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Indonesia vs. Venezuela

Indonesia vs. Venezuela

While at my freshly minted new job, I found myself getting dizzy. Closing my eyes briefly, I took a deep breath to steady myself.

My life has changed dramatically within the last two months, and the change was physically getting to me.

Exactly two months and two days ago, I left Valencia, Venezuela–where I’d been living for the past twenty four months–only to (im)migrate to Jakarta, Indonesia.

Though I did not state it on the blog at the time, the violent political protests during my first year abroad solidified my decision that I would not be staying in Venezuela long term.

Thus, I started the job search last summer and right before Thanksgiving, 2014 I landed one…a 20.5 hour plane ride and 12 hour time zone difference away from my hometown of Houston, Texas.

While Venezuela had extreme scarcity (re: I had to bring my soap, shampoo and feminine hygiene products from the US because there were severe, painful shortages in Venezuela), Indonesia has bounty. Where Venezuela had insecurity, Indonesia has safety.

But I miss the people in Venezuela. I always will. As a way to honor my old stomping grounds and my new one, I decided to create my first infographic.

Enjoy!

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Stranded in Caracas, Part IV

I’ve been posting about how I was stranded in Caracas because of an overlooked error when purchasing my international ticket. 

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.

Stranded in Caracas, Part I

Back in May, an e-mail arrived in my inbox that began “The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has received reports indicating that at least seven people have been victims of “express kidnappings” in and around the municipality of El Hatillo in Caracas since Friday, May 22nd, 2015.”

This is not something that I will be telling Mom and Dad about until I’m back in the States, I thought as I continued reading.

The e-mail included sections such as “if a rescue attempt is made” and “ransom” (read: the US government ain’t paying shit for you…period).

Caracas, quite frankly, is known for kidnappings. Horror stories have swirled since I arrived in Venezuela about people being snatched right from the international airport…

where I now found myself stranded.

Continue reading

In Venezuela, A Box of Condoms Runs $755 as Oil Prices Plummet

This is one of many headlines that people have been talking about here for the last week.

At first, people laugh at it. It’s so…absurd. Then you stop and think. This is a health crisis, catastrophe, atomic bomb in motion.

When you mix one of the highest HIV rates in Latin America with little access to condoms…I mean. I honestly don’t know what to say.

I’m just so, so saddened because the people here are amazing.

One person wrote in the comments, “They don’t have access to Amazon.com?” To use Amazon you need dollars. When your currency has collapsed under a 63% inflation rate who’s thinking of shopping on Amazon? In dollars?

People are talking about trying to find diapers, standing in line for milk, the rising cost of fruit, and being unable to find meat. Again, who’s thinking about Amazon? Not the average Venezuelan.

Now it’s more than just people here don’t have access to dollars. They don’t have access to a basic health necessity.

And that is a damn shame.

Yahoo! Finance: Venezuela’s Surreal Prices

My brother just sent me this link. This is the most concrete example I’ve seen of what inflation can do to a country. It’s really hard to fathom unless you live here. Venezuela has one of the highest inflation rates in the world. To be brutally honest, it doesn’t affect me because my salary is not in the local currency. My friends who do get paid in the local currency…I don’t know how they make it every month.

I thought I learned the definition of hustling when I moved to NYC.

Nope.

That’s what people have to do here with inflation the way it is.

Check out this visual to help get a better grasp of the situation.

Update: Back in August, 2014 I spent 230 bolivares fuertes for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. On October 14th I spent 1,075 Bs for a bottle of olive oil. I use EVOO (as a famous TV chef calls it) to cook AND to deep condition my natural hair. I had sticker shock (which kept me from buying a 990 bs bottle), but finally decided to bite the bullet out of vanity. I wanted to continue deep conditioning my hair, and I didn’t want to rely on the less healthy option of vegetable oil to cook all my food.

This is the epitome of inflation in Venezuela.

The Economist–Venezuela’s Economy: Probably the World’s Worst-Managed Economy

This piece in The Economist makes me so sad. There’s no hiding it; scarcity is REAL here.

Right now there’s a shortage on shampoo, razors, diapers, and bug repellent. I went to at least three stores today looking for bug repellent, but none was to be found.

Last year the shortages affected milk, Harina Pan (a type of flour used to make arepas, a national dish; it’s like there being a shortage on sandwich bread in the US), and vegetable cooking oil.

The constant shortages create a culture of hoarding and over-planning. For example, you always buy more than you need because you don’t know when you’ll find it again. Now that plane tickets are scarce too, people don’t bat an eye at you trying to plan a trip that is five months or even a year out. You have to.

Venezuela, I love your people and I truly hope and pray this overwhelmingly negative narrative will change one day soon. The economy improving will be a huge step, if not the most important step, in this narrative improving.

Breast Implants are Newest Shortage in Venezuela

In light of my other posts discussing the Venezuelan beauty culture , definitions of beauty, and the like I just couldn’t resist posting this article: “Breast Implants are Newest Shortage in Venezuela.”

I promise, Venezuelan women are not as shallow as this article makes them out to be.