I know, I know, I should be wishing all of you a merry Christmas... Good for you if you can, my heartfelt wishes. But here, it is hell.
I am not going to bother you with summaries from around the country. Just among one of many I received, one from the Washington Post awful enough to spoil your eggnog, about how even Caracas Santa is skinny.
My travails shall suffice.
I have not written anything since December 10 because I am too tired to even think about writing anything. I have spent all of my time after returning from France looking for food and trying to close the office for the Xmas holiday (used to be one month in Venezuela, now up to two months with some since they have nothing to work with and reopen shop mid January). Never mind side incidences like a trip to my dentist or starting again, after 6 months, quimo for the S.O.
The fact of the matter is that I have been trying to spend all of my Xmas bonus and more on food (and an advance on the quimo). And I still have some money left. Good for you you may say, but bad in an era of hyperinflation: I simply could not buy all that I planned to buy because I could not find it. After all there is only so many cases of U.H.T. milk I can pile up in a kitchen corner so I cannot spend leftover cash on yet more milk.
Why so much milk you may ask? When I left early November I had two cases of a given brand at 10.000 a liter. When I came back I needed to give one to the SO and buy a new one at 13K a liter. Once I reviewed my end of year finances I decided to buy 2 more and they were at 29K. I did and two days later it was at 35. I did get one more and another for the SO. I did well, that brand was last Tuesday at 40K. But by then I had enough milk to tie me up all the way to February. A good thing because this week end new arrivals of the brand at 10K in early November are now at 63K......
That is hyperinflation for you.
My goal has been to spend all that I could on food, regardless of its costs as long as it was a storable essential item. And to pile up enough to be able to hold me, the SO and his mom, helping the cleaning lady, bring some stuff to San Felipe to my ex cleaning lady there, etc, until early February at the very least. My freezer is packed. My kitchen cabinets are packed. My fridge is packed. Because in the tropics you cannot have unrefrigerated stocks of rice or pasta since within weeks they can get infested with bugs. Even imported Italian pasta.....
I am lucky. I am very lucky. Not having children allows me to reach Xmas with two months supply ahead. My only near future shopping will be vegetables and fruits, at awful prices of course but at least available. There is no certainty that some food items will return mid January, in particular flour or UHT milk (there is only low fat available for now, no whole milk at any price and I need that one to make my own yogurt as yogurt has disappeared).
You need to understand that a case of 12 milk at 63K each liter represents more than the minimal wage in Venezuela. For me it is expensive but then again who cares about credit card debts when inflation is passing the 2000% annual..... But for those without a credit card? Those on fixed income like state pensioners who have to spend whatever meager resources they have on medicine (which are also lacking but that is another story)?
You can imagine the mood in the country for Xmas. My cleaning lady almost kissed my hands when her Xmas bag had two packs of ready to make cakes, 1 pack of powdered "chicha", 4 bars of margarine, 1 kilo of flour, 1 frozen bread loaf ready to cook, 1 small jar of strawberry syrup for pancakes, just so that she could bake stuff for her kid during the holidays, stuff that she could not even dream of buying these days. Note: this whole package is almost equal to a minimum monthly wage.
There is sadness everywhere. How can you plan a decent holiday when you are standing on line to buy the controlled price items, if you can find them? How can you fix to make hallacas when you cannot find olives, the meat is too expensive or the only way to get corn flour is through the black market? Would you go out for the 24 eve family eve celebration, which is the tradition in Venezuela? I, for one, will stay home with the SO as we simply fear driving back home at 1 AM with the insecurity. Last year was scary enough. This year...... So my brother and kids will come tomorrow with their turkey left overs to visit and I will serve some cheese I brought back from France and some of my last wines, because I cannot justify buying wine again. Whether one can afford it, how can one enjoy a bottle that costs at least half a minimum wage? And I am talking of the cheap Chilean variety.
As a matter of fact I wonder how can the nouveau riche of the regime, enchufados, enjoy Xmas when the country is starving in places, when they can see as they drive people scavenging in trash. Ooops! Silly me, they probably leave the country for Xmas, or have someone do their errands..... In a bakery close form an area where these people tend to live (La Lagunita, Alto Hatillo) I saw last week a jar of peanut butter at 1.400.000. That is 2 minimum wages. Only enchufados can afford that. Consider this, one peanut butter sandwich expense is what a family of 4 needs to barely manage to eat for about three days.....
So, excuse me if I did not write about Venezuelan politics for quite a while. What for? I suppose that now that I am all stacked up as a protection from inflation, that supply of new goods will end next week anyway, I may be able to sit down and bring you up to date on how awful the dictatorship has become in the past 2 months.
Meanwhile enjoy your Xmas, may it be good enough that I can enjoy it vicariously through you guys.