After dealing with uniformed airport employees demanding that I give them dollars and asking how much I had in my purse, I was tense and exhausted when I got to the hotel my school reserved for me.
Usually, I love hotel rooms. I take pictures of them and just get all excited.
I was so tense though I couldn’t even enjoy the (free!) experience, plasma TV and king-sized bed be damned.
But that’s where people can be beautiful to you when you least expect it.
While I wanted to stay within the four walls of my hotel, I ventured downstairs to the hotel restaurant.
I ended up running into a co-worker who picked up the bill when the school’s reservation that was supposed to include meals for me was denied for being room only. I’m often uncomfortable with accepting gifts, yet he insisted that he pay so that I could hold onto the little bit of cash I had left. After all, who knew for how long I would be stranded?
He then reached into his pocket and handed me the last of his American dollars.
“Just in case,” he said. What was left unsaid was in case you need to bribe someone with dollars.
I folded my Plan B into my wallet and thanked him for allowing me to ruin his quiet, solo dinner with my negative energy. When back in my room, I tweeted complaints to the airport that immediately got a response.
Paranoia quickly set in, and I deleted the tweets. What if they track me down and don’t let me leave the country for tweeting about illegal activity?
While I tried to think of what CIA skills I possessed that would get me out of Venezuela, a good friend and Spanish tutor called the room. She had been calling me more or less every hour to make sure that I was safe. For all intensive purposes, she was my mother while living in Venezuela. The sound of her sonorous tones immediately put me at ease.
Quite frankly, I felt loved where hours before I felt ensnared. My parents, who I connected to via Skype to tell them I wasn’t coming home as planned, were grateful for her check-in calls too.
The next morning arepitas dulces awaited me at the hotel breakfast. One of my favorite Venezuelan foods, I took their presence as a sign that I would make it home this time around.
I arrived early at the airport and all of the airline workers remembered me from the day before. One damn near cheered when she saw me, and I couldn’t help but smile with all 32 of my teeth showing. A co-worker and friend who’s fluent in Spanish arrived who just so happened to be on the same flight as me.
And with that, the rest of my anxiety dissipated. We chatted all the way to Miami.
When I finally arrived in my beloved hometown, my mother greeted me with open arms.
I was thankful, so thankful, to be back home.
As I unpacked my bags just to repack them for a professional trip to New York City, I managed to squeeze in time to write a complaint letter (in Spanish!) to the airport and a similar letter to my former employer.
I didn’t want to leave Venezuela on a negative note, but as I thought about the people who rallied around me in the final moments I realized I hadn’t left that way.
Venezuela led me to beautiful people, and I miss it already. As I get ready for a new stage in my professional career I’ll always pray for Venezuela because though the country may be deteriorating, the quality of the people continues to only increase.
Venezuela, thank you for one of the happiest stages in my adult life. May the world be as good to you as you were to me.