Monday, November 7, 2011

A Perspective on Living in a Third-World Country (Day 385)

Just to let you know, there will be another post later today as well.

Someone asked me last night about my perspective on living in a third-world country, and to be quite frank with all of you, it's probably not the image most of you have in your head.  Yes, there is extreme economical places of the country.  However, there is also economical wealth.  A Guatemalan fellow who I went on a pair of dates with is currently on his family's annual trip to Disney World.  That's right...every year, the family (somewhere between 6 and 10 people) gets visas for the United States, buys plane tickets, and stays at Disney World (yes, Florida) for a week.  But it can be more subtle as well.

As told to D.D. last night: "I have a large metal double door to my house. That door leads to a corridor with the door on one end and a gap to my courtyard on the other, an 'exterior' wall on one side, and three rooms on the other side. Each room has a stained glass window and a door. The roof over the three rooms and the corridor is lamina, and I have red clay floors. I have running water, a heater in my shower (although, it's currently broken...should be fixed tomorrow), electricity, and drainage.
My next-door neighbor has two 'walls' of lamina around her property (one of block, the one she shares with me), and I'm not sure if she has a wall along the back of her property. Her floors are all dirt. The walls of her actual house are made of sticks as is her roof; rain regularly enters during the rainy season. She has electricity and cable TV."  I imagine she has running water as well, but I don't know that for a fact.

Now, that's here in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, a 30-minute bus ride (direct) from Antigua where all the tourists are.  We have water 24 hours per day and 7 days per week.  If you go 30-45 minutes north of Antigua to Santo Domingo Xenacoj (does not have a direct bus connection to Antigua), they do not have water 24 hours/day, 7days/week.  I believe they only have water in the mornings and for an hour in the evening, but I'd have to get that verified; I know it's not 24/7.

Up in villages near Coban--I couldn't even tell you how far from here that is, maybe a 6 hour drive in a private shuttle?--I met a girl who didn't wear pants to school because she didn't own any and the family couldn't afford any.  So, she went in a t-shirt and underpants.  I met a woman who cared for her three grandsons.  Every day, the family had a "soup" made of 3 beans and a grain of rice.  The woman gave each boy a bean with his "soup" and ate the piece of rice with hers.  Yes, I've personally met hunger here in San Antonio, but the idea of that sort of self-control when one has so little in their stomach is awe-inspiring.

"Now, in a week or two, I'll be heading out--well-chaperoned--to Zacapa. I'm not sure what conditions I'll find out there. However, the farther you get from the tourism centers, the more obvious the poverty becomes.  Yes, I live in a third-world country, but I have electricity, internet, running water, etc. If I had a TV, I might use cable TV (but I just don't watch much TV)."

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