Nov 18, 2015


On Friday evening, after DH and I finished cleaning the house (my mom demands a clean house when she is staying over to pet sit), I opened my Facebook to see that the two friends I had made while in Paris had noted their status as “safe” from the Paris Terror Attacks.  
I immediately felt a cold chill run down my spine and tried to google the news, checked on Twitter and finally remember I have cable again and turned on the TV.  

The news said then that there were 153 dead, 300+ injured in organized attacks that happened one after the other. I saw the dazed look on people’s faces, running around for shelter, the broken glass at the restaurant, the feed of the bomb that could be heard during the football game and the startled football players, the rushing concert goers covered in blood. The people exiting the football stadium singing La Marseillaise made my eyes tear up and my heart ache. 

I saw the people on Facebook immediately praying for Paris, praying for the French, praying for the families of the victims, pissed at ISIS, pissed off a terror, scared of what was to come next. 

I also saw a lot of my Venezuelans friends saying “I feel bad for Paris, but, what about our dead?” Or “I see a lot of people here giving a damn about Paris but who cares about what happens in Venezuela?” Or “153 dead? We get more than that every day in the Capital and who is mourning us?”  “I see a bunch of sheep changing their Facebook profile to the French flag, how about you care about your own fucking country first?” 

I wasn’t aware that the soul had a limited supply of compassion. I wasn’t aware that we were unable to hurt for your own country and hurt for the French, and for Japan, and Lebanon and Venezuela and the people of Syria who are trapped by this regime and living an every-day hell.  I wasn’t aware that you could only care for your own and fuck everyone else. 

I was so disappointed, so hurt, so flabbergasted, so naive. Maybe it’s easy for me to feel disappointed by my friend’s feelings while they battle the rampant violence, danger, hunger and hopelessness in Venezuela while I sit cozily here in the U.S.A.  Maybe it’s unfair that I expect more from people who have spent the last 20 years in a rapidly deteriorating country that they no longer recognize as their own. Maybe it’s unfair to expect them to think outside their own daily struggles and spare some thought, some hurt, some pity and compassion, some empathy, some feeling for their fellow men outside their own country.

As I saw them spewing even more pettiness and anger and hatred I wanted to argue with them but what can I say? When they are suffering and I am not? But knowing that, doesn’t stop me from feeling that the attitude of ‘what about us’ it’s part of the problem, that culture of me first, that way of living where you cannot spare a thought for something that doesn’t affect you, THAT it’s part of the problem.  When all you care is about what affects you directly then we can’t move forward together. 

I mourn for the news of Venezuela’s deaths. I mourn by how callous and used to the violence the country I called home, has gotten used to. I mourn for the friends who had died, for the ones who had been kidnapped, for the ones who cannot find milk for their babies, or diapers, or shampoo. Every time I walk into Publix and see Harina P.A.N. I mourn for the fact that it’s a Venezuelan product in the U.S. that Venezuelans can’t find in their supermarket. 

I also mourn for the French, don’t we all have enough room in our hearts to care for more than one cause? I saw the pictures of some of the victims in Paris, so young, so happy in their Instagram shots, so handsome and pretty some of them were, how goofy others. I saw their faces and I mourn them too, as I mourn the couple of sisters who died at the restaurant.  I imagine my own sister and myself going through that and it breaks my heart for the family of those two women. 

Can’t we care for them and care for ours as well? I am so angry and sad at the many friends who see empathy for others and caring for what happened in Paris as a weakness, or indifference to the plights of Venezuela.  

Violence breeds violence and contempt and indifference, I think maybe that’s why my friends said the things they said, maybe that’s why they have turned into people who can see someone else’s pain and not think “I am sorry this is happening to you” but instead think “Why should I care about you? What about my pain?”

Some of my friends were also condemning the world for not intervening in the situation in Venezuela and fixing it. I am no politician but I am not sure what that person expected, a war? A US invasion? A foreign solution?  

I don’t know, but it worries me that it will change the rhetoric from indifference towards what’s happening to the outside world to hatred for the outside world. 

I wish they would understand that apathy towards their fellow men it’s not going to fix the situation in Venezuela.

Apathy fixes nothing. Caring, does.

Feb 17, 2015


Dear abandoned reader,

I am a little embarrassed that every time I update this blog is when someone prompts me to do it. I should be doing it constantly, not that I have much to say in relation to what the blog is supposed to be about, but I brought you guys along my journey just to abandon you as soon as my things got solved.

In my defense, work has been pretty hectic and I am incurably lazy and a procrastinator. So there, that’s my excuse.

I must confess there were times a few years ago when I was in the middle of the legal struggles, tethered to the ankle monitor from hell, when I despaired that the day would never come.  The day arrived however and I set foot on my homeland back in October 2014. I wondered while on the plane if kissing the floor when I landed would be too much.

DH seemed a bit baffled by my lack of enthusiasm a few weeks before the trip; he was looking forward to the food, the pretty women (he thinks I don’t know that’s one of his reasons) and the salsa dancing that awaited us. He told me several times he was more excited about the Colombia trip that the one we took to Europe. It was not lack of enthusiasm on my part but while I was bouncing off the walls when the Europe trip was approaching, the trip home made me feel so much different. There was unspeakable happiness in my heart, I couldn’t think about it without getting a little choked up, but there was also some apprehension. 

What are you bitching about now, Melissa? What could you possibly have to complain about? I didn’t have anything to complain about but I couldn’t deny the feeling in my chest.

A few weeks before the trip when I was running work errands I was listening to music in my car and this old Gloria Stefan song came on my shuffle. It’s called “Mi Tierra” and very appropriately talks about how you can never forget your roots, the land you left behind and how that lands aches with your absence. It struck me then why I was so apprehensive. I had been away from home for almost half my life! I was 31 years old and been away for almost 13 years. I truly was afraid that I would get there to the land I am from and I feel like I didn’t belong.

What if there was no strike to my heart, what if I felt like a foreigner? It reminded me of another song called “Foreigner” by Franco De Vita (awesome Venezuelan singer/songwriter) where the guy in the song leaves home in search of a better future leaving all behind and when he returns the children from his hometown called him the Foreigner. He doesn’t belong anywhere! Ain’t that kick in the head!

Every time I thought about going back home, back in those first few years when the U.S. didn’t feel like home and I was full of piss and vinegar and sorrow about being here I imagined the moment like in a movie; me getting out of the plane, the city would look more beautiful than ever and I would just feel like I had made it home, tears would run and my soul would once more be happy, content, comfortable, complete. Like when you sit down in your couch alone and your spouse is asleep upstairs and the pets are purring/snoring next to you and you know that everything is right in the world.

The bitch of it is that I was right. I was right to feel apprehension Dear Reader because home…is not home anymore. I so LOVED being there. DH and I had a blast eating our weight in fish in Cartagena and seeing my family in Barranquilla (the few that hadn’t made it to the US on vacation yet) was so much fun.

Clubbing on Halloween was a flipping blast, the music was great, and my family was so warm and welcoming and awesome with us. My aunt and uncle woke us up with café con leche every morning and breakfast, drove us around and it was so beautiful being there with all of them and see how much the city had changed in some ways and stayed the same in others (Let’s retire the donkey carts, Barranquilla)

I felt like a visitor though. I stood there thinking if I would leave my life in the US and go back and I wouldn’t, I don’t think my mentality would fit in any longer, the same way my mentality didn’t fit in here when I came 13 years ago; the same way that who and how I am sometimes still collide with the US even after being here for so long.

I came back speaking Spanish like a Costeña but I felt this…divide between the Melissa I was then when I was there the last time and the Melissa I am now. Not because 13 years had passed and I was 31 instead of 18 but because people looked at me like I was a tourist and treated me like I was a tourist and I dressed like I was a tourist and while they knew I was a Colombian expat in the U.S. I was not a true Barranquillera to them. My Venezuelan accent was confusing and I complained too much about the driving (they drive like crazy there). The things that a “True Colombian” takes for granted or accept as normal I couldn’t, I couldn’t hide the horrified expression with every homeless dog I saw in every corner. I lost my patience with the disrespect for traffic laws.

I wonder if I would feel different if I went back to Caracas instead. I knew how to get around there, I knew the streets, how to get from school to home, you could drop me somewhere in town and I knew which bus to take. Maybe the reason why Colombia felt so…alien was because I only went there on vacations; I visited two/three times a year but never lived there.

But what if…what if I ever go back home to Caracas and I feel the same? I would have lost something precious that I can’t get back.

In Barranquilla I met my 22 year old stepmom (my dad’s girlfriend) and also met for the first time my six year old sister that my dad had with another of his girlfriends. I told DH that I was afraid of the years of therapy the trip to Colombia may cause me, he laughed and thought I was exaggerating, but I truly am not.

Jul 8, 2014


One of my readers (didn’t know I had any left since I don’t update and I am so undeserving) asked if I had any updates on my sweet life now that I am free. Pretty succinctly and accurately put. I wasn’t free before, I mean I wasn’t in jail, but all the freedoms that my situation curtailed made me a kind of prisoner.

Other than the nasty acute sinusitis I am battling right now (gunk everywhere!) I AM living the sweet life. Sure, Colombia was robbed of that game by FIFA and that stupid referee (I haven’t stopped crying for James), yes Venezuela still suffers daily blackouts and shortage of goods, but me, personally have nothing to complain about.

What does one write when there are no demons to fight? I still feel directionless when it comes to this blog. I see comments and it makes me feel guilty of neglect and on the other hand I can’t shut it down, it would be like severing a relationship with a therapist, because believe me, sometimes writing (ranting) on this blog was the only thing that kept me sane.

DH and I went to Arizona, haha yeah, me. Remember that post I wrote four years ago?

 Well that sure came to bite me in the ass because I spent a week in Sedona and I gotta say, aside from people in Mauii I have never seen such customer service, everyone and I do mean EVERYONE we met was so incredibly nice and attentive. Everywhere we went people would hand us bottles of water because Arizona is SO DAMMNED DRY, I mean I have never been so dry in my life, I was turning into a freaking prune and my eyes were so red I thought I was getting pink eye for the first time in my life. Nope, it was just the moisture being sucked out of my eyeballs by the dry heat. It was lovely.

There is something majestic about Sedona, I don’t know if it was the famous Vortex or not but the place is certainly magical, those red rocks, I just can’t explain how they make you feel. I will shoot for awe and leave it at that, I was in awe with its beauty, the intense reds and blues, the promise of road runners crossing (didn’t get to see one) the memories of watching Wile.E. Coyote chasing that damn bird over the familiar rocks. It was like a place I’ve never been but I somehow remembered. I also loved the fact that everyone is Sedona was so eco minded, there were recycling bins and solar panels everywhere.

DH and I got back from Phoenix suitcase full of sage, Navajo jewelry and feeling like daredevils after crossing Devil’s Bridge and hiking like pros on such high altitude (not a myth, the altitude will kick your ass). I feel I am a fairly fit individual, I may not be able to do a push up but by God my cardio game is on. I was seriously challenged hiking those trails, I mean I hiked all the time back at home in the mountains, on muddy, mossy terrain with no problem so dry rocky terrain should be fine, but it was haaaard man!

The Grand Canyon was, as expected, fucking huge. I mean I had an idea of how big it was gonna be, I knew the size in my head, and yeah I knew it can be seen from space, yeah, yeah. And then you get there and realize there is no way to accurately imagine the magnitude of that hole. One feels kind of miniscule and insignificant faced with such size.

Every time I get on a plane and I am terrified that it will be last time I take a breath and see my family and I will die a fiery death I am also so damned happy, happy that I can finally, finally, finally after 10 years do what I always wanted to do, which was travel and write. The writing part is more difficult that I thought it would be, but hey I’ll get there. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy this sweet life.

Next up is Colombia in October, going home after 12 years of absence will be interesting, DH can’t wait (I think mostly for the food and the pretty girls he will ‘discreetly’ check out without me noticing)