Queuing up in Venezuela

I wrote this on Monday while I waited for a flight that was only 50 minutes late. People told me that a four hour delay was normal when going to Puerto Ordaz, my hometown. I reached inside a tightly packed bag to take out my journal and a pen. Thankfully, the bag was full but not heavy because it was mostly packed with toilet paper. Don’t worry, it’s not what you think. The rolls were a present for my mom. Yes, toilet paper. The pants I bought for her in Thailand and the singing bowl from Nepal were nice but the six rolls of toilet paper, priceless.

Luckily for my back, my mother doesn’t drink milk and for those out there who like me, love it, I suggest you read this article and spare yourself the search. If you want milk in Venezuela, you have to be lucky to find it at a decent price. You have to commit to queuing up for hours, sometimes days. The shortage in Venezuela is not limited to luxury products such as milk and toilet paper, Venezuelans are also queuing up for meat, coffee, refined sugar, soap, diapers and medicine. Luckily, none of those are terribly important.

In case you were not paying attention, that was a joke. A bad one for parents of babies and sons of aging parents who find nothing funny about the situation.

But we should move on to a lighter topic and find humor in the fact that I am traveling on a plane carrying rolls of toilet paper inside my bag! Amongst all the travel blogs that I’ve read, I never found one that talked much about this important item. In India, for example, I got used to carrying a roll inside my bag and a daily supply inside my purse. While hiking in Nepal, I learned that wet wipes can save the day and somewhere along the way (perhaps in Kenya), I begun stashing a few squares at the end of every transaction, just in case I didn’t get lucky next time.

If I have to wait six hours to pay for my groceries, how can I be surprised when my flight is delayed? Instead, I feel thankful for flying at all because finding international flights is a thing of the past. I see tourism offices with signs that say there are no flights, anywhere, until further notice. My perception of the drastic economic decline in the country becomes more real now that I’m here and my day-to-day becomes directly affected. Right now, it’s hard to hold on to my liberal tendencies. When I see how we live right now, believing in a socialist utopia becomes absurd.
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Venezuela is learning hard lessons: don’t waste anything, be thankful for what you have, be patient. If things keep going this way, we will also become the healthiest nation in the world by being forced to keep a vegan diet. The nation now finds humor in the insane and I’m not talking about the crime that makes our country amongst the most dangerous places in the world, I am talking about laughing when we pay 1700 BsF ($140 under the current black market exchange rate) for four big sheets of colored paper, one yellow poster board and a tube of silicone.

When we finally get ready to board, I see a couple of people with hippish looks who are clearly coming from abroad to stretch out their dollars and see El Santo Angel, the tallest waterfall in the world located in Canaima National Park. How far a dollar goes is directly correlated to how little the Venezuelan Bolivar can get you. The severity of the situation is clearly demonstrated by the fact that our biggest printed bill (100 BsF) is not enough to pay for one arepa, Venezuela’s most popular street food which on average costs less than a burger.

I want to think that things will get better.

And in that spirit, I will counterpart my rants and send hope to my leftist friends noting that Venezuelan people still know how to have fun. Despite inflation, crime and shortages if you still decide to visit this beautiful country, you can not only hike through Tepuis (table-top mountains unique to this region) and enjoy some of the best wind surfing in the world in Margarita Island. You can also party in “El Maní” which I dare say it’s possibly the best underground salsa club in South America and the coolest club in Venezuela, without a doubt. I want to tell readers that our chaotic paradise comes with women that look great, even if they know they’ll be standing in line for hours. If boobs and butts are your thing, you are welcome to ignore everything you’ve read so far and book a flight to the north of South America with Venezuela and Colombia taking the lead on cleavage and ass because at least when it comes to love, in Venezuela, there is something for everyone.

PS: I am borrowing the signature image from La Patilla. Please check them out: http://www.lapatilla.com/site/2015/01/14/un-nuevo-oficio-en-venezuela-los-profesionales-de-las-colas-fotos/

A warm review for Blue is the Warmest Color – Movie Review

I watched Blue is the Warmest Color with my brother. Selling him on watching the movie required no convincing: “I found a french film about two lesbians, wanna go?”, “Yep”. And that was that. But not only because of the lesbians, at least 35% of the excitement was due to his love for french cinema, a love that has also rubbed off on me.

Many of us are familiar with the pacing of french films. We know that they are slower than most American movies and we feel a hint of cinema verité that bleeds into many aspects of the production: script, performances, editing, et cetera. Yet another great quality of french films is the unexpected plot twists and unconventional structure of the storyline. A french film can take us on a journey that doesn’t give us clear clues (or any clues at all) for what’s going to happen next. It’s a different viewing experience than watching American movies because most of us who are used to watching mainstream films, like to try and guess what’s going to happen next. Even more, we like to be right about our guesses. Every time we say “I knew that was going to happen!” we feel like experts, like cinema connoisseurs. French cinema on the other hand doesn’t encourage audiences to guess, instead, our guesses are ignored with multi-directional plots and quietly unexpected turns. Blue is the Warmest Color does this well and it keeps us engaged with a well crafted story that is intimate, entertaining and satisfying even thought -like always- some might disagree. Oh well, c’est la vie.

Adèle comes to us as a confused high schooler and she walks away as an adult who knows herself better. Actress Adele Exarchopoulos does an exceptional job at adjusting her screen presence with a refined subtlety that allows her character to develop emotional maturity. Her performance gives us no room to wonder what’s going to happen next, because we are genuinely invested in what’s happening at that very moment. It’s an existentialist approach and I might be reading too much into it, but if anybody knows existentialism, it’s the French. Just sayin’.

Adèle falls in love with Emma as we fall in love with Léa Seydoux‘s immaculate performance. She is smart, smooth, strong and so interesting looking with her cool blue hair. Throughout the film blue is the color of beauty, the color of safety, the color of calmness. Emma’s hair, Adele’s English classroom, the nail polish of her first kiss, all blue. All bliss.

This is a film about relationships. Most obviously, the love relationship between Adèle and Emma but ultimately, Blue is the Warmest Color is a film about Adele’s relationship with herself. Her story resonated with me and it will also resonate with anybody that has fallen in love, anybody that has made a mistake. anybody trying to let go. Go watch it.

I give these three hours of warm blue bliss 5 out of 5 stars.

Props to these gals

I’ve been told that when it comes to social media, one has to be generous. I find that to be good advice for pretty much anything we do. In generosity one finds self satisfaction; it’s the karma thing and the fact that ‘what goes around comes around’ because only in generosity we can grow. Got it? Very well then, enough of that.

In an effort to be generous with my writing, I would like to make a habit out of posting one “appreciation blog” every month. For this month’s post I will focus on three fantastic women in the entertainment industry. I decided to group them together because: They are all still active in their careers; they have achieved significant fame and recognition and they have all incorporated quality writing into their original art of choice. And of course, I like them all.

Amanda July (Filmmaker, Writer, Artist) – I was just in the bookstore this weekend when I ran into a copy of No One Belongs Here More than You. In the beginning, I didn’t realize that the writer, was the same Miranda that directed all those corky, off-beat indie comedies about awkward relationships. I have always loved her films but I found out from visiting her website that she is a very well-rounded artist with plenty to say and the creativity to make it interesting. Amanda: Thank you for your awesome hair.

PJ Harvey (Musician, Songwriter, Actress) – I chose PJ because I have the same birthday! Okay, maybe not because of that. In her Uh Huh Her album (released in 2004) PJ Harvey not only played all the instruments, but, she was also the producer for it. Unfortunately, unlike the movie Laurel Canyon (by Lisa Cholodenko) there are not many women music producers out there. Because of that, I want to to say PJ Harvey: Thank you for representing.

Debora Copaken Kogan (Photojournalist, Writer, Performer) – Despite the fact that she is also a Libra -obviously the best sign, ever- through Debora’s acclaimed book ShutterbabeI am learning about the tremendous hard work that goes behind being a photojournalist. Through her beautiful photos and her honest words she shares meaningful stories and she does so freely. Debora: Thank you for being fearless.