Venezuela: Jogging in Ciudad Guayana Became Obstacle Course Racing

Jogging in Ciudad Guayana Became Obstacle Course Racing

Carlos Hernández | Caracas Chronicles

Running is one of those things that communism hasn’t ruined for me yet, and as long as my running shoes don’t break, I’ll keep doing it (I don’t think I can replace those). I’m not that into fitness, but there’s something uplifting about taking a break and going for a run on my own. Problem is, these days the scenery turns a little more apocalyptic every time I go out.              

I’ve come to embrace the garbage of my city. There’s so much of it, my route is like an obstacle course now. You can find little garbage mountains on the sidewalks of suburbs, malls, and even hospitals. Some places don’t even have a dumpster, it’s just the mounds on the floor.

Chavistas tried to solve this a while ago with signs all over town, reminding you that littering is forbidden.

I wonder why that didn’t work …

Trash can be in one of three stages: fresh, burned or burning. It’s better when already burned, because when it’s fresh, the smell is unbearable (especially after rain). I always hold my breath when going through the worst parts, and I’m running, so it’s an extra challenge; I avoid it when it’s burning, I’m not ready for that level of bad smell yet.

The garbage problem is also a vulture problem. There are hundreds, a pest out of control that makes up for a great post-apocalyptic scenery. Picture this:

You are running through half-burned garbage, some of it still smoking, with vultures in all directions. They’re the size of chickens, with longer wings and pitch black. They’re on trees, on top of buildings, on lamp posts and, of course, on the trash. You don’t stop to count them (maybe 50?), but you see one with its beak buried in a half-burned diaper. It sees you, sizes you up, but it’s not the only one looking. All of them are.

That happens all the time. It’s like being in that Alfred Hitchcock movie; pigeons fly off, but these fuckers fear no man. Wikipedia says they only eat dead things, so I always try to look extra-alive around them.

There’s also sewer overflows, which I usually find in pairs, one of them at the very end of the route, in front of my building. I throw some jumps, CAP style, great for the legs. Stray dogs, however, can be a real issue. I’ve learned the bad way that they don’t like it when a hyperventilating dude runs towards them. If it’s a big group, they may bark and chase you. They don’t bite, but they really look the part, and that adrenaline shot always comes in handy. Great motivation when you’re tired and thinking about stopping.

Now, what do you do for fun while running? With the crime rate, I don’t dare bring my old iPod, I just count the many animalitos lottery places (I always lose count at about 20) and, since most traffic lights are busted and everyone drives like the monkeys from Jumanji, crossing the streets is a game of its own.

Every run is different, you don’t know what you’re gonna get. Is it burning trash? Will the dogs attack?

We recently switched mayors; Tito Oviedo is the dude who scammed hungry voters by offering them Christmas pork. He had protesters at his office pretty much the same day he took office, and he’s now tasked with coming up with solutions for a city that negligence ate up.

I’m sure he won’t dare ruin the post-apocalyptic jogging that his predecessors created.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/01/2018 at 7:31 am

    Semana Santa used to be one of the most anticipated holidays in Venezuela. The whole country would go on spring break at the same time to partake in folk regional parties, descargas, and, of course, observing religious traditions. But for many it represented the most important week of the year, as people from the big cities flocked to touristic areas (yes! we had those!) to spend like crazy for ten days.

    The news would switch from a reporter trying to speak over the pounding bass of a changa tune at the beach to a team covering the day long traffic jams because of the “éxodo masivo de venezolanos.”

    This week has been different, though. Those who can, have stealthily moved across the country to find starving businesses and deserted beaches. And the news have been all about the terrible events in the Carabobo Police headquarters (in the middle of Lacavaland), where several people were burned alive — it is expected that the death toll will go over 70 people. And by “the news”, I mean international news. Local media outlets have to deal with the government blackout, and menaces, and, well, you know.

    Probably next week the page will turn and we’ll turn back to our regular programming – of economic debacles and starvation. This tragedy will most likely end up swept under the rug.

    Bájenle dos este fin.

    Raúl Stolk

    Caracas Chronicles

    VALENCIA, Venezuela (Reuters) – Distraught relatives of some 68 people killed in a riot and fire in the cells of a Venezuelan police station demanded explanations on Thursday and rights groups and opposition politicians blamed leftist President Nicolas Maduro for overcrowding in the country’s notoriously violent jails.

  • Clyde Duncan  On 04/02/2018 at 2:45 am

    In Venezuela, Every Day Feels Like a Via Crucis

    Astrid Cantor | Caracas Chronicles

    After hours on queue under the burning sun, an elderly woman gets her turn at the bank. All she’ll get is a single bill that can’t buy a whole egg carton.

    Mistreated, hungry and thirsty, she’ll get home with barely enough to eat for the night, the journey will end with the sacrifice of her own freedom and perhaps she’ll mourn the death of whatever hope she had left. There’s not a better reminder of Jesus’ suffering on the path to his crucifixion.

    Via Crucis happens everyday in this country, specially in the small things.

    It’s not that coping has become impossible, or that surviving means suffering, because still, we get by. But we lose tiny bits of sanity while doing so.

    What felt difficult, yet achievable, is now, for all intents and purposes, like carrying a cross:

    We face what’s ahead knowing that, after excruciating suffering, falling three times or more, we’ll end the day feeling our spirit was tortured and killed.

    What felt difficult, yet achievable, is now, for all intents and purposes, like carrying a cross

    We’ve said this many times before, but it’s not stressed enough:

    There isn’t a single thing that can be done easily in Venezuela. Paying the bills, buying groceries, commuting to work or school, visiting loved ones, finding decent women’s hygiene products, catching a movie, parking your car, going to the bank, getting your Venezuelan ID card or passport, going to the doctor’s office, the list is endless. All of those things represent our own chavismo sponsored walk with the cross.

    Catholic culture teaches us today is about the remembrance of Jesus’ path and suffering carrying of the cross ‘til resurrection. Many times, while facing the dire reality in front of us, whether realizing we can’t afford the medicine we need or spending 18 hours in a blackout, I’ve found myself asking the very same question Jesus asked:

    My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?

    I bet I’m not the only one wondering, but even if you’re not alone, it’s very hard not to think about God and one’s beliefs while trying to survive.

    When will this be over? Why must we go through all of this? When will the suffering end? Has the world forsaken us?

    In this country, everybody’s daily struggles fit perfectly into a Via Crucis. A long walk of endurance, falling, getting help, and at the end, if we are lucky, resurrecting to a brand new day.

    To me, Holy Week and the stories of Jesus’ ordeal should serve as a way to reflect upon our own suffering, our own paths walked through misery.

    To remind ourselves that this isn’t normal and awareness shouldn’t be lost amidst the madness.

    All the hardships willingly placed upon us by this merciless government should not be minimized. Every station of our personal walks with the cross need to be analyzed, shared and remembered.

    I will NOT forget. And I hope, when this is over, we’ll get a whole week to commemorate our Venezuelan resurrection, too.

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