance and corruption. We know how to read between lines, we know how the government works.

I know it would be more responsible to talk about production troubles, insecurity, more about the causes of this power crisis or the government political repression. But you know this blog is more about honesty than about political correctness. So I must be honest and confess that when I heard the announcement of the power regulations of the shopping malls, all I could think of was that memorable date I just told you; next to many other moments I have had after 9 in a shopping mall. My boyfriend and I, for example, love to go to the movies after 9 because they are fewer chances to share the theatre with annoying kids.

Now, if a couple is introduced in a couple of months, when my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our second anniversary; they won’t be able to have the date we had. They won’t have long and crazy after midnight talks inside a mall. That date, which took place back in February of 2008 now looks like an impossible date. That bench is now forbidden after 9 Pm. And the benches at the streets after 9, due to insecurity, have been long ago forbidden. Couples now will have to end their dates before 9, no matter how great the conversation is going. Or they will have to extend their dates at home, even if its too soon to met the parents.

Inside the Bolivarian Revolution, even love, as we knew it, is now forbidden.

martes, 22 de diciembre de 2009

Just a tiny part (post about self-censorship)

(The image was taken from HERE, no copyright infringement intended) This blog has a lot of self censorship. I think this is my responsibility to admit. For every story I publish here, there are at least ten more even more worthy of your attention that I never tell. For every thought I display in this virtual space, there are a hundred more thoughts which never come out off my mind. Plus, every story I write and publish to you did not happen in the exact same way I wrote about it. I consciously change names, many details, even dates if necessary and omit many parts.

For a journalist, to do such a thing is irresponsible; it goes against the principle of free speech and the also beautiful and democratic idea of transparency, objectivity, and the accuracy of information. But I’m not a journalist, not I’ll ever be one. To every person who comes with the story about bloggers and “citizen journalism”, I tell the same thing: I don’t pretend to replace any newspaper or agency. Not every blogger telling a testimony is a “citizen journalist”. Must of us are just bloggers.

For me, being a blogger means that I’m just another person and nothing else. Blogging is too much of a broad activity for having any code, or rules or principles. As a blogger and as a person, my intention is not to spread out some valuable information. My intention is only to bring you my reality a bit closer of your understanding, using as many possible resources I can use to achieve my mission. My only code is to speak honestly about my perception of certain events, without adding any unnecessary drama to touch you more or to attract more readers. Details may change, but no word written here has been made up.

As for the rest, I need to protect myself and the ones around me. Many stories here are about me, but many others are about people around me. Those people are not only “sources”: are family, friends, acquaintances, neighbors… They are people I truly appreciate, and I think their lives are much more valuable than this blog.

I’m telling you all this because this is reason why I haven’t updated this blog lately. I have had many moments of inspiration during the past few weeks, thinking than this or that could become an interesting entry. It could open some eyes. But unfortunately, I can’t write such entry.

I have this dream of being able one day to tell you all, because is safe doing that, because I have enough basis to not be afraid of speak out anymore. I dream about writing one day the stories I’m afraid to tell right now and not only to bring this reality closer to foreigners. I would like to write those stories one day because whoever comes after us has the right to know what happened, how do we lived, what did we do. Whoever comes after us might finish this. Or they might do something so this will never ever happen again.

In the meantime, I’ll keep writing and posting what I feel it can be published. And who ever read this must keep in mind this blog’ self imposed limitations. You must know that this is only a tiny part, an incomplete story, a glimpse, a quick look of what’s really going on in our lives in Venezuela, inside the Bolivarian Revolution.

sábado, 5 de diciembre de 2009

A thank you note to the readers

As some of you might know, I'm thinking of entering Grad School, possibly next year or so. I took the TOEFL Test (Test of English as a Foreign Language)- one of the requirements needed - last month and yesterday I recieved my scores: 106 (Being 120 the maximum possible score). I had a "high" performance in the Reading and Listening parts of the test (29 points in both, out of 30), a "fair" perfomance in Speaking (the lowest score: 23 out of 30) and a "good" perfomance in Writing (25 out of 30). They are pretty decent scores for someone who has only taken about three months of basic courses, has never traveled to an English speaking country since she was like 9 or 10, and has never lived abroad. Plus, they are much higher than the minimum scores required for any of the universities of my choice. I owe this score to many things: to my habit of watching TV and movies in English, to the books I read in this language, to the study sesions with my boyfriend and to you. I feel in debt with the readers of this blog, with your patience, your editing, your sugestions about better words to use, your support and your corrections. I have given to you a personal and unique perspective of the daily life inside a Revolution. But you have given me so much more: you have given me the priviledge of knowing a second language. So thanks. Thanks a lot.
(There is no rest)

miércoles, 2 de diciembre de 2009

Just like us

In the news this week: another student killed. On Monday night, he was driving throughout a highway with his girlfriend. Another car made signs asking him to stop his vehicle and to give it up. He refused and tried to run away. The thieves simply shot directly to his head, killing him instantly and then run away, without the car they wanted to steal but leaving a clear sign: is either the car, or your life, or maybe both. I did not know the victim, neither his girlfriend but when you read such things on the news, you tend to feel their lives closer to you than what they already are.

My boyfriend and I have taken on his car the same route this poor guy took and at the same time. So on Monday night it was them, it was a guy with perhaps a promising future (the news said he was in its fourth year of medical school), it was a girl who was a witness of a terrible crime and lost the love of her life at the same time, it was a father – also a doctor – who lost his son. And it was all of us, who lost a bit more of that feeling of being safe. The fear inside all of us grows with that stories we hear, in the news or in our daily talks, of tragedy lost of people we knew or of people we never knew; but they were just like us.

martes, 1 de diciembre de 2009

Under the Mattress

Note: The image was taken from here. No copyright infringement intended.

This post is about the current bank crisis in Venezuela. I won’t explain, for now, all the economical insights of it, I’m just starting to understand this crisis and I lack at the moment of the proper analysis tools to explain it. In the mean time, for more detailed information, go visit this blog. I will tell instead, as always, the small personal side of the big story.

Four banks were closed by the government and two of them liquidated; just a few weeks before Christmas. The news shocked us all but it didn’t really affect us. Like all government moves’ –justify or not- they affected only a small part of the population: the ones who had accounts at those banks and the ones who worked at those banks (who were put on the streets, from one day to another without the Christmas bonus they expected by law besides other work benefits). But like I said, it did not affect us, we just felt thankful that no family member ever opened a single account on any of those poor banks.

However, today, the situation was quite different. We heard the president of the Supreme Court, saying on TV that there was no bank crisis in Venezuela. After ten years of revolutionary propaganda, we are very well trained to read between lines; so, as soon as we heard that, panic broke out. For us, is quite clear that there’s a bank crisis all over us, giving us this infamous Christmas present where we might lose our savings. My mom asked to each and every one of us if we had more than 10.000 Bolívares Fuertes (the amount the government recognizes and perhaps will pay some day to the former clients of the affected banks) on any bank account. But even if we have less, the instructions were clear: to run to the bank NOW and put it all out. And if possible, change it to Dollars and save it under the mattress.