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Arnie's Blog

Me, a Ghost refugee in Colombia.

Posted by Arnie, 28 June 2019 · 777 views
migration, refugee

Hello, you probably know me already. I'm your local venezuelan cry baby, Arnie (Actually, I'm Alexandra. Arnie is the name of my favorite skeith. Rest in the freezer, my beloved fat dragon).
If you have been around Codex for the past 3 years, you may have read my sorry tale (Sorry, I'm very into Mary Poppins Returns).


The venezuelan crisis made me want to migrate ouf my country at some stressful point of 2016.
That year I lost around 8 pounds due to the scarcity of food and all I had was the mango I could pick from other people's gardens. Tired of going to a pointless job that simply stopped paying for my time (because as many clinical laboratory, our lab has to stop operating. Why? Scarcity of material), I quitted.


I begged my father for a loan, bought a very wrecked mini laptop (the very same I'm using to type this down), repaired my old and broken pen tablet by myself and started the painful process of getting a Paypal account (took me 8 months).


The plan? Sell art comissions. I was super rusty, but is not like I had a better choice.
I advertised my services every-fucking-where.
Lost money for a few months because of the not-having-my-own-Paypal issue.
Sold my neopets goods and best pets.
Got a little better at art, less rusty, more confident.


I saved some money, at the same time, I was able to bring food back to my table and some weigth to our bodies (a family of five, sometimes six... And a baby on the way).


Spent months, years, so many sleepless nights... Trying to get my passport, the basic right of my identity confirmed so I could roam in this world of outs.
And failed. Every time. A government supported mafia grew around the venezuelan service of Identifcation and Migration. If you wanted a passport you had to pay a bribe of 800, 1000, 1500 USD, in cash. (No need to say I've never had more than 300$ in my power).


Time passed, savings dissolved, and things went worse. The electric system is destroyed (5 days blackouts. Permanent in some places). The Telecom infraestructure let me with no internet. Lost good paid works due to that.


My february of 2019, I was back at the beginning.


With my brother we decided to just go the hell out. We didn't needed to go far. Just far enough to have power and internet, may be find a job.


By April (my birthday month, and his) we have sold almost everything worthy, except my work tools and his car (and...My personal neopets main account! I still have it, lol). Got enough to travel to the border.
Hand by hand fougth for a spot in a bus. Traveled for hours, got extorted by a corrupted military man (He took 50$ from us, it was morally painful TT^TT), went back to the highway and crossed a very dangerous/unsafe mountain road.


At this point I was so anxious and scared I just wanted to desappear.


Now at the border, we walked a muddy path to the river. The river was calm and unusually low leveled. We walked over the muddy, mossy, and slippery rocks to the other side.


No one stopped us. It's usual for people go that way to take food from Colombia to Venezuela (yet, is dangerous, sometimes the river is raging and hell yes, it will drown you if you are not careful).


Since no agency would sell me a bus ticket to our destination, we got the tickets overpriced from a middleman (paid almost double price; yeah, more mafia. Venezuelans taking advantage of desperate venezuelans). And crossed the ominous, beautiful and cold Paramo de BerlĂ­n, a mountain pass (Thank your for donating so I could pay that ticket, you know who you are).


I saw many people walking the Paramo road, wearing summer clothes, carrying little children, exposing their lives. At some point I couldn't hep it and cried.
Despite the medical aid points in the way, an important number of venezuelan walkers have died in the cold mountain.


(In happy note: I saw more cows in 4 hours in the mountain that in my whole life in my hometown.I love cows.)


We arrived at night to a room in a guesthouse, occupied by other 4 people, friends of my brother.


Internet was terrible, the space was very reduced, there wasn't enough power outlets and the window so tiny the air smelled ugly and we had to sleep on the floor. Still, I slept like a baby.


We spent 3 weeks in that place. While roaming the city in the search of a job and an internet contract, because I need internet to work.


No job was granted and I was madly desperate to leave that room.


My best friend sent me 100$ on paypal.
We tried to cash them out to rent our own room.
Got scammed.
Cried out loud because of the curse of being with literally 0.00$
Lost a week recovering that money with a paypal chargeback.
Got them back.
(I told my friend nothing, they will never know!)


The landlord was already telling the room was overcrowded.
We had to leave.
And in order to achieve that we searched around the city.
Didn't choose any place.


At some point, my brother started talk to the landlord about whatever manly topic, conviced him to let us use a small warehouse-like-room in the building as office. Conviced him to let us have the good office internet for a small monthly fee.


In a week or so, most of the things in the room were sold by brother, following the landlord's instruction.
He is old, and asked my brother to help him sell those things online.


Now, with room almost empty we just rented it (and unlike the other rooms, this have it's own kitchen sink and private bathroom.. but no shower... I've been washing my humanity in the bathroom sink for weeks).


Our landlord is a really god man. Everyone in this guesthouse is venezuelan, he knows they are all struggling, don't push them to pay, offers to help them start with something humble (like a grill to sell meat brochettes in the streets, or let them use the house cooking gas to bake cakes to sell.), welcome anyone who has a child under their care, tell them how to get the kids into public schools...


So far, my brother have:
-Dealt with the cash money and bus travels mafia in Venezuela.
-Negotiated with corruped military men so we could keep our laptops and most of our hard currency.
-Found a place to rent when there was any available.
-Basically, protected me.


Two and half months later:
We still sleep in the floor (I got a little inflatable mattress, it's like sleeping on a marshmallow).
We still have no jobs (Brother got to go to an "interview", later, when he got no response, he was told the employer expected any inmigrant applicant to beg and almost cry for the job. We are poor, yes, but let us have some dignity. Jeez).
We havent been registered in any sort of local governmet database as refugees.
I'm a refugee, yes, but a ghost one.
With no one ensuring my rights.


He uses his laptop to do the same microjobs on pages like Hivework or Spare5, like he did back in Venezuela. Too many time invested for too little money. Makes me sad... a man with his talents is not allowed to work.


Most of the income comes from what can I get as freelance digital-artist.
It have to be enough for rent, food and for sending money back home, where four of our people are still enduring the crisis.
Hint: Most of the time is not enough.


Sometimes we don't eat and send a message explaining we can't send money for the week.


Despite all the bad tings, I'm here.
I'm alive.
I will keep fighting and working.
For me, for those who count on me.


If in this long period of 3 years you have ever bought art or neopets goods from me, let me say Thank you. It means a lot more than you think.


[Aw, man, this is so long... I'm sorry.]

September 2020

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