Written by Fidgit
The Venezuelans we have met while walking across South America have consistently been supportive, generous, and kind. Part of it may be because those we have met are also travelers and we all know how a little help can go a long way but this group in particular were among the first to offer and actually provide on the ground support for our undertaking and set off a domino chain of support.
In fact, our exposure to Venezuelan generosity began before we even started walking. On the first night we arrived to Santiago, Chile, there was an earthquake and also, we met Henry. After a morning breakfast of sharing folklore and stories, he volunteered to translate our blog posts into Spanish! He does this purely out of generosity and because he supports what we are walking to do. He has stuck with us over the years and from across his own travels around the globe. I have family members who are less invested in this undertaking than this man who we met for one day.
An entire chain of support was activated a few days before Neon and I left the U.S. We had a presentation and kick-off among friends in Colorado and afterwards Fafay and Zeb came up and she told us about Cris, who lived in Santiago, our first intended logistics base. She said she would put us in touch. Fafay and Zeb now own and run an earthbag villa near Punta Mita, Mexico.
A lot of people like to mention their contacts and resources, some even offer them up, but only do a precious few pan out. Someone along the chain is indifferent or busy or forgetful. And plenty of times I am that weakest link. Our success in each piece of this journey is built atop a mountain of failures, missed shots, and shortcomings. Only because of people like these have we been successful.
You see, that is what is so exceptional, Venezuelans are a network who follow through. Fafay in Colorado told us about Cris in Santiago. He picked us up and took us into his home; he let us stay overtime when I sprained my ankle a few days before we were meant to fly down to Ushuaia. He was our original Patron on the ground and continues to act as one to this day, on Patreon. He lugged our giant chest of extra gear which we sent by encomienda along Chile, he took us out for walks in the mountains when we got cagey.
As we were walking, he told us about Ale and Greta, in Pucon. They live amidst their herd and together have created Quila Quina, aimed at fostering leadership and adventure by “approaching social and environmental responsibility with boldness, sincerity, and grit”. All characteristics we saw clearly when they too welcomed us into their home with open arms and arepas.
Learning to make a delicious traditional Venezuelan food: AREPAS!
While we were there we met Marlyn & Eduardo. I immediately fell in love with her, as she cherished her growing baby bump but also did not let that slow her down from climbing on one of the horses. Then, over pizza in town, as they were asking us about Her Odyssey, Marlyn jumped in to help explain the “Her” aspect of Her Odyssey, and she nailed it.
“Esto es nuestra Odisea,” she stated.
Eduardo answered that the Her in Her Odyssey referred to Neon and I, that it was our odyssey.
“No,” she held firm, “this is nuestra odisea.” They had shared Venezuelan nursery rhymes with us, helped me compose an email in Spanish, helped Neon practice her Spanish. They had invested in this project and she was taking proper ownership.
She understood that she was Her, that every single one of us who invest in and take part in this journey, are Her. This is such an core concept of the journey, and yet so difficult to convey that when someone intuitively grasps it, owns it, and takes part in it, it makes my heart and feet soar.
We also spent a fair amount of the time over that meal hearing about the rampant corruption within Venezuela. Even before the current crisis took over everything. Inflation, corruption, greed. Things that made me shiver, Ale and and Eduardo stated simply as matter of fact. I was chagrined that I had so little knowledge of what was going on.
When we arrived to Santiago again, this time by foot, we got to see Eduardo and Marlyn again and meet their precious baby girl. We also got to sit down with Cris and his now bride Angelica, one of the last true romantics, her heart is a flower garden blooming with hope and love and that beauty is reflected in her art . Together they recently moved to San Francisco where Cris is pursuing his MBA at Hult International Business School.
Every connection, every individual, and therefore the whole network, was solid, and we are just a couple outsiders benefiting from overflowing generosity. We try not to be takers, but we do try to be gracious receivers. And based on all that we have received from our Venezuelan friends, at the very least we owe it to pay attention, and, as best we can, to tell the story.
To that end I seek to make the point that, while the crisis in Venezuela may shake the world, the people of Venezuela are improving the world. It is a country of intelligent, compassionate, skilled, and wonderful people. People we are fortunate to call friends.