Notes from Below the Equator

Monday, October 5, 2009

a diffrent sort of Venezuela

Here I am, back what is supposedly my home country and more confused than when I started.
I understand now why they say that 3rd Culture Kids often have more in common with eachother than with people of either one of their contributing cultures...
Perhaps I'll begin at the beginning:
I have always been different. This isn't a simple biproduct of my personal inclintation towards introverted egoism, it is a verifiable fact. I grew up a Venezuelan Buddhist in an area where most people hear Minnesota when you say Venezuela and believe Buddhism to be a new Hollywood religion like Scientology or T.V.
These factors in realtionship to the world outside are little more than quirks that make for interesting cocktail conversation, but figuring this shit out for myself, especially regarding the question "Who exactly am I supposed to be?" has not been easy.
This is, in large part, due to my relationships with other people. Friends and family would all like to put you in an easy-to-digest box. This makes their expectations of you, and their expectations of what their responsibilities are to you, concrete and tangible, and this effort seems to follow in everybody's best interest...but it doesn't work.
Either side (by which I mean either culture I interact with, American or Venezuelan/general Latino) wants to identify you more with a particular culture. If they feel they can relate to you, it may be their culture, and if they see you as incomprehensible or enigmatic, they relegate you to the other culture.
So why is it that friend's and family's opinions have any bearing on what I understand to be the truth? Because I am not insane (or perhaps because I am).
To clarify, the trademark of the insane is that they live in a world that denies reality-- by which of course I mean the commonly accepted reality. Everyone sees that aliens are not out to get you, everyone knows the sky is blue, everyone understands the unwavering force of gravity, etc. etc.
Now, because I understand that my opinions of myself are subjective, and thus bound to be wrong most of the time as subjective opinions often are, I differ judgement to those around me. Much like one would consult the secondary literature on a text before making an informed opinion, I consult the sources around me, the people who see me most often and with whom I share intimate details of my existence.
The only problem with this course of action, which is appropriate just about every other time in your life, is that there is no way to access the metaphorical ''text'' in this situation--your existence is entirely subjective! Sure, you have behaviors that can be obsereved objectively, but the majority of your existence is based solely upon the things that happen in your head that no one sees.
Thus, observations made by friends and family, attempts to qualify your cultural status as either/or, just don't fucking work. What's worse is that you, human, are constantly in flux. From day to day your identity shifts and changes. Sure there may be trends throughout the course of your life, but if that's what you consider to be true and relevant then good luck because you'll only be able to qualify yourself as anything when it's over, and who can really wait until they're dead to form an opinion of themselves?
So here I am, in my birth country, my birth city, with my family and I could not feel any more different. I felt more at home in Buenos Aires than I do here!
Everything is loud, agressive, and done with a total lack of consideration for others--a trend which for me is totally ironic considering the fact that my family does everything, from clipping their toenails to cooking dinner with other people in mind. Well, I should say that this comment is directed towards the Perez-Marrero side and not so much the Morelli-Chueca (different regions, TOTALLY different attitudes)
I should also say that everyone here is really stressed out, which tends to bring out the worst in people. In just 8 years this place has changed so much. When I was 14 I noticed how happy and alive people were, despite the unstable political climate. Now I notice how pissed off and paranoid people are--and rightly usually. While I have yet to really grasp what the fuck happened here I suspect it's far more complicated than anyone is going to tell me.
The manner of acting, the way people carry themselves, again, this may be circumstancial but I have never felt less Venezuelan in my life. I realize now that no matter how well I speak spanish, how many mannerisms I adopt, or how much I try to fit in to my family's unspoken, culturally founded expectations of me, I will never be Venezuelan, I'll never be able to call myself that and believe, and it's not my fucking fault.
It would probably be more likely to say that I am an immigrant from the counrty of Perez-Marrero, second generation Morelli-Chueca.
Talking to my aunt today, she brought up an interesting point: my family has changed too.
If basically all I understand about the culture I came from is bound up in my understanding of my family, then I obviously haven't been getting a purely Venezuelan context. What's more, my understanding of my family and what they want has developed over the course of almost 20 years of living in the states, so naturally their expectations and values have shifted, at least a little bit, accordingly.
So where does this leave me?
I set out to write this post so that I could get some things off my chest and figure this out a little but it has basically led me to the conclusion that I can't properly call myself anything.
Am I even an immigrant?
I mean, sure, I had to apply for a greencard, then my citizenship, and when I was in 1st grade my mom packed arepas for my lunch and all the kids thought I was weird, but does all of that really qualify me as such?
I came to the states when I was 3, and while yes, the way my family has raised me has been different from that of my peers, isn't everyone's? Just because I can identify most of the causal factors as being cultural does not mean the process is all that different from a kid born and raised in Atlanta to any other crazy family.
I don't even know how I speak! I understand that sounds crazy but I can't hear the difference (which, of course, makes me feel like an imposter) and the people who would know, i.e. the real Venezuelans all tell me something different. In my 5 months abroad and since, I was told that I speak Spanish like a:
Mexican
general Carribean dweller (close!)
Peruvian
Argentine
Honduran
Puertorican
and finally, the one that makes me want to cry every time: Gringa.
Seriously, what the fuck?
If I get this many different responses I have got to be the most confusing person to talk to EVER. It's like being told that you talk like you're from Jersey, California, Kansas, Ireland and Lousiana.
Having said that people understand me just fine, so why does this matter? I've already de-bunked the observations of others and established that it is an impossible task to pin me down (or anyone else for that matter) in any sort of satisfying way...
And yet it remains siginificant, and it it still a sensitive subject for me.
So I'll keep thinking.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The soundtrack of my life

I hear this song once a day--no joke:

video

Just another way to experience BA

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Some observations:

***Note to reader: minor levels of spanglish

So I went to what I can only assume was some sort of municipal building today to entregar my request for a student visa, when I was reminded of what turned out to be my first significant insight into BA culture:
people here are really, really, ridiculously good looking
What's more, the people of whom I speak are typically government employees.
That's right, the John and Jane Does of American federal work would go home cryin' to their mamma's with a box of Ho-Hos hanging out the side of their mouths if they had to enter a beauty pageant with these argie foxes.
No bullshit, they're all young, striking, twentysomethings with badges and the authorization to grant you a visa. Keep in mind, I haven't been (nor do I think I'll go) to the ultimate (internationally verifiable) bureaucratic institute--the DMV or el DMV as they call it here, but I can sleep at night thinking that the fine men and women of the department of motor vehicles deliver a more pleasant Kafkian experience based solely on their good looks.

Also: piropos.
The general populus of Buenos Aires (Capital Federal) is good looking. I'd say around 75% regardless of age. I would also say that among men and women there are probably more good looking women than men.
Having said that, I would be interested to inquire as to the algorithm, or criteria, or formula used by the slightly sleazy men of BA to determine which of those gorgeous women walking down the street deserve a cat call and which don't.
I say this, because if they were to dedicate themselves to the cause, and be truly thorough, they wouldn't have enough breath in the hairy exposed chests to make a comment to every beautiful woman that walked their way, much less the wit to come up with a new cat call every time!
They have to be selective, it's only logical, so I want to know what the filtering process is.
Does it depend on odds? (e.g. which women look as though they're more likely to respond positively?)
Or does it depend subjectively on varying standards of taste and, for lack of better words, fetishes? (e.g. blonde, brunette, short hair, dark skin, etc...)
Their must also be spontaneity to it. After all it's not their job to stand on street corners and holler...maybe I'll ask one someday.
I'm sure that will be a good story

Friday, February 15, 2008

Here it is:

Here it is, my attempt to document any crazy or mundane adventures I may have while away. My highs, my lows, my neuroses: all here for consumption, digestion, and eventual excretion-- I just hope I remember to post.

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