After the Caracazo, life did not return to the pace we had grown accustomed to. I celebrated my 8th birthday on March 2, 1989 along with my family and no one else. My friends were not yet allowed by the Venezuelan army and police to come over for my party as the government had not lifted the state of emergency. My mom was very resourceful, managing to whip up a birthday cake from anything we had in our kitchen to honour my day. It was a brownie, but we called it cake. Luckily for me, I had a weakness for brownies (still do but I try to think of cholesterol and fats). I had a vague idea concerning the state of affairs outside of our house walls. My parents were surprised that I had not made a big fuss about my birthday. I am glad I reacted that way otherwise there was nothing my parents could have done. It was magical enough for me to be the four of us together on my day.
Our next few months were our last in this country. When we were finally given the green light to leave our homes and take to the streets again, the general environment appeared to be filled with tension and my Venezuelan people looked dissatisfied. The government had now instituted a curfew in which we were allowed out of our homes until sundown. My mother took advantage of this moment as an opportunity to drive down to our local supermarket to replenish our supplies, so we headed down the hill to Circunvalación del Sol. To our surprise, the whole plaza was now crawling with soldiers. Our mall had turned into a real life GI Joe fort, the kind I used to make with my brother, waiting for Cobra to make its attack. On the outside of the supermarket, there were long line-ups to get in and wealthy house wives arguing amongst each other and with the soldiers, all because they needed to buy food.
By the time we were inside the supermarket fort, the aisles and shelves were almost empty. The housewives had moved their argument indoors and physically fighting over bread, sugar, milk, pretty much any basic household supply. I was helping my mom by pushing the cart through the arguments while she tried to gather things that could be useful and non-perishable items. She stepped away for a little more than a few second to get something from another shelf further away and now housewives turned to me with predator's gaze. I was alone, had a cart with food and was small enough to overpower. Knowing I could literally do nothing more then scream, which would not be noticed among all the arguing inside the store, they swarmed the cart and helped themselves to whatever they needed. When my mother returned, she noticed many things were gone, looked at me and said nothing. I was still in shock about what had just happened I did not know what to say to her. She did not seem to hold it against me as she could easily guess why our cart was practically empty again.
On my first ride back to school, a monumental day, I could see numerous military patrols and check-points throughout the city. The city morning rush hour traffic had now become even slower. Regardless, I couldn't wait to rejoin my friends at the lycée after such a long hiatus. I missed my close friends, our activities, our camaraderie and even my classes and teachers. It was good to be back in my world of elementary school as this was one of the few things in my life that had remained unchanged. The world outside could be falling apart, but Colegio Francia was here to stay. Through the sophisticated elementary school grapevine, I had found out that one of our school mates, a kid in my brother Brian's class, had been killed during the riots. He must have been at the most 12 years old. The truth was that he was no longer with us but the story was that he had been shot while looking out a window of his apartment during the riots.
After a few more months, nearing the end of our scholastic tour of duty, my parents called a general assembly meeting of the Fab Four. This time the communiqué was that our family would be on the move once again. We were going to be relocating to Santiago de Chile. My brother and I had managed to make good friends over the last three years and we were sad to have to leave them behind. I thought about what Venezuela as a country and its people meant for me at that time. Something one would call after a certain age, my first school of life. In my time there, I identified a world of "haves" and another one of "have-nots", realizing my family was positioned among the "haves". I respected those people and families who were on the other side of the spectrum. They did not live the way they did by choice. I also noticed all my parents were doing for their two boys and how lucky we were to be the Fab Four. I was going to miss Venezuela as the circumstances had taught me so much, and looked forward to our new challenge.