Instead of an elongated narrative of the things that have happened in the past week, I’m just going to directly post information for you.
|Roadblock in front of Jon's house. Burn tire burn!|
- We haven’t had school in nearly a week and before that we had maybe 1/3 our students in class for several days.
- Our director maintains an open campus due to national law, but most cannot even get out of their neighborhoods, let alone make it school.
- As of right now there is no for sure method to make up the lost days. We can’t add days to the end of the calendar as teachers have flights to catch and it’s also illegal to have Saturday school. Last year, after missing time to elections they had to make the days longer. So that’s fun.
- The middle of last week things got pretty interesting with people becoming more forceful in their protests and erecting roadblocks to limit travel as well as protect themselves from paramilitary motorcycle gangs (colectivos).
- Specifically, things got pretty rough in my neighborhood last week with the national guard storming into a protest firing upon them, helicopters dropping tear gas, guards on motorcycles removing two people, and taking them into custody. (I was not at my house at the time of this, but rather at Jon and Randi’s but others in the area gave us the information)
- Many foreign hire teachers have holed up together during the more tense times. Jon and Randi are the hosts with the most, as they’ve had tons of people over to stay, eat, and drink, while providing a forum to discuss/question/analyze the situation and where everything goes from here. Definitely indebted to them for their hospitality and chance to work through this with others.
- Several friends have gone to marches and witnessed first hand the violence and intensity of these concentrations. Their stories are beyond my understanding, but I empathize with their desire for a better life. Guardsmen have shot into buildings, damaged property, and showered crowds with anti-riot ammunition to try to halt protests and intimidate citizens.
- The city of Valencia becomes a ghost town at night. The normally loud community of 1.5 million people is coldly silent once the sun sets. The only noises are the sprinkling of exploding tear gas and shotgun fire echoing off the mountains throughout the evening/early morning.
- San Christobal (western city, catalyst for the protests) is basically a war zone. The citizens’ days are filled with defending themselves and preparing for clashes the next day. It has been largely blacked out in terms of media, but recently the NYT got a reporter and photographer on the ground. (Check out the NYT article below.)
- With media blackouts, state media outlets (radio, TV, print) not reporting on the protest social media have become the main artery for information exchange. The problem is it still is filled with misinformation and doctored stories/pictures. Whole websites have been shut down, luckily things are getting out now.
- Ryan and I went walking around yesterday and had more people come up and speak English to us than ever before (his 1.5 years and my 6 months). Our talks focused around them asking us to inform the people back home about the situation here and us asking how we can get around/what’s open. On other walks about I’ve seen people preparing for clashes, Molotov cocktails waiting for use, burning barricades, as well as people trying to go about their daily lives. It’s a really weird dynamic.
- Many people ask us about an escape plan. There is none. No SEAL team or Ranger unit is going to scoop us out of danger. Flights before this were already a huge challenge due to VZ not paying the airlines (resulting in fewer flights in/out) and with carnival approaching, there are no flights out (most locals have purchased these tickets over 6 months ago). It’s basically just sit tight and ride it out. Again, this conflict is different than many of those occurring across the globe and Americans are not being specifically targeted. I’ve walked around every day and checking things out, I got a few looks but most people are cordial and tell you to stay safe.
- The two sides (government and opposition) are to sit down and hold peace talks in the coming days, but there is now division among the opposition. Some want more forceful action, while others want peaceful protests and dialogue. It will be interesting to see how this internal issue affects things going forward.
- President Maduro has declared Thursday and Friday holidays to increase the celebration of carnival (and obviously distract folks not dialed in from the situation at hand).
- At this point who knows what will happen and when we’ll be back to school. If we don’t have school this week (and part of next week being Carnival Break), we will have had almost three weeks of no/partial classes. Many of you are probably thinking, “No work? That’s awesome!” But remember hardly anything is open, there is nowhere to go, and even less to do.
|Jon in front of a roadblock near my house...with a traveler.|
|Molotov cocktails anyone?|
|Here's me asking why all these cars are driving on the sidewalk.|
|Roadblock near Comrade Beggs' house.|
|Same bad idea, different angle.|
|Maduro effigy numero 2.|
|Maduro effigy #2, angle 2.|
A New York Times piece and photo essay about the protests (specifically in San Christobal).
CNN article on battle lines being drawn and the call for peace.
The very informative Caracas Chronicles provides more insight to the scope of this then I can even attempt.
Again, things haven't changed much, but I'm safe and ok, just a little bored.
Hopefully, you're good where you are.
Until next time,