3rd world musings

Buzz Lightyear:

Before I go on, I must reference an ongoing discussion between my father and myself. As I paint pictures of poverty with rose colored glasses, he is quick to point out that these people are actually suffering inside. That they are constantly going hungry or having children or relatives die because they can not afford medicine. They would love to send their kids to school, but education costs in most of the 3rd world, and the priority goes to the basic necessities as opposed to education. Without taking anything away from the sobering realities of poverty, one of the reasons why I prefer to travel in the 3rd world as opposed to the more relaxing, comfortable, and familiar areas in Europe, is that despite the plethora of reasons why these people could and should be depressed and morose, they are not. They inspire me in their ability to absorb pain and sorrow yet endure with joy and graciousness and appreciation for what they DO have. Near the end of our trip, we sat down to drink some tea, and the older men sitting near us (who we had communicated with using friendly facial expressions and hand gestures) insisted on paying for our bill. This all too common anecdote is why I am constantly drawn back to developing world…

…The other thing that gave me a wake-up call for the good life we have is when I came back through the border from Syria to Lebanon and got my passport was stamped. The border station was typical third world with stark walls, everybody smoking, and one man at a desk with a crowd of bus drivers trying to get their buses passports stamped. But what struck me was that behind the man was an open door filled with about 20 new computers. Syria is completely safe, and pretty open to foreigners, but it is without a doubt, a very sever police state. At the monastery, I heard about an American guy who got a phone call from the secret police making sure he was planning on leaving the next day. No one knew how the hell they knew he was up there, but it does kind of give you the shivers. And before you go on tirading about the Patriot Act and saying how our government does the same…look deeply at the differences and you will see a stark contrast in our government’s ability (though still messed up) to peek into private individuals’ lives, and places like Syria and North Korea where that blatantly occurs all the time…

…The last thing I wanted to talk about was my conversation with a young man on a bus in Syria. After once again confirming that many devirginised girls do indeed get a hymen reinstated (though he said it didn’t happen too often. After all, Syria is still pretty traditional), he told me a bit about the courting process in Syria. He said that if you like a girl, and you want to go out with her, you have to talk with her parents. If they accept, you are given a surprising amount of liberty to take romantic walks on the beach, in the park, or wherever. But, once the parents know, the two sets of parents begin to socialize and get to know each other. Before long, the families are aligned and the marriage is essentially inevitable. I asked him what would happen if you decided that you didn’t really like the girl anymore, and he responded with, “Mushkela” or ‘problems’. I asked him what would happen if you dated in secret and the parents found out. He responded with, “Mushkela”. And what if you acted in good faith, and eventually wanted to marry the girl, and were a good kid at heart? He responded with, “A good kid would have informed the parents.”

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