Sunday, February 23, 2014

A (Still Fairly) Elite Club

As diplomats who have been PNGed (kicked out of the country where they serve), we belong to an elite club.  Although it happens occasionally, it doesn't happen to very many people.  Not everyone knows an officer who has been PNGed.

Unless, of course, you have served in Caracas.  President Maduro of Venezuela has kicked out 8 American diplomats in under a year.  Of those, three families only learned early this week that they would be in DC by now.

This afternoon, we hosted a party which required an exclusive ticket.  We enjoyed tacos and beer with a group of folks who had all originally planned to still be serving in Caracas today.  It was a full house, and I wish I could document here all of the stories that I heard and the conversations in the room - but they are not my stories to tell.  My story was posted here back in October, and I was struck today by how different each story is.  Coming back and worrying about a spouse's career is totally different from worrying about school-aged kids or from worrying about the people you left behind.  But everyone could identify with the wildness of leaving quickly, and could identify the time they realized they could be in danger, and the moment they felt safe.  For the record, it never occurred to me that we were in any real danger until a few days after we arrived in the US.

Watching Venezuela on the news and online this week has been painful.  Protests are happening in the places where we shopped and ate and drove regularly.  I can easily identify so many of the places, and can so easily picture them with real people going about their lives.  So many of my information gaps are filled with photos and comments posted on Facebook, which bring the news to a much more personal level - one of children's routines being disrupted and of families searching weeks to find fruit in the stores.  I feel for my American friends, who must be living in constant stress right now - with the threat of being forced out of the country at a moment's notice added to the challenges of getting food for your family and being barricaded away from medical facilities.  And my heart breaks for my Venezuelan friends, who don't have an escape route if things get out of control, who feel at home in such a beautiful place that they have no desire to leave, and who are watching their neighborhoods fill with protests and with tear gas and their country slip away.

I don't feel guilty for having left - it wasn't our choice, and our family is happy now in Virginia.  But I feel this magnetic pull in my gut toward Venezuela, this feeling like I should be there.

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