Border Crossing Colombia / Venezuela.

It was late in the afternoon when Alvaro’s wife answered the door of the apartment (where she is employed as a housekeeper), to receive the tomatoes she had ordered from the store up the road.

“I asked for tomatoes” she said, “you are delivering me strawberries” The delivery guy, who had ridden a short way on a pushbike to deliver the tomatoes began to blame someone else for the mistake, and tried his best to convince her to take the strawberries in place of tomatoes.

‘It is like that here” said Alvaro. He and I were sitting on some steps not far away. “The dog blames the cat, the cat blames the mouse, it is never their fault. South America is based on laziness”.

“See, he rides off on his pushbike and turns left, but the shop is only 50 meters away on the right. He will take his time and hope that some one else will deliver the tomatoes, then he can go home. He is paid by the day not the delivery”.

“Maybe”, I said, “The shop will not have any deliveries and then he has no job”

“That could be true” he said, “ Before the dictatorship in my country I had a job as the booking clerk at a popular hotel, people would often ring up late, wanting a room after they had arrived in the country on a late flight, say around 11 o’clock. I would say we are full and have no rooms”.

“Then after a while the hotel’s income fell away and management were wondering why, and looking at laying off staff, so I thought I had better start accepting those late bookings, and then the graph started to go up again”.

Another afternoon as we sat outside the apartment I am renovating (it overlooks a park and is next door to where Alvaro’s wife is employed), he said, “I should be happy, I read where people with lots of money are unhappy, because of all the problems they have doing things with their money!”

“Four years I have been in Colombia. I am not allowed to work in an official capacity, which seems strange because there are about 3 million Venezuelans in Colombia, and that is a lot of tax the government is not collecting”.

“They say they are going to give us some sort of visa, but it could be like the aid the Americans gave Colombia to help Venezuelans. By the time it went through the bureaucrats there was enough left to maybe buy a small food parcel, but some Colombian bureaucrats had retired to France in grand style”

“ Your kidding” I said.

“No” he said, “It happens all the time here, a couple of years ago there was a lot of money allocated to the Atlantico department to do about 6klms of freeway.

By the time they finished many suburbs nearby were having problems with their sewerage. They did the road but never re-did the sewerage pipes because someone in charge had taken the money for the sewerage works and left for France.

So they had to rip it all up again to do the sewerage pipes!”

I asked if he thought they would have problems with all the money they now have.

“ Maybe they would have, if someone was looking for them” he said.“ Does this happen in Australia ?”

“Sometimes”. I said, “Australia is made up of states and they are not immune from corruption. The trick is to not get caught because there are consequences, and they do not include living in the French Riviera”.

Since arriving in Colombia on March 15th. 2020, just before governments everywhere started dismantling their economies to “flatten the curve”, I have been sitting out the Covid drama in Colombia, waiting for this curve to flatten.

I have had opportunities to go back. Who knows? If I made a booking to go back it might have been the last booking my daughter would make before she closed down her travel agency.

The day she left school she had a job as a trainee resort manager. A year after she had completed that apprenticeship, she (and her boyfriend), traveled to England where she started her travel industry training.

Then coming back to Australia after a couple of years (still working with the same company), and then eventually starting her own travel business.

She started working from home while she became a mum, then leasing a small office on the second floor of a bank building, to opening her own shop on a main street and trying to expand her business offering franchises.

Another business and dream destroyed. The government offered her money to build a new website, I’m pretty sure the website builder did well out of that deal.

I mean building a website is not that hard these days, really it isn’t… I can do them.

Believe it or not Australia is not a very happy country, judging by the various stats available. People often like to tell me about their visit, like the guy at the trade shop where I buy some materials for the apartment renovation.

“I have been to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, very nice, I worked for Royal Caribbean for 25 years I have been everywhere except the moon” he told me.

Like everyone else he is wanting to get back to what he does best, “ In June or September”, he said, “They have a ship in Singapore ready to go and one in Melbourne”.

But like most things that look good on the outside, there is also a dark underbelly. Australia is no different to many other scenic countries. There is always something.

A look at suicide’s in Australia since 01/2020 and there are more in Australia than in Colombia, which has more than twice the population of Australia.

Maybe Australians are not so happy go lucky after all?.

Australian Suicides 01/01/2020 to 09/04/2021 on left. Colombian suicides for the same period on the right.

With Covid restrictions and lockdowns we might say the playing field between refugees and small business owners has now been levelled.

Except of course many small business owners are now unable to service their debts.

Something a refugee would not necessarily be concerned with.

Probably many small business owners are in the same position as many refugees. Living in limbo, scraping by on what ever income they can manage to get, with the added bonus of debt collectors knocking on the door.

ANYONE CAN BECOME PRESIDENT

“I was watching T.V. last night” said Alvaro, and Maduro was telling people anyone can become President”.

“ Look at me” said Maduro, “I was only a bus driver and I became President”

“Well maybe there is hope for you Alvaro” I said.

“Sure” he replied, “ If a bus driver with no education can ruin a country and become rich maybe anyone can, but I do not have that killer instinct to rob and murder.

After I left the military I could have had a job at the airport, but I didn’t want to be corrupted into smuggling cocaine. I knew some people who worked at the airport and I knew how the system worked. I also used to pick up people who were staying at the hotel.”

“Yesterday “ he said, “One of my friends died from Covid, he was high up in the military. We nicknamed him the Sloth, because of his movements.

His wife has been receiving visits from the high ups in the military to say they are sorry for her loss. Really though, they are just visiting her to see if he talked before he died”.

Not knowing what to say I asked how old he was. “45” he said.

“That is young to die from covid, unless you have some serious underlying condition”. I said.

“True” he replied, “He died in the same hospital that Chavez was being treated in before he died”.

“Interesting” I replied, and decided not to pursue this conversation. It was the end of the day and time for me to drive the workers home and go back to my rented unit.

Tomorrow is another day and no doubt there will be more stories.

Copyright ©2021 All Rights Reserved Michael Dubhthaigh

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Michael Dubhthaigh

Thanks for stopping by. I write straight off the top of my head and sometimes forget to edit. More about me here. https://bit.ly/3I8it7D