05 June 2011

If Kerouac were in Venezuela

I am on the road a lot this week. To get to our plant takes 40 minutes on the highway of nothingness from Barquisimeto. I do the journey twice a day, mostly in silence because I can't chat with the driver. Today being the weekend, I decided to see Carora, which meant whizzing through over an hour of tundra land at high speed, also in silence.  Every ten kilometres or so, you see stalls selling hammocks and what looked like pots and kitchen sinks (!). 

I had my very old point-and-shoot with me just now.  All the car windows in Venezuela are tinted black, so shotting through them confused the meter and gave this rather nice effect.

02 June 2011

The trouble with danger

Caracas mountains
I am in Caracas, consistently rated among the top 10 most dangerous cities in the world. (One does not tell the parents this of course.) It is an city embraced by mountains. You wake up seeing the green mountains nudge the billowing clouds, the way one might half-heartedly push away the bedsheets in the morning. At night, the mountains flicker romantically from the lights of the hundreds of houses stacked on them. It might well have been San Francisco.

Except that many of the houses are crime-ridden shanty towns that even the police avoid patrolling. Except that it is a city where our office has a cash machine (not inside the building, but inside the office - beside Sofia's cubicle).

At lunch yesterday, the other girl and I were lightly chided by a fellow foreigner for bringing our very modest handbags. 'I carry nothing here, only a card and some cash,' declared the American man proudly.

'But you're a man. For me, there's the makeup, the water... And the local girls all carry bags too,' protested the American women.

Out came the ultimate trump card: 'But it only takes one incident.'

It is true of course. There is apparently a woman in the office whose husband has been kidnapped for sixty days. In Caracas, there are still three express kidnappings a day, down from five.

But if we take such a reasoning to its logical end, we would be mobilised into inaction. The trouble with danger is not so much the consequence of the danger (being hurt), but the multitude of possibilities (carrying a handbag, wearing earrings...) that may cause the onset of that danger. Today it is not carrying a handbag, tomorrow is not wearing heels, and the day after is not going out for dinner - because anything can happen.

I am not suggesting foolhardiness. This trip, there is no SLR. Yet at the same time, I really struggle with OTT self-censorship. Beyond a certain point, one has to just leave it to prayers - if you are religious, or hope - if you are not.

Camera-phone series #31. Straight out of the camera.