There is no milk

On the front page of the newspaper in the morning was the headline “Three dead, 26 injured”, and there were pictures of the protests that had gone on the day before. We walked up to the centre. We walked past a drug store and outside it was a BIG queue going up the block. The metal shutters had been pulled halfway down the windows. D asked somebody what it was all about. The store had received a delivery of toilet paper but had just run out. That’s what people were waiting for.
We had lunch in a busy restaurant on the main street, opposite the ice-cream place that holds the world record for the most flavours. There were no tables it was so busy. Then a young local guy invited us to sit down with him. He and D got to talking.
He said that he was leaving Venezuela because things were so bad. He was going to Panama sometime this year. He said that on Tuesday, things had been REALLY bad. Students in Maracaibo had taken over the airport there. He believed that war was just around the corner. He said that nowhere in Venezuela was safe, and that it wasn’t particularly safe where we were sitting now.
I lost my appetite.


After that, things calmed down a little and we went to Los Llanos. I was happy in Los Llanos. We were fed well. We looked at animals. That’s all I need for my nerves and spirit. Everything else is just masturbation. We saw caiman, anaconda, turtles, river dolphins, piranha, capybara, iguana, and birds, thousands of birds, shots of red, white, brown, black, blue, yellow, pink.




We didn’t have internet and I soon forgot about football, violence, capitalism, communism, all the shit that consumes our lives. The rest of the world was nowhere. Without internet we had to TALK to each other. A few days earlier, we had gone on day trip into the mountains surrounding Mérida. We were out of the city for no more than eight hours, but as soon as we walked back through the door of the hostel, without saying a word we all marched to the places our mobile phones were. I remember looking up from my phone and seeing us all standing apart, on our phones, separated, silent, checking in.
One afternoon, I looked at Paul swinging in the hammock next to me and thought, WHAT A JOB! I thought I could stay here for quite some time. The peace, the animals, give me a job looking after the horses and
I would be happy, oh yes yes yes. I began to think that I might like to travel Venezuela. See some more of the country.
We left Los Llanos on the fourth day. It was going to take eight hours cramped in the back of a jeep to get back to Mérida. I didn’t mind. Venezuela was looking up.


It was just before we stopped for lunch when Paul turned in his seat and said that we might have some trouble getting back to Mérida. The opposition leader had been arrested the previous day for ‘murder’ and there were protests in the streets. The protesters were setting up barricades and burning tyres and nobody was getting in or out.
“We might not get home tonight, guys. Things aren’t very good at the moment”
There it is, I thought, the reason NOT to travel Venezuela.
“…few days ago, armed paramilitaries took over San Cristobal bus station…”
“We’ll spend the night in the mountains?”
“Yeah, if we have to”
I thought that sounded pleasant.
We stopped at the same old church we had seen on the day trip into the mountains. It was cold in the mountains. I hadn’t noticed it on the day trip, maybe because there were no people now, but there was a small wire cage in front of the church. Inside it were two puppies, one bigger than the other. They were the same breed of dog that Simón Bolivar had, the man who won Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia their independence from Spain. There was nothing but a sheet of cardboard on the bottom of the cage which didn’t even cover all of the holes, and the cold, there was the cold. The puppies’ tongues came out and licked our fingers and their tails wagged and flapped. I could have broken a man then.
We got into Mérida okay and saw evidence of what had been going on. Burnt tyres. Broken glass. We made it to the hostel then decided to go out for something to eat. We walked about our street but everywhere was CLOSED. There were a couple of eating places, but we thought we’d walk a block and find somewhere better.
The streets were empty. Nothing. It was all closed. We circled the block and were headed back to our street when there was a BANG behind us, then more of them, bang bang bang! Loud. Firecrackers maybe. Close. We all skipped at once in shock. I turned but all I could see was an empty street. We started laughing, it was too much. We walked toward the hostel. If we had been walking any faster we would have been running.
Later, I sat in the hammock and listened to the bangs go off outside…
The next day, there were more bangs. We were told everything was closing early and to stock up on food because everything would be closed the following day as well because another march had been called for.


I won’t even pretend to know what’s going on. Somebody else will have to tell me, if they can. And I probably won’t believe them. There is no RELIABLE source of information. Everybody, everything has a mouth and an INTEREST. All I know is that things are not well, not well at all.
I’m not even scared anymore. I WAS scared. I like my ass. I don’t want anything to happen to it. But now I’m just FRUSTRATED. It is Monday and today we were supposed to start Spanish classes. This morning we were told there is going to be more trouble. I was waiting in the bakery when Boxhead walked in and told me that there was nobody at the school. We got breakfast and walked back down the street to the school and to the place that has been holding my laundry hostage since Friday. Both were locked up, empty.
I don’t understand what’s going on, but with these constant disruptions the revolutionaries are throwing, I’m getting pissed and might take a side yet. Each day it’s another god damned thing. Everything is closed because it’s a Sunday, because there is a protest. I read that even parts of the opposition are growing tired of having the streets in their OWN neighbourhoods blocked off, of not being able to go to work, earn MONEY. Burning doesn’t answer everything!
Saturday, I took a walk to the view at the end of our street, where the mountains seem to have an infinity effect. The sun feeling good. It was early in the morning and there were quite a few people there, exercising on the bars, smiling, taking photographs, happy, and I thought it wouldn’t be so bad if we got stuck here. I could start working out again, learn the language. It wouldn’t be so bad.
For a while.
Hell, now I don’t know. Should we move or should we stay? What if we don’t move fast enough?
I’m on the roof and ash is raining out of the sky and I’m tired of waiting around, and I can hear cheering on the street below. I jump up to see what all the fuss is about and it’s the rubbish being collected, to deny the revolutionaries their fire-fuel, and there is a crowd of people cheering and clapping ironically, and the cancerous ash from the burning rubbish is falling on me, falls on me.
I just don’t know.
So I grow tired and wait for tomorrow.


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