I spent these “vacations” with family visiting close-by towns and places. I also had plenty of time to read, think and reflect on many things.
In 1984 my mother decided to come back to Argentina. We were living in Venezuela as refugees but now things were changing (politically) and mom wanted to come back. I was only 17 and new only a few people, but decided to stay: for me, Argentina was too painful a place to come back. Too many memories and losses, too much a burden to start a life; so I stayed with a good friend, started a garden with seeds mom left and we survived for an entire year on the vegetables I grew and the lentils I had stockpiled: I didn’t have a stable job, we were renting too rooms at an old woman’s house and the year before had been “Black Friday” ( a historic devaluation of the Venezuelan currency) which caused food scarcity, mostly of staples such as beans and rice.
Fast-forward 1994: I had a promising “career” as the assistant manager of a well known and successful travel agency; I was the leading instructor and curriculum development at the local airport and at the Tourism department of the local college. I would travel to different Caribbean islands and to New York almost every month (for free) and visited many countries, invited by big hotel chains and airlines. I got the highest IATA certification and my manager loved me because I was leading sales and was good with clients (at that time, I could speak five languages). Venezuela had started to fall apart but things still looked good…not for me: I had a crisis of values, I asked myself what I was doing and why…I ended up in that “career” by a combination of circumstances (not by choice) and I was a “poor” living like a millionaire: I earned basic salary with no benefits as tourism was an underpaid industry. Thanks to the perks I could travel all over the world for free, but in the early days, I had to choose between paying rent or buying food, or between having tickets for the bus or eating that night.
I abandoned my “career” without ever looking back: I decided to study psycho-pedagogy and dedicate my life to teaching children and people with special needs.
Fast forward 2002: Venezuela was in the middle of a social, political and economic turmoil that have not stopped since. Kidnappings, assaults, murders, robbery and scarcity of food, energy and water were the new normal and increasing. The already endemic corruption of institutions and public were unbearable. In early 2002 there was an attempt of coup d’état against Chavez. Then in December businesses (and the biggest oil company in Venezuela, PDVSA) called for a general strike that was known as the “oil strike” that almost paralyzed the entire country for three months…we had had enough and applied to immigrate to Canada.
I visited Argentina and my family three times after the Argentinean coup d’état that changed my life: each time, I was looking at a less and less empowered country where chronic dirty sidewalks, street holes, derelict buildings, impoverished people and failing institutions were the new “normal”…from a rich, beautiful and prosperous country once called “the barn of the world” with the first underground system in Latin America…
Today, I know Argentina is deeply indebted and bankrupt; its political and social systems are a weak house of cards; crime and drug addiction are rampant everywhere; human trafficking is common and people experience floods and bad storms all the time. A country with probably one of the best soils in the world and breathtaking landscapes and towns has water, energy and food issues and even tourists aren’t safe there anymore. I still remember how it was going out at 2 am in Buenos Aires and how safe I used to feel there…
Venezuela, my second home-country and where my two sons were born is also deeply indebted and fully dependent on oil. Its already weak institutions and the incipient agro industry are smashed and gone: food and water scarcity are the usual day-to-day way of life and power outages (which were always common) have increased even more.
I call this my year of truth. I have changed many times and lived many lives in one. Increasingly, I think more and more how Permaculture and my new understanding of climate change and all the other predicaments may serve either Argentineans or Venezuelans much more than what I may do here in Canada: let’s face it, most people in North American countries have the luxury of playing with community gardens and thinking whether or not growing tomatoes is cheaper or more effective that way than buying them from the grocery store…this is not the same situation in Argentina, Venezuela or many other countries in the world where the words “collapse”, “resource depletion”, “environmental destruction” and “climate change” are a hard reality.
In the last days, I’ve been reviewing my books and notes on survival, emergency and disaster management…I recalled the days as a scout where my friend and I went with our “troop” to impoverished populations, teaching them how to break fires and avoid floods and mudslides. I recalled the shelters we built and the storms we went through and how we laughed at the Hurricane season when I went to Savannah, GA and Charleston, SC in 1998.
Sometimes you can boil a frog and the frog may not realize it until it is too late…sometimes it only takes a small turn on of the heat for the frog to jump out.
The last straw came from a discussion forum where another member mentioned the belief (held by many in wealthy Western societies) that “you create your own reality”…
For about five billion human beings and almost all animals and plants in this planet, that is a bad joke: none of them have had the opportunity to “create” the frustrating, depleting, eroding and sometimes torturing realities they live day after day. Most don’t even have the option of choosing how to respond. That is the luxury choice of those who have emotional, intellectual, spiritual and physical resources to come up with a suitable response to the reality the rest of the world is imposing to them.
If I had the strength to stay alone in a country without family at 17, abandon a career for an uncertain future at 28 and move to a new country to re-start all over again at 38, I may be able to do this again…
In an earlier visit to OUR Ecovillage a resident there told us: “you can’t think things too much…if you think them out, you will not do them: you need to follow your heart and jump.”
I don’t know what 2015 will bring to each one of us, but whatever is what the world has for me, I want this to be the year of truth.
In an earlier post, I talked about patterns (or spirals) or abundance and patterns or spirals of erosion: when the erosion is bothering you too much, sometimes the only way to “fix” the pattern is to stop digging the hole…and jump out! But if you do not have the “choice”, then those of us who still have it, may have the responsibility of providing it to those who don’t.
“It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake because my great, great, grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams
What did you do, while the planet was plundered?
What did you do, when the earth was unraveling?
Surely you did something when the seasons started failing
as the mammals, reptiles and birds were all dying?
Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
What did you do once you knew?”