An Average Day in the Life of a Refugee

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For those of you wondering how my life is, I have written this article to give you an idea of what it’s like living as a refugee. Here is how we have been living these last few months, waiting for the day we can come back to Venezuela.

Simple morning ritual: water, push-ups, and coffee

Street fruit vendors begin working very early. By 7 AM, they are screaming all over the place with their speakers, waking up everybody. Including me. After that, I have no choice but to get up off my mattress, fold my microfiber blanket, and get into my wardrobe. My son usually takes over my space on the bed while it is still warm. He lays there until he decides to wake up and have his breakfast. I lift his mattress and support it against the wall with a plastic garden chair. Our space is small, but we manage to keep it clean and organized. 

After having a glass of water, I perform 20 push-ups to get the blood circulating. Doing this warms up the body. I brush my teeth, a quick face wash, and then go upstairs to the unfinished part of the building to prepare coffee in my hobo stove. It’s a pressurized coffee maker I brought with me. It has been with me for over 10 years now, and it’s perfect. Not too much needed when your kid is safe and well-fed.

Next up: chores, news reviews, and social media

Splitting the firewood with a borrowed kitchen hatchet and a hammer is a chore I do every day. It’s best not to leave the firewood on the open terrace. Although Lima is an arid desert, cold and moisture are high at night, and the firewood will become moist if it is left out. I take a small cardboard box and put the split firewood in it and get it into our bedroom. If someone had told me that in a couple of years, I would be cooking with fire in the middle of a deadly pandemic, I would have laughed in his or her face. I try to split firewood without making too much noise. In this cold, damp air sounds seem to travel much further, and I know hammering can be annoying to the landlord’s family. I try to split as much as I can once I get to it, and fast.

When I have finished going over in my mind what I have to accomplish during the day, I quickly review news on a few websites about the evolution of the situation in Venezuela. Mostly reputed journalists with awards report the news. There is a bit of biased garbage and misinformation.

I try to write one or two paragraphs of my book and make some publicity in the groups on the different platforms for my online English classes. Lots of professionals need to learn English, at least reading it, and I have found some students. However, the SARS/Cov2 crisis has hit everyone hard, and we professionals are no exception. Mining companies have minimal operations, meaning just a few technicians and engineers have been left working, and the rest of them sent home. Recently I found out one of the partners of a student died reportedly with SARS/Cov2. He was only 37 and healthy.

As I warm up and prepare myself for the remainder of my day, I post a few random comments, check my twitter and Facebook accounts, and post links to my articles. I try to not read anything about the spreading of SARSCov2. I have enough information already without ever having asked for it.

Related: Thoughts on Nomadic Survival from a Venezuelan Refugee

Wash time: Myself and the laundry

Since we have no hot running water, if the weather permits, I take a cold shower. If it’s too cold, I will heat water on the stove to wash with. I can’t get an electric head shower because I would have to pay for the electricity bill. So I just boil water over a fire and pour it in a small tub of cold water to warm it up enough to bathe. I hate when my underwear accumulates, and I have to wash them by hand for hours. After I bathe in the warm water, I wash my underwear in it. One piece at a time is a much better deal. Clotheslines on the roof get full from the other tenants of the building. I barely have space left to hang a T-shirt, some socks, and a pair of pants.

Best way to start the day: Breakfast and blessings.

These days with my kiddo here living with me, I usually prepare some meal in the hobo stove and a couple cans of fruit. He enjoys a lot ripping apart some smaller pieces of wood to be used as fire starters. I have been slowly teaching him how to make a fire in the stove. His mama taught him to use the gas stove, as he likes to cook, but making a wood fire, we all know, is different. After some fruit and cereal, I brush my teeth, make my second cup of coffee, and start researching for my articles. 

Kiddo wakes up, and I offer him a blessing. Venezuelans offer children, regardless of age, blessings upon waking, before bed, and when leaving home or arriving. Then I prepare his breakfast, usually fruit, cereal, or a couple of sandwiches with ham and cheese. I make him arepas also. Cooked over the open fire, these are quite tasty, and he loves them. My boy loves my oatmeal because I make it thick like concrete, with a little cinnamon powder. 

After breakfast, kiddo washes his dish and glass. He is becoming a coffee drinker and has started to ask for coffee with milk before he starts studying. Nowadays, studying means spending three hours watching a few videos of our choice. He watches videos made by the Peruvian government. (The Venezuelan versions are pathetic.) He also watches independently produced videos on the history of Venezuela. Math, science, robotics, Arduino programming for kids, veterinary, chemistry, and some fundamental physics principles are other topics he chooses.  

The best part is, my kiddo truly enjoys learning and is quite smart. He is talented with tools, building, and assembling stuff, and he is learning English fast, as sometimes he just comes to sit next to me while I am teaching.

All in a day’s work: Writing, reading, projects, and planning.

I write for two blogs: and and also for my Patreon site. I try to get in a little reading about poultry/rabbits/fishing and the current weather conditions, and I have projects I tend to daily. Here are just a few: 

  • Drone project
  • Automatic cheese press
  • Basic survival tool kit (hopefully I can make this available when we recover our freedom)
  • Aquaponic system planning
  • Generator: I’m still calculating how much cubic feet of methane needed to feed a forge, and the generator. (The forge is needed for tempering)
  • Designing, making, and building rototiller spikes, knives to sell, and more. (Some of you may not know this, I am a metallurgist and know how to get the best of steel. And I suspect some nearby farmers are going to be very satisfied with my cutting tools.)

Mid-day lunch and study review with my boy

While my kiddo “splits” firewood with the butcher hatchet and “helps” me, I prepare him some noodles for lunch, or maybe a couple of chicken legs with rosemary and potatoes like his mama used to make. (He says he likes my cooking better.) I have never been good at cooking rice, and doing it over a wood stove is a challenge. I have tried to cook it a couple of times, the results were not good. More practice is needed, I suppose. And, now I have a gas stove lent by my sister-in-law that should be easier. 

Something I have been particularly interested in researching these last few months is homeschooling for kids with diversities. Kiddo watches some of the abundant material after he finishes his daily composition on the topics he just watched. While I take a brief nap, 15 or 20 minutes, he uses the one computer desk we have to write his composition. We read it later and discuss it so it can be fully understood by him.

Related: Where do I Start With Homeschooling?

Time for supper, tea, and bed

Usually, at the end of the day, we have some tea, like manzanilla or some other herb (helps us to sleep better and warms us up in winter nights), a small sandwich or leftovers from lunch (in my case) as supper, or some other light meal and he goes to bed. I usually remain awake for a while and look for a good SciFi video to watch on YouTube. This is, for me, the best time of the day. 

Before going to sleep, my kiddo talks to me about artificial intelligence. My boy believes the day will come when we can upload a human conscience to a machine. As a species, I tell him we are going to need all the hard work of smart kids like himself to overcome all the future challenges and that he must prepare hard and learn tons of stuff to use it later in life. He says, “Yes, papa,” with his soft little voice, and I know I must be doing this right. 

That’s enough to make me sleep with a smile.

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations:

J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations:

Leave a Reply

  • May God bless you and your boy. Sounds like you are doing a great job with him and your situation. I enjoyed the article and I will now go searching for more about your circumstances.
    Praying for you and Venezuela down in Texas.

  • What a beautiful post, Jose! I admire you so much, and pray for your safety and success. Thank you for sharing your journey with us, which in itself is an example of how to succeed as a refugee. By sharing your story, you remind yourself what’s important and where you’re going.

    I was touched by the blessing you give your boy. Is there a certain prayer you use? I would love to share that with my siblings who have children.

    • Dear Julia,
      Give blessings is second nature for Venezuelan parents. No matter the age we ask for blessing first thing in the morning upon waking up and meet our parents. “Bendicion mama”(Bless me mama) or papa. “God bless you son” is the answer. That´s a very old tradition.

  • Julia, I agree with your inquiry about the blessing he gives to his son. That really stuck out to me and is something beautiful to do for your child.

  • It is not possible for human conscience to bee transferred into a machine. People don’t realize that thoughts do not originate in the brain. That once you are dead everything that makes you, you in your human form disappears and that your spirit is finally released upon death and your spirit is not who you are on this earthly incarnation.

    Now with that being said let’s say you believe it is possible to transfer the human conscience into a machine. Think about all the reasons why this is a very bad idea. Since many people believe have defective brains/consciousness then you are just transferring these defects into an indestructible robot body. Think about elites like Hitler or Stalin or Clinton or Biden or Trump or any of the elite being able to live forever. Just jumping from one robot body to another.

    Removing death as the equalizer of ALL men is something I would never dream or hope for in a million years.

    • Anything transhumanist in nature automatically grabs my attention as well, as it is so repugnant to me. It is being pushed by elites — no thanks! This article was awesome, except that stood out in a very odd way.

      • It’s the musings of a little boy who is in one room with his dad and dreaming about getting an education and doing the biggest thing he can imagine with his life. I think that you’re reading far too much into this. It doesn’t mean anything evil.

  • May God Bless you and keep you both safe. May He make His face shine upon you and give you peace.

    Daisy, I know that Mr. Martinez’s article do not gather lots of “clicks”, but as you have a good/warm heart, please don’t ever stop posting them , Amen?

  • Your a good man for watching over your children. So many around the world have a lot of “things” but don’t take care of their own.

  • Oh, Jose, thank you for sharing this. You and your son are making the most out of a very difficult situation and are keeping your spirits up and minds engaged. You are doing a fantastic job with your son, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. Like others, I’d love to know the blessing(s) and think that is a wonderful custom. Love, peace, and provision to you and your family.

    By the way, manzanilla is what we know as chamomile tea, and I have drunk it every day during this quarantine time. You are so right–it is very calming and comforting.

    • Dear Fina,

      We just ask our parents “Bless me mom”. That´s all. “God bless you son”. Every time we leave house. It´s used that instead of the usual “Hello”.

      Just be aware, a lady I knew had too much chamomille tea and suffered an allergic reaction, red spots everywhere. (She had spine problems and needed to drink tea for relaxing and sleep)

  • Dear Jose
    You are always a message of inspiration and hope. If society could truly experience just a little of what you and your family have I believe we could change the world.
    How can we become more involved? How can we help you more? Do you have an email?
    Innovation is the result of courage and fighting for what is right.
    Let us know Jose!
    Blessings to your rising and your lying down????

    • Dear Becca,
      Thanks for that. It means a lot. Hope some day the world really changes for better after all of this madness everywhere.

      I will ask Daisy to give you my email, or follow me at my twitter account @m_munck.
      Truly appreciated!

  • Jose, thank you for this post. I have been concerned for you and your son, I am happy to see you giving him some ‘normalcy’ in the insanity you are living in. That we are all living in these days. God Bless you and your son, as well as the entire OP family.

    I know this is not a religious or political site, but I would be interested in learning more about the ‘blessing’ or prayers you share over your son daily. I give Daisy permission to share my email with you so you don’t have to necessarily post it here. Unless enough ppl are interested, which I hope they are, so you could make it into a post. That is not a tradition here in the US, at least not in my experience.

    • Dear g,

      You´re right. It´s a wonderful custom we Venezuelans have. It pours protection in our children when they´re not with us. Back in the old days, Venezuela was like a huge hacienda. All kind of danger was everywhere, poisonous snakes, rivers filled up with piranhas and alligators, roaming bandoleers, jags, you name it. In the region of the huge flatlands (where I come from) men left home early morning those days, to collect some wild cattle, exposing themselves to those dangers. I can imagine this started around those situations.
      I think it´s a wonderful tradition.
      Just saying before leaving home “bless me mom/dad”…and at night before sleeping, it scares away every nightmare and negative dream..
      Maybe I should visit someday the US with my kiddo and start it?

  • So Jose says that SARS/Cov2 is a crisis in Peru? As of 30 June 2020, around 9,600 people had died with COVID-19 coronavirus in Peru which has a population of almost 33 million. This is statistically insignificant and hardly a crisis? Maybe the Peruvian government has made it a crisis to impose further control over the population?

    I’m a native Californian in my 60’s who has witnessed this once great state become more and more like Venezuela under the rule of Democrat party socialists/communists who have run the state into the ground since the 1960’s. In California, 6,715 people have died from COVID-19 as of 8 July 2020 in a state with a population of almost 40 million. Again, this is statistically insignificant and hardly a crisis? It’s obvious that Gov. Newsom and his Democrat cronies have made the COVID-19 coronavirus into a crisis to gain ever more control over the population?

    • Dear Danelle,

      Sadly, it´s not us who decrees whether it is a crisis or not.
      I started to see things were NOT normal after watching this video, where mine was one of the first channels (and maybe the first one) in uploading this to YT.
      And this scared the H out of me.

      Peru was until 2019 one of the most stable economies after Chile. I really find nothing to control. Things were good, with the usual corruption here and there.
      What builds the crisis are not the deaths.
      It´s the inflow of victims towards the ERs without resources enough.

      I´m a foreigner here, without any insurance nor money for a hospital. I´m not risking myself because there´s obviously SOMETHING there. I´ve seen it. My landlords got it. A colleage 10 years younger than I got it and died.

      But don´t get me wrong. I know something is getting people sick, and even killing them. And I agree with you, governments all over the world have used this to strength their grip on society. Whether we regular citizens react or not, is a different issue.
      My take is: this is just a pilot test. The big one is yet to come.
      Don´t ask how I know this. I just know it.

  • Much respect to you Mr. Martinez from a mom who is also homeschooling in an interesting environment and situation (from the US but living somewhere else, long story). Hoping for the best for you and your family!

  • I am most grateful to Jose for his detailed account of “making do” under desperate circumstances. I found myself almost constantly thinking of somewhat similar situations that either my ancestors lived through, or that I’ve read about from the 1930s Great Depression years, or similar learning examples from when I was Jose’s son’s age — with a similar learning drive.

    Both my pairs of grandparents lived on farms before rural electrification came in. Heating up clothes washing water or bathing water or dish-washing water on top of a wood-fired kitchen stove was very routine, and was a long established practice before the mammoth market crash in 1929 kicked off the Great Depression. Back then you had to heat up water for clothes washing. Today in the US there’s a cold water option. Walmart carries a liquid detergent under the name of ALL that works very well with cold water. Whether anything like that is available in Peru I can’t know. The two obvious advantages of cold water clothes washing are that 1) you save on the cost and effort to heat up water, and 2) for most kinds of fabrics, the clothes actually last longer. The usually undiscussed advantage is that cold water clothes washing becomes even most important in tough economic times. On Amazon, there is a $25 muscle-powered gadget called a Breathing Mobile Washer that when used with a couple of cheap 5-gallon buckets (one for washing, one for rinsing), that becomes very practical for camping, RVing, traveling, prepping, or for desperate circumstances. There are how-to-use discussions both in the Amazon reviews and in some YouTube videos.

    There is another how-to technique that most Americans don’t know — that how in 3rd world countries, the bare minimum of water can be used to take a “bucket bath.” Again, there are some useful demo videos on YouTube for those interested — especially if water should become very scarce. Some US hospitals use a version of that for patients they think should not yet be standing up — which I learned from personal experience.

    I felt a strong kinship to Jose’s son and his learning instincts. At his age I was scouring my hometown library for science fiction books, which had forecasted all kinds of scientific breakthroughs that didn’t happen until decades later. What I didn’t know back then is that some of the best sci-fi writers (like Robert Heinlein) had a good engineering background from World War II experience and US Navy training, and that had greatly enriched and disciplined their imaginations. That reading was excellent motivation for me getting through engineering school many years later. After that war, a lot of those guys opened small town home appliance repair shop for the decades when such appliances were made to be repaired, and not just junked.

    Back to the US Great Depression. When it began, the nation was very much under the federal Prohibition Amendment which shut down most of the home-produced alcohol for car fuel, for cooking fuel, and for the news media dramas of that day, drinking. When it ended in Dec 1933, home or local area distilling became legal again and it was very common again for workmen to bring a little alcohol burner with them to heat up coffee and meals on remote job sites.

    The point is that those generations of people did the best they could under difficult circumstances, and “made do” with whatever resources were locally available. What is available in Peru today compared with North America today probably overlaps somewhat, but is likely not identical. I think there’s a lesson somewhere in that.


    • Dear Lewis,

      Thanks for your kind comment. I do feel indeed like escaping a war sometimes. Specially when I can´t sleep and see my son sleeping in the matress next to me. His soft respiration and the way the hair cover is forehead…and I wonder when we will be able to come back home. I haven´t asked myself too frequently IF we will, because I´m sure that we will have to, sooner or later. I know that, despite not having gas I can cook with sunlight, and I can build a rocketstove, to use firewood while I gather the materials for the biodigestor. It´s that kind of mind setup (and the hours with my kiddo watching some documentaries and movies) which will take me through those hard times. I feel exposed here. Bare naked. At least in the mountains I grew up everyone knows me. I´m not an unwanted foreigner, but part of the flesh and blood of the place. Hard to explain.

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