I got a text at 1 a.m. the other morning. Who texts at this time of night? Of course, it’s my 21 year old cousin from Venezuela, just to see how am I doing. The fatalist I am texts freaks out, rushing off a text:
>> WHAT HAPPENED? IS EVERYONE OKAY?
My little cous just doesn’t really get time zones, and doesn’t stop to think what time it is in England before he texts. He doesn’t really get that getting from Maiquetía to London takes longer than a Caracas-Miami flight.
>> Hi nana (some joke about me being an old fart), just checking to see if you could help me out. I’m sorry that I need to ask you this question… but I need 750,000 VEF to buy a ticket to Madrid
I do the math quickly in my head. It’s about £750… almost a London living wage.
>> What are you doing in Madrid?
>>I’m gonna raspar el cupo. If you lend me the money I’ll pay you when I get the euros. I’m planning to use that money to move to Chile.
Boom. There it was, my ‘little’ cousin from Guárico, who hasn’t been to Margarita yet, planning his first trip abroad to commit the most common criminal offence among Venezuelan travellers, just to be able to start a new life in another country he knows nothing about.
>> Ok I’ll give you part of what you need. Have you done your math?
>> What do you mean exactly by math?
>>Well, you will get around 2,000 dollars… which will be definitely less than 2,000 Euros… Minus the fee you will pay the raspa cupo and the money you will owe me which will be around 600 Euros. Also, factor in the money you will spend in Madrid.
This was all news to him. I felt terrible for him: he was lost. He didn’t know what to do, how to do it, or where to go, but somehow he met the right people along the chain of raspa cupos and miraculously had some bits and pieces of his plan figured out.
State-run bank credit card? Sorted. Conviasa ticket? Sorted. Raspa cupo in Madrid? Sorted. People to host him in Madrid? Sorted.
>> So nana, tell me how will you send me the money. How will you get it to Venezuela? Can you send me the cash with someone?
>> No, I normally use an online page to transfer money to my mom, so I will do the same.
>> Oh great. Will that be SIMADI or Cencoex rate? (both foreign terms to me!)
>> That will be the erm… lechugas website rate.
>> How is that even possible? Will you be doing your own carpetas for your bank? How much will they give you?
Oh-em-gee. How do you start responding to that? How do I explain to him that a long time ago in Venezuela you would simply pop by the bank, get some dollars and jump on your preferred flight to ANY country in the world?
We were on the phone for nearly two hours. Explaining No-Cadivi world to my kid cousin turned out to be harder than explaining currency controls to my Brit friends.
It left me thinking that perhaps, the most cruel thing about the Generation Cadivi is that they don’t know how to be a normal consumer, or even a normal traveler on a tight budget. It’s the generation of one carpeta tamaño oficio, one cupo and one unreliable credit card.