Josie Malave – A Tale of Two Countries

Twenty-seven years ago, a man named Eleazar Malave made the drastic and momentous move from Caracas, Venezuela to Atlanta, Georgia in hopes for a better future. Throughout his life in the U.S he experienced language barriers, cultural shock, and life changing opportunities, but none of these obstacles wavered his bravery and determination. This man is the one I am proud to call my father.

Making the transition from country to country is bound to take its toll on anybody as there are an infinite number of changes to adapt to. It makes you wonder why anyone would ever want to make such a life altering decision in the first place. “In Venezuela there were very few educational opportunities granted. My dad wanted me to have a better future and it was my goal to pursue an MBA in finance and economics. I knew that I would have better opportunities for school and education in the U.S,” my dad said. “My family was sad at first, but they were excited and supportive knowing that I had a chance at a brighter future.” He knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy transition, but my dad was determined to make his family and himself proud. Little did he know he was making his future family just as proud, if not prouder.

One would assume that moving from a Spanish speaking country to a country that primarily communicates through the English language would result in some sort of language barrier, but for my dad, this was not the case. He had learned most of his English tongue before ever moving to North America. He said, “Although Spanish was my first language, I grew up learning English as a second language in catholic school. When I moved to the United States, as an international student, I was required to take both the GMAT and TOEFL exams to test and better improve my English writing skills.” Now, having lived here for the past 27 years, my dad is, impressively, fluent in three languages: Spanish, English, and Portuguese.

During the summers he would go back home and visit his family, but as the economy in Venezuela began to tank over the years, he decided it was best to stay in the U.S until the country was safe enough for him to return to. The collapse of Venezuela stemmed from the roots of food and medicinal shortages, unemployment, violations of human rights, economic mismanagement and high dependance on oil for the country’s success. Unfortunately, to this day, the government has become and continues to grow corrupt with every new dictator, and coward, in power. As Venezuela’s GDP began plummeting, even more than the United States during the Great Depression, majority of the population became unable to afford food, antibiotics, and medicinal resources. “Originally it was my plan to get my education and degree in the United States and then move back to Caracas after graduation, but as the political situation gradually grew worse, my dad told me to stay here until we felt it was smart and safe to go back. My first time going back to Venezuela after the move was in the summer of 1995, and the last time I went was in September of 2014.” Hugo Chavez, the late and former president of Venezuela, secured his place in power in 1999 by manipulating the voters and people of the country. During the election he cited his goals by stating that he wanted to reduce inequality and make basic necessities affordable and better available to the public. However, these controls resulted in backfire as Venezuelan businesses began to shut down and pause production, resulting in shortages and lesser profits. Due to the many years of mismanagement and corruption, the once beautiful and thriving Venezuela has fallen onto the list of the top 5 most corrupted countries in the world.

Every country has its own cultural aspects and appropriation, so moving from South America to North America there was surely some cultural shock, but not as much as one would imagine. “Back in the day Venezuela was known as one of the richest nations in the world, but in my experience, it had a lot in common with that of the U.S. There wasn’t much of a cultural shock for me. A lot of the tv shows that aired here, I was familiar with back home in Caracas,” he said. “The biggest difference was probably the weather. The winters in Georgia are colder than they were in Venezuela and the pollen season here is much more aggressive.” Here in Georgia my father has introduced me and my family to an abundance of Venezuelan cuisine restaurants that he says remind him a lot of home. My mom, who was born in Kentucky, became familiar with the recipes and appreciation of the meals that my dad was fond of growing up. Meals such as cachapas, arepas, and empanadas all became a part of our lives and appetites thanks to him. They met through a company called “Rock 10” many years ago, but the story is told very differently from both sides as one could imagine. My dad tells the story as if he was a subtle player who new he could win her over and knew that deep down he had her wrapped around his finger. On the contrary, my mom recites the story as if my father was an obvious, and not at all slick, kind of guy. According to her, she was one to play “hard-to-get,” and he fell right into her trap. So, in reality, who was wrapped around who’s finger?

Eleazar’s hard work, bravery, and determination together shaped him into the man he is today. My father has grown to be an extremely strong-willed, conscientious, and admirable figure in my life that I look up to every day. Today my father has earned his MBA in finance and holds it proudly on his office wall. He works as the Vice President of Finance for a gas company called Sunoco where he is granted the opportunity to travel all over the world. Through all the obstacles that he has faced in life he has never failed to amaze and inspire me. It’s because of his passion, love, and drive that he has become this successful and exemplary person that I am proud to call my dad.

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