Escaping the Venezuelan Crisis
Hello! It’s been a month since my last #travelsundaystory and this weekend I’ll be sharing a tale close to my heart – my encounter with Freiman and his family in Colombia. At first I was writing a story every Sunday but I was starting to get stressed about posting it in time, and realised once a month was far more of a manageable time frame – also it leaves you wanting more, am I right?
This is Freiman and his family.
I met them on my second day exploring Bogotá, where they proudly showcased the opening of their Empanada restaurant in their home and quickly got on with them all. I had arrived in Colombia, scared of everything, trying to mentally prepare myself for anyone trying to trick me and instead I was caught off guard by honest conversations and real talk. Real talk about fleeing countries of political unrest, poverty and desperation.
Freiman was shot 12 times in Venezuela. He moved his family – his little boy and girl – to the safety of Bogotá, where he had to give up his skateboarding career due to his injuries. He told me about the terrible situation happening in his country; the socialist government whose policies have led to hyperinflation, powercuts and shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies. Prices of even a cup of coffee have soared, protests are rife and elections are boycotted to keep the current government in power. Other candidates cannot run for presidency for fear of imprisonment, and the military swear allegiance to the government, making it further impossible to overrule.
This was not the first nor the last story I was to hear about friends leaving family and fleeing Venezuela for hopes of a better life. Nor was it the last time I saw families dressed in dirty clothes at the many borders I crossed in the early hours, lying on the ground. I felt sad, guilty as I easily left the comfort of my bus to get my passport stamped to continue on my journey whilst these poor families watched me walk past.
I returned to Bogotá for a day and introduced my friends to Freiman and we spent a happy day watching his son Joseph skateboard amongst men in their 20s, watching in awe as he copied the difficult flips, eating the best goddam empanadas with his Dad proudly watching on, high fiving the fellow skateboarders. I couldn’t and still can’t imagine the situation he must have been placed in, being shot, living in a country in such turmoil, moving his entire family to another country for hope of a better future.
If you’re in Bogotá, I really suggest you pay Freiman and his family a visit at “Los Símbolos” restaurant, hear his story, eat his amazing food and watch his son skate – it makes for an authentic and less touristy day out in Bogotá. I also suggest you read about what’s happening in Venezuela – if anything just to reiterate how lucky we are not to be faced with a situation like this.