The Debacle on the Inside

Few people who live in exile can get through the day without the Venezuelan crisis invading their insides.

The alarm goes off at 6 am, every morning. This time of year, the Santiago chill makes a convincing case to not to get out of bed. As I mentally scan the morning’s routine, I can’t help but go on Twitter. Harrowing stories start popping up -before my shower, before breakfast, before coffee- and I begin the daily struggle of keeping Venezuela out of my mind, and my heart.

It’s a losing battle.

The routine begins. Dog food is in its plate. Coffee is being brewed. Morning news -Chileans talk about how it’s going to rain today, or about muggers holding up an occasional drug store. That’s how bad it gets.

“Man,” I say to myself, “país sin problemas.” I think of the latest lynching back home.

Showers. Pony-tails. Small talk over breakfast. I walk the girls to school. The snow-capped Andes  look lovely. I think about my morning, lost in my thoughts. La-dee-da.

Then, a mom stops me.

“I saw the most terrible news about Venezuela last night! What’s going to happen?”

Five minutes of “it’s all terrible,” “my family is OK, but struggling,” “anything could happen politically,” and I’m off. It’s become my stump speech.

But I’m not really off. As much as I try, I can’t compartmentalize. A routine day has all of the sudden became invaded by thoughts of home -I wonder if people had breakfast. I wonder if somebody was shot walking their kids to school, just like I am doing now.

My heart is full of lead, weighed down by an inability to put Venezuela behind me.

Every day, this scene repeats itself five, six times. Whether it is in a work meeting, a comment by a student in the hallway, or a call from a friend, people’s questions are always the same: “how horrible, what is going to happen?” The other day I started talking to a panhandler. He asked me where I was from. “Venezuela? Sheesh, things there are baaaad…” He gives me his pity look.

My reaction is the same. When I talk about it, it’s the half-an-hour of lingering emotional resaca that gets me.

I am grateful people are concerned, but I can’t help feel a bit jealous. They go on with their lives. They don’t feel guilty every time they go to the supermarket. They don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of pesos buying medicine for loved ones to send home. They don’t spend hours and hours away from their family writing about Venezuela’s crisis.

We’re lucky. We’re not living through this crisis directly. But in a tiny way, we are.