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GOVERNANCE & POLICY
Some Like it Hot: Life in Venezuela
By Chris Irvin 22-Feb-18
There’s no point denying it: things are heating up in Venezuela, at least in much of the country. Most places that are not influenced by altitude are a consistent 32–35 degrees celsius around now—hot but not unbearable, and generally not that humid. We generally can count on fantastic weather December through February or March, as temperatures do down to 28–30 and the air is quite dry and windy (I think it is just awesome!). Just as the weather here is not universally appealing, Venezuela itself is not for everyone. The country has not had any good press for a long time, but there are some positives. For instance, we get no hurricanes, the gasoline is basically free, and we benefit from a very low cost of living. Combining these perks with excellent salaries and packages (possibly the best in Latin America), educators who choose Venezuela get great savings and travel possibilities, professional development, and learning opportunities. Like that line from a famous Clint Eastwood movie, there’s The Good (I just noted some of it), there’s The Bad (I will get to this in a bit), and The Ugly, which is likely what is foremost on your mind. The Ugly includes the potential for: 1) major political disruption (this could affect services or transportation and simply put the country on hold for days or possibly much longer; and 2) crime (the disparity between the haves and have nots is unfortunately increasing). Hopefully you noticed the word “potential.” Yes, I have been affected by political marches, etc. However, schools have robust plans to make online accommodations in the event that rallies disrupt transportation. Personally I have not been directly affected, though it’s worth noting that I avoid the rally areas and march routes! Yes, I have been robbed, only twice in 20 years, however. Both times it was an “I told you so” sort of occasion, as I was on the “wrong side of the tracks.” It is the political stuff that is making Venezuela a hot news item. Yes, it has an impact on your life and your movements, but it is not about personal safety for the vast majority of people. Most are only impacted by curbs to their conveniences and limited in the range of activities available to them. Now for The Bad. This is really where one’s mettle is tested. 1) We face shortages of goods due to the dynamic duo of price regulation and corruption. Flour, oil, and butter are just hard to find, to name a few. Other goods—razors, coffee, and eggs—come and go. 2) Expect disruptions in internet service; these are likely even if your school and/or your home has two service providers. 3) Power outages are frequent, though schools have generators, as do many buildings/houses. 4) Water service disruptions can be the hardest to physically cope with, but the internet is the mental giant. Combine all that with, 5) a very high level of difficulty in getting things done (securing parts for your broken washing machine, a driver’s licence, etc.). I tell people I used to be a type A (an A+, really), but I have been beaten down or watered down to an A- or a B+. This was necessary for my mental self preservation in order to live in a semblance of harmony here. Back to The Good for a second. Venezuela is big—bigger than Texas, in fact! There are a ton of lesser-known, world-class travel locations and opportunities for the adventurous. Google Image these locations: Los Roques, Kavak, Roraima, Margarita Island, Merida, Los Llanos, Delta Orinoco, and of course Angel Falls, the highest waterfall in the world. Awesomeness awaits experienced, organized-but-flexible people with a sense of both adventure and humor in this beautiful country. Although Venezuelans face a truly difficult economic situation, they continue to be the best part of being here. These are resourceful, patient, and caring people. They have a joie de vivre that would make the French go loco! Once they get to know you, they warm up quickly (same as the morning sun). Venezuelans are protective, very open, and will share whatever they have with you, even if they have very little. Once you have a friend in Venezuela, you have a pana* for life! * Pana is “friend”, but really it is more like your bro, your buddy, your BFFL. Something like friendPlus. Chris Irvin is Principal at the International School of Monagas.
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02/26/2018 - trish
Thanks Chris for writing this. Visiting you and the fam is on my to-do list.