On Poverty

Poverty can be a tricky way to describe a state of being. There are certain definitions based on economics, and there are ways of defining poverty based on the quality of life a group of people enjoys. Not having access to potable water, health services, shelter, work, etc., can be considered a base form of poverty. In other wealthier countries like our own, not having cable, a car, a computer, or owning your own home can be considered living in poverty. Why do I bring all of this seemingly obvious stuff up? Because things are not always so obvious.

Most people in North America imagine that the world is poor with the exception of Western Europe, Japan, and Australia. We imagine that other countries have only dirt roads, poor hygiene, poor health services, widespread ignorance, and so on. Another common misconception is that people living in poverty often enjoy a sense of community that we wealthier folks don’t have because their lack of material distractions brings them forcibly together (this may be true in some cases but is certainly not the rule). The problem is that defining any group of people using any given term is in all practical purposes impossible.

By the way, most countries in the Caribbean and South America have easier access to wireless services and high speed internet, and at way lower costs than we imagine. Just do a search for wireless services in the Caribbean and see what you can come up with.

In the spirit if Walt Whitman I would like to catalog some of the things we’ve seen in the last few days that lead me to believe that I am not in a poor country.

-Real fresh fruit juice at the café
-High speed internet access for $.30 an hour
-A whole lot of people drive cars, and no they are not all jalopies (not environmentally friendly of course)
-Free tuition at the university
Engineering, medicine, science, architecture
-Great public transportation
-No one works when World Cup is on
-A cell phone, with service and contract, $30 U.S.(no contract)
-People ride their bikes for exercise
-People are out walking in the morning for exercise (we hardly even do these things in the states)
-Direct TV
-Health care, education, water, solid waste disposal
-Hippies (these guys can only make it in a country with resources for all)
-Guys on $10,000 sport bikes doing nose wheelies down the strip
-Classic Film TV Channel, all Latin American movies all the time

And I can go on and on

I’ve described the material wealth here, and only because I feel it necessary to continue my work is describing our trip. It would be unfair to you my readers to picture B. going to English class on mule back down a dirt track, when she actually takes the bus just like she did in Portland and has a pastry and cappuccino at the cafe before she gets to class. It would also be unfair for me to describe any sort of hardships and you thinking that it must be rough down there in that poor ass place with no nothing. I will snap some photos this week. -Going trout fishing with my uncle for a couple ´o days, in between sipping cappuccinos and watching the World Cup projected huge on the wall at the café.

The U.S. loss against the Czech Republic was definitive. We got a lot of work to do.

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