I was woken up to the phone ringing, my father speaking rapidly between french and English. I lay there, a little puzzled. A thunderous sound echoed, my father’s voice tensed. I got up and opened up the door from my room to the small t.v room upstairs. He looked up at me, finished his discussion and got up slowly. My Mother opened the door in a panic, she always looked panicked in these situations, but I instantly knew what was going on. We were living in Caracas, Venezuela, and a coup was going on outside.
There was a lot of clatter echoing through the house, my Father got up, he was wearing his tennis shorts (that my mother had tried throwing out throughout their marriage) from the 70s a t-shirt and bare feet. He looked tense, we all followed and ran to the kitchen. A local embassy staff member was standing in the kitchen, and said politely in Spanish that he had made it through and wanted to drive my Father to the Embassy. My Father wasn’t a man who showed feelings, but at that moment my Father was so touched, and speechless. He told the man that it was not his duty to serve him and that he shouldn’t have risked his life to get to the house, because my Father believed that it was only his duty to get to the embassy. The older gentleman said that he felt loyal to him and wanted to take him. (There is much more to this story, but I wanted to paraphrase it)
My Mother was horrified, she didn’t want my father to leave, but he was going to. We all said good-bye, and didn’t know if he would make it back. Bombs were dropping quickly and very close to our house and the embassy. My Mother and I were left to man 3 private lines, that somehow every Canadian that was stuck in Caracas, had gotten their hands on and used it.
So, for me growing up, travelling was about respect. Respect for the culture and for the political climate of the country. Doing some research on your next destination is important, make sure you read your countries travel warnings. Every Foreign ministry (if you need those I would be happy to pass them along) has a list of countries with levels of travel risks. Everyone should read these before considering where you are going. Why do I say this. Well, when I was manning the phones in Caracas as a teenager, it was young families that called our house in a panic “what were they supposed to do” or “it was the Canadian governments duty to get us out” how do you respond to that, well I was a teenager and after 5 hours of answering phones I responded “I am not getting paid for this, and if my country isn’t coming to save me and my family, I am pretty sure they aren’t going to save you at this point” – my Father found out I said something like that and was stunned, and a little angry (I was 16), but my thoughts have always been, didn’t you read? Did you not guess that a place like Venezuela had a pretty tense political climate?
I am a very adventurous person, and have (as my father used to tell me) an acute sense of street smarts, but there are a lot of places that I would research to death and register each family members name with Foreign Affairs before travelling, or I just wouldn’t be dumb enough to travel with my child to that particular country, at that time.
Do your research on the culture, many countries will arrest you for indecent exposure if you breast feed in public, or in some cases spit on the street. Think things through, Don’t get caught off guard, it is their right to make these laws, just respect it and abide by laws when you travel.
I don’t think it is my Countries responsibility to rescue me, if it is my lack of educating myself in a country that has gotten me into trouble. The reason, it is a human being that has to save you, they don’t make that much money and they put their lives at risk each day to make peace in this world.