I´ve moved on from Caracas now, at least for the time being, to stay in a fledgeling eco village project high up in the Andes, near to Merida. It is a stunningly beautiful place, just above the level of the cloud forest, and a lovely contrast from the buzz of Caracas.
My stay in Caracas was wonderful, and a great advert for Couchsurfing as a way of travelling and getting under the surface of things. In a week there, I saw rehearsals and performances at a prestigious music school, visited two different special needs schools, met some wonderful people, salsa danced, visited the beach, saw an amazing amount of different live music as well as fitting in a few of the standard tourist sights and working little by little on my Spanish. All thanks to my wonderful hosts Cheryl and Jorge. They also hooked me up with the eco village as a next stop.
Venezuela is an incredible country, with music, landscapes, art and wonderful people coming out of its ears. There is however an elephant of a problem here. An angry, destructive elephant. The violence. From the apartment in Caracas you could hear the ra-ta-ta-ta of gunfire coming from the nearby barrio most nights. The perception Venezuelans themselves have is that the rule of law no longer really exists in many places. Day to day things feel more structured, controlled and safe than Guyana, but in the cities there is an almost constant background threat of armed robbery. The cause is unclear. Chavez, the USA, a violent history, the curse of oil, inequality, poverty, guns from Colombia, corrupt police, and a growing consumerist culture are all possible contributors. It is a great shame to have such a cloud hanging over such an amazing country.
However, there is so much here to love and enjoy that I have to feel some optimism for the future.