A few days ago, I was overwhelmed with the idea that my decisions were not mine anymore. I had this feeling of leaving my decision-making process to others, to chance and to some obscure strings that were pulling my life towards many different directions. I was not the owner of my future; my plans belonged to someone else.
When you live in a country like Venezuela that is immersed in a political battle every day, while it is highly affected by hyperinflation and debt, your plans start to get shorter and shorter. Suddenly, you do not know if you are going to be able to work, or commute, or eat next week. But enough about me, because there are more stories to tell.
Crime has changed the way Marce makes decisions. She has been robbed a few times (how much is a few, right?) but she is not worried about herself. She is worried about her son, her teenage son that barely leaves the house to play basketball for a few hours in a building next door. She would die, and never forgive herself if something ever happened to him. Her choices are now mainly driven by keeping him safe. He will not leave the house without her; he will not take a bus or walk to his destination; he will be taken and picked up to and from whatever place he needs to go. If she has to wake up extra early to take him to sports practice, she will. If she needs to stay a few more hours outside, just to pick him up when he finishes his homework, she will. She will adapt whatever schedule, appointment, meeting or gathering she has so that her son is not on the streets alone. She lives in Caracas, one of the most dangerous cities in the world right now.
Crossing borders is a topic that Sara knows very well. She had to cross all the way from Peru to Venezuela by bus when she was ten years old. Now her Peruvian family urges her to come back, to avoid all the problems in Venezuela by returning home. But, where is home? She has been living here more than 20 years now, her daughter and husband are Venezuelan, and she speaks and breathes Venezuelan. Her decisions are all affected by what we like to call situación país (the country´s situation). There are two levels of intrusion in her decisions: low-level, such as not buying chocolate because that will mean one less lunch for her family; and, on a higher level, having three jobs and using all her credit cards to be able to travel abroad and visit her Peruvian family for a few days. She still lives in Caracas, where the sun shines, and people smile, in spite of crime.
Aure left the country almost a year ago. She decided to start all over in Argentina with her husband and daughter. Her daughter can now walk without holding her hand in the streets and even distance herself from her a few steps. Simple things that were unimaginable back in Venezuela, where hands are welded together and personal space does not exist. Again, crime seems to be the common factor in this story as well. Now she can plan, she can make her own choices based on her desire to grow and to widen her horizons. Simple things, such as going to the park, a weekend at the beach or a night out were very dangerous for her before; she’s now free from that fear.
She left two years ago and her life changed completely. Here she was newly graduated and eager to start a new job as a chemical engineer, but that job never happened. She spent some months in her family’s home, not being able to have a decent job and therefore living from her family’s income. She felt she was going backward; she was not able to support herself, not to mention buying a house or a car. Her desire to explore and get some independence drove her abroad. She’s now starting her own family! That’s a big plan! She feels her work and her money are worth something now. Her efforts are translated into goods and opportunities, and she feels she can now dream, plan and decide. Something everybody should be able to do.
These are quotidian activities, routine decisions, that most take for granted. These girls are not starting a company or investing in real estate; they are making daily decisions to have better lives, at home or abroad.
Life in Venezuela
It seems to be that every single aspect of our lives is now affected by politics. Some people have chosen to stay out of the topic; they try very hard not to read the news, not to turn on the TV, and most importantly, not to check Twitter (where the news are for real). But reality chases you and pokes you even on the lowest level. How can you ignore the political context of your country if one day a dozen eggs are 6.000 Bs and the next week they’re 7.500 Bs and the week after they may rise again? Hyperinflation is due to excessive currency production and the government’s debt. It’s as simple as that.
Some people listen to their friends’ stories from abroad and dream of not worrying so much about so many things in so little time. It’s stories like Aure’s and Pia’s that seem like a Hollywood movie with a happy ending for many Venezuelans nowadays.
These stories are the fuel for many people that are packing up their lives in a few suitcases and cramming them in the cheapest flight. People that decided to own at least the last of their choices in this country: leaving.
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