Why I Regret Leaving Venezuela: The Difference Between Bugging Out and Becoming a Refugee
by J. G. Martinez D.
I’ve been thinking deeply about everything that has happened since I chose to leave Venezuela. (Whether it was a poor choice or not).
When things started going really bad, I had some reasons to believe, because of being partially isolated, that we were going to be subject to forced isolation; some abuses I saw being committed to coworkers inside the oil industry and without my major source of income just worked out to reinforce that idea. In those days, sanctions were not yet in place.
Suddenly I found myself with an email from my former online employer terminating our relationship. After recovering from that iced bucket bath, I started to look for some solutions immediately. One of my friends lost his phone while jogging and the thug who found the phone could get him into deep trouble. He was very close to being imprisoned. This was a close call because despite not having a position with much responsibility, there was a witch hunt so intense that it made me see it was just a matter of time before some jealous person would start messing with those not supporting the status quo.
Without any means to fight against these kinds of attacks, I decided not to expose my small family to such trauma. I had some savings (now long gone) but they were in a prepaid card, and it would be due in a few more months. I had no means to get that cash in any ATM in Venezuela, nor incorporate it to any payment system (something I have done now, with plans B, and C, and even D).
Looking back, things could have been done differently. We could have bugged out to our cottage. That was the original plan but the now-ex didn´t want to because she doesn´t have good relationships with my immediate family, and all of her family was abroad. It was not possible with just one salary and a house to maintain to make all the improvements I wanted at the cottage. We set up our townhouse instead, not up to the standard I wanted, but more or less to withstand some time without getting out. Just take a look at its description in my former articles.
For those fantasizing a Hollywood style escape (maybe with a guy like Brad Pitt on the driver´s seat), ramming other cars, with your team shooting out from the windows, in the middle of a general mess and a bloodbath, a dog-eat-dog fight around you…unless you live in a VERY bad part of town or in a place like Yemen, or some other similar location, I have a reality check. Forget about it. It´s just not likely to happen.
That is not what happens when you leave.
The real concern is that you and your team or family will be hunted down by whatever law enforcement happens to be around, will be declared a military target and will be statistics of crazed civilians in the commander´s report that afternoon. On the “positive” side this could be good for someone´s career: the one commanding the platoon that went after you.
The nature of our local SHTF is VERY complex. If you want to try to even begin to understand it, I will do my best in future writings. It has been an agony, especially for those living on government wages. Another portion of a very few fortunate like me, with an online job, could manage it for a while. But after a while, things went to heck because of the difficulties to keep even those jobs.
In my case, I had an alternative power supply but needed a constant internet connection. Without that, I couldn’t survive financially. And after a while, that affected my performance at the job and I lost it. THAT was my SHTF because my wage on the day job was just worth enough for a couple of weeks of the month. Nowadays it wouldn´t even be worth a couple of days of food.
Maybe we did it wrong
In our case, the “bugging out” should have been in a hauling truck with all of our stuff piled up inside, up to the roof. Our family group would have become bigger. And much happier (with the logical exception of my ex who just happens to hate my mother but that´s another story).
Don´t get me wrong. I´ve learned a lot in Lima, and here, despite having to work a lot (whenever I could get a decent job). I’ve been able to feed my family properly and kiddo has been more or less happy. As I’ve mentioned in other articles, my decision was because of the abuse the mafia lords who wanted to impose on the people handling foreign currency. Of course, there were a lot of black market speculators, risking themselves selling currency out in the open, and this, albeit not entirely illegal, was subject to the discretion of the political commissaries. Generally speaking, they would throw people in jail for some time depending on how much money could be paid to release them. Nothing new here. This happens in a lot of other failed states too.
The main origin of my regret is, I could have had my place prepared instead of supporting my ex´s family (in my own house) and consuming resources that could have been used to tune up the cottage. With that place adequate, we could have had some means to weather the worst of 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Living off the land is not that easy, and I know that, but there were some cash reserves that could have been largely extended, and more important, the place would be adequate, all the facilities would have been developed already.
This would have become a quite important lesson for our kid: resilience. Endurance. Self-sustainability. Independence. How to resolve problems on his own.
You can’t necessarily rely on a day job to be happy and wealthy. Family unity is the most important and valuable thing we can have.
There are so many lessons to get out of this. It is almost sad. Power and internet Blackouts would be hard to overcome, that´s true. But with an old telescope and a sky encyclopedia, our kiddo would have learned a lot, maybe even modeling his future career choice.
This is such a big, impersonal and arid city, that I just can´t stand it anymore. This is not a “bug-out” for me. On the contrary. I feel like I was dragged out because I had no other option at the time. But that´s just my personal story.
And there’s a big difference between bugging out and becoming a refugee. We were refugees.
What was bad about being a refugee?
People immediately notes you’re not “one of them”. This can be either good or bad. If you’re a male, expect every female to not pay attention to you. Most of the time they will ignore you, and be plain rude. For some reason, we males are (at least in my limited experience both in Ecuador and Peru) seen as “menacing”.
As for women, most of the Venezuelan females know how to defend themselves, and the sad news of her being killed has been because they´ve been attacked by real psychos. But the authorities of the countries just look away. They´re just foreigners. Who cares?
Not being “one of them” unchains opposite reactions in most people. Kids look at you funny, some of them with a little fear, and some others with curiosity. Older people sometimes are friendly (I guess their own personal experiences shaped this behavior). In many cases, they can be really plain hostile and offensive.
However, thanks to my…let’s say not exactly inoffensive aspect, I’ve been more or less overlooked. Even in the worst of the xenophobic attacks in Peru, or Ecuador, we remained unharmed. But those selling candies and other snacks on the streets had a hard time. Many of them are illegally here, and they are subject to authorities’ abuse. Terrible things happened because within the migration wave there were plenty of misbehaved people.
Those people would make all of us look bad. They made our lives hard and they still do.
How migrants are treated by others
Being a migrant you´re aware that, no matter what, you stick out. That means you sometimes will have to dress in plain colors, or even disguise your accent. Kiddo picked up the local accent quite fast, and sometimes I asked him to ask the questions. I´ve got some training in voiceover, and my Peruvian is good, but I just don’t like to go around being someone I´m not. Bikers are authentic.
I witnessed some older ladies harassing street sellers every now and then. I never intervened, but a negative look to express dislike was more than evident and usually, the aggressor would respond by shutting the heck up. People say sometimes my eyes can pierce steel when I get mad.
I would say that generally speaking, there is a positive balance regarding our treatment. This can be especially because of the children. I´ve met and been befriended by very good people, and in some other instances found myself being a target of xenophobia, but this was uncommon and coming from people with very low cultural level.
Fortunately I had the chance to shine professionally speaking for a while, and my environment was mostly professionals. Therefore, there was some degree of consideration. I´m a polite person, and even though not being the most sociable man, I know how to perform in that environment. I just received some mistreatment of an elder engineer, but the poor guy just felt threatened by the young and capable engineers flooding the local job market.
Our treatment has been fair enough, and I suspect those people could have their quota of migration experience abroad. Peruvians had it rough in the 90s. Oh, and interestingly, their problems were thanks to the local communist party, too.
Getting a job
This was never easy. I´m not a young man. Therefore, some jobs demanded a lot of me. Work shifts here like waiting tables or some kind of hand labor are 12 hours or more. Being a foreigner, that is what is expected from you. And without any complaints. Depending on the job, even Saturdays, leaving just Sunday to rest. That´s something entirely different from my former job.
Not surprising. This is a HUGE city. Yes, there are plenty of jobs, but the payment average is barely enough to make a living: pay a room where you can´t cook, so you have to spend most of the money to eat at the myriad of street food places there are all over the place. Depending on your family situation, you could have some left to send home…or not.
I´ve met doctors selling donuts in a public park in Quito, Ecuador, and engineers working as cooks at restaurants in Lima. I was lucky. I had some savings and previously had developed skills that would allow me to work from any place using just a laptop and an internet connection. As well, I am a seasoned engineer, English speaking, with tons of common sense and a good memory.
Most of the migrants I know who speak other languages had it easier too. One of my friends learned English because of his love for music, and he´s in the USA now, family and all.
Getting a job without papers is not easy, and that would lead to abuse, in most of the cases. No rights, no possible claims allowed. In some extreme instances, the employer took the passports from the people. Should this happened to me, I would stand up quite straight, and very politely, with a wonderful smile, would give precise indications to go to F him/herself.
I read a lot about the experiences of foreign workers in Saudi Arabia and know what could happen. And getting a job in our area, paid just like a local, is something that horrifies them, by the way. I asked them a fair wage (30% under what a local asked, to be clear) to go for one of the positions, and the little lady at the other side of the phone was terrified. Sure, because I´m giving out 15 years of experience and tons of study all of my life, for free, honey. That´s highly disappointing.
Just for the record, there was in 2019 an injection of 150MM$ to the Peruvian economy, with almost 750K migrants from all of the social classes in Venezuela. Already prepared, experienced and seasoned professionals, being highly underpaid with a regular wage, providing high-quality work…well. You would have to know our former society to realize it, where everyone had the chance to develop themselves as professionals. Therefore…thanks for the free lunch, fellows.
Oh…wait…there wasn´t one!
Tons of migrants have decided to leave by their own initiative, and many have decided to come back. There is noise enough to know a change is coming soon.
How being a refugee affects the children
Well, I can speak for my kiddo. I see he´s had a mixed reaction. I found myself angry when he told me in the first paid private school he attended, the other children told him to go back to his country. In Venezuela we NEVER would allow such misbehavior. It was a cultural shock so hard, that I ended up discussing it with one of the teachers. They said they would correct it, but…you know how school systems are.
So expect your children be treated like that. Even by older people.
He understands the reasons we had to leave, and I´ve always told him it would only be for a while until things get better. He has his own home, reassuring him we would come back. Pets had to be left behind, and this was quite hard for everyone. Some children can´t express everything they have inside and how they feel. That is where you have to be much closer than ever to your children and ask them how they feel, providing them support and love. Tons of love.
We Latinos cuddle, pamper and hug our kids a lot, no matter the age. I suggest you do the same because they grow up too fast. He wants to come back home and so do I. And we will.
But in an interesting twist, he mentioned something about reincarnation that left me astonished. He said that why God allowed reincarnating children again and again, if life had been so hard, and why he had to endure another life with the sadness of the one he had already. Dang. That was quite a direct hit. This is the kind of stuff children will say, too.
All I could say was…”This shall pass, too”.
The ramifications of leaving my parents behind
This is a tough one. Me and one of my brothers never had what you could call a very close relationship…and sometimes I feel like he´s accusing me of having abandoned them. Without having any kids of his own, it would be quite hard for him to really understand. I have felt so sad, thinking about how lonely our Christmas dinners have been…you couldn´t believe it.
I´ve called them to plainly lie, saying I was OK while being broke as heck and having to sell a couple of used shoes but in good shape for one-tenth of their value to buy medicines for the kiddo. I have had to tell them I had left the apartment when the truth was that I was kicked out because the mother-in-law, ex, and sister-in-law kicked me the heck out of there because I couldn´t find any local job, despite having my savings and some income off my online work as an academic consultant.
My parents have been so sad, that I know how hard they try to disguise that. The best years of their only grandchildren almost lost forever. The worst part is the intense desire of reproach they have. That´s understandable because I reproach myself too. But reading again my notes of those days (because I have them) when even with money in your hand there were no supplies of any kind to be bought and an empty pantry…well, leaving seemed to be one of the best options.
Fortunately, I´ve been able to provide some liquidity for their medicines. Both folks are healthy enough, though. (Mother seems indestructible despite her complaints, and we have some theories about our ancestors.) The quality of food (and what I suspect is quite low ingestion of processed wheat flours, the kind the people fought each other for these previous years) may be diminishing as well on the daily calories and improving fruit and locally raised vegetable ingestion has something to see with this.
But mostly, what I admire of them is their optimistic attitude. They take things as they come, and enjoy to the maximum the good times. Totally contrary to this humble engineer, planning and calculating…usually to see which is the best point to crash. Kiddo misses them, and we video chat every chance we can.
What do I regret?
- Not having prepared my cottage when I could: there were always priorities for such investment, but I could have dedicated time and manual labor.
- Allowing my SUV to get busted
- Having left without rectifying my initial position. A second thought would have made me come back with my savings and we could have gone to the cottage or family home. Our city was heavily affected; but my hometown being much smaller and not depending on the general state of the oil industry, dealt with it much better.
- Relying on just one online job, without backup connections and income.
- Realizing too late my partner in life was not willing to pursue our original plan. She had an agenda of her own. No surprises there. Bellatrix Lestrange had one too.
We were forcibly displaced.
Looking back, it feels as though we didn´t have even the chance to bug out. However, the real bugging out is going to be thoroughly described and documented in the future, and there is where the adventure is going to start.
I´ve done my best to answer these questions. If you have additional stuff you need to know, please just feel free to ask in the comments section.
Thanks for your reading, fellows. Blessings for all!
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: paypal.me/JoseM151
About the Author
Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, voluntaryism, and the pursuit of liberty on her website, The Organic Prepper. She is widely republished across alternative media and she curates all the most important news links on her aggregate site, PreppersDailyNews.com. Daisy is the best-selling author of 4 books and lives in the mountains of Virginia with her two daughters and an ever-growing menagerie. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.