At 16, I was learning Salsa, playing soccer, and having massive meltdowns from hormones, and culture shock. We had only been in Caracas, Venezuela, for a few months.
I was friends primarily with people from school, and a few from University, so convincing me to a dance club didn`t take me much arm twisting. I loved to dance, so why not. My Father was off on another business trip, and my Mother said it was fine. I was supposed to be home at 1am.
In South America, people went out to dance clubs to actually dance, and many, would go as multi generational groups i.e with parents and grandparents – I did have that experience, and will write about it some other time. Yeah, kinda weird for a Canadian, as I hated to be seen with my parents.
There were 3 girls, all in highschool, and the guys we were with were in University. It was Saturday night, we were excited, dressed up, and ready to dance. We sat at a booth, and had bottles of booze open (most clubs just hand you bottles of rum, and you pay extra for soda) about 45 minutes in, there was some screaming, the lights went on, and the Guardia National filed in. We were stunned. I sat still, pretending that I was calm, and was supposed to be there.
One of the guys we were with, gave me a shot, told me to calm my nerves and pretend I belonged. He was scared out of his mind, we had gone on a date, and he had already met my Father, which had been a terrifying experience for him. I drank. Then the announcement came “Women on one side, men on the other” – I almost passed out. My girlfriend grabbed my hand and led me across the room, I thought my life was coming to an end. The guards began to slash all of the sofas, and all of the chairs, pulling out bags of white powder. I was in complete and utter shock, telling myself to breathe. It was like a bad Will Smith movie, only, I wasn`t a damsel in distress, and there was no hero.
The guards began to pass each woman, semi automatic drawn, looking at each and every one of us, asking a few for I.D. I had been held at gunpoint before, but never with that many guns, or with a purpose to actually kidnap, arrest, or kill in the eyes of the gun holder. As the massive guards passed me, I kept thinking, I am in big trouble, please don`t ask for my identification. I had only diplomatic I.D and I was terrified that they were going to take me away. My Father was away, and goodness knows, my Mother would not be good in this situation, actually, she was more useless.
They passed me, I pretended like I belonged. They just stared at me, gun pointed at me, I almost peed in my pants. It felt like the longest night ever, which it was. We watched as a bunch of women were being arrested, the owners were being taken away, and so was the white powder.
When the guards left, we sat at our table, lights on, stuffing everywhere, knees shaking, silent, and also very relieved, we had a couple of shots. I had no idea what time it was, until the guy I was with leaned over and told me that he better get me home. I nodded. We sat in silence, so sober, nothing about the night was fun, or funny, and it certainly did not feel like a date.
As I got to the gate of my house, the guard wept, hugged me, and said “Your Mother has called the Embassy, she thought you were dead, your Father is on his way home.”
Yup, it was 4am. My Mother was beyond emotional. She was angry, and upset. She mostly blamed me, but I knew not to tell her the whole story. I never told her anything. she just thought it was an average drug bust (yes, I got caught in a couple). It was a different story for my Father, he came home, full well knowing the situation. He was upset that he wasn`t home, that my Mother had let me out. but mostly, he knew the dangers of the situation, and just how terrifying it was, I had after all, had a semi automatic shoved into my gut.
I sat in his home office, a few nights after the incident, my Mother was asleep. He passed me a drink in silence, he never gave me alcohol, so I knew what was coming, he said “You have to go to boarding school. It is not safe any more.”- the boarding school diaries are a whole other story.