It's interesting how the value of two weeks can vary depending on the person. For me, the decision to take this two week stint in Venezuela meant, well really, two weeks in a different country rather than another. Normally it would have meant money spent on food and lodging, but because I've been photographing and printing images for the fighters, they've been taking care of me; giving me leftovers from those who have to make weight or sneaking me meal tickets. It's even gotten to the point where the Venezuelan staff think I work for the Colombian press and just pass me on as part of the team. In addition to staying with a couchsurfer, this trip hasn't cost me much outside of the time.
But for many of the fighters' time equals money, two weeks means half a month's salary, which for most of them is the minimum wage in Colombia, or 250.000 pesos, about 150 USD. I asked one fighter, Alexis, what he spends his money on if he lives and dines in the athletic complex supported by the government. He told me "cosas personales" (personal things). When I asked him to elaborate, he said, "Como ropa, cosas por la casa" (like clothes, things for the house), which would seem perhaps like luxuries if the basics were already provided, but then he continued by saying, "Jugetes, cosas para mi nina" (toys, things for my daughter).
Another fighter, Cesàr, also has a child, or almost, as he pridefully showed me a picture of his 9 month pregnant girlfriend. I asked him if he felt it was worth it to miss out on two weeks salary at the eve of his child's birth and he told me, "Ahorita no mucho, porque vine en tercer lugar. Vamos a ver en el otro torneo" (Right now, not much because I came in third place. We'll see at the other tournament). Unlike travelers such as myself, they can't just say the experience alone was worth it. For them time counts; every moment, every fight.
It reminds me of my training sessions in Bogotà. After each day, the coaches would thrown down nutrition bars to the fighters. I never got one. Training in the gyms of all the places I've visited, I wanted to have the barrier of my nationality disappear, be seen as just another fighter. I sweated side by side with these guys, bled with them, collapsed in exhaustion with them, all in an effort to become closer, to just be part of the team. But I wasn't. In the end, I didn't wake up every morning hundreds of miles away from my family (well I did, but the reasons are worlds apart). In the end, I had choices. The sweet science was a hobby, not my way out or to "salir adelante" (to make it). In the end, I was still, a visitor.