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Day Four: “Retarded Nations”

So my checked bag decided to spend an extra night in our connection city of Miami, but it finally arrived in Latin America!  Can you really blame it?  Miami is beautiful, even if only viewed through an airport window.     

This morning we met up with the rest of the crew for the week.  Louis our mini-bus driver, Richard the still photographer, Marcos our translator and the three members of our American video team.  They rented an SUV at the airport for remote filming and ended up wandering around for hours.  Magellan only made it around the world because he never came through Nicaragua.  Like the rest of the country, our hotel doesn’t actually have an address but rather an approximate description of its location.  The hotel’s Web site lists the address as “30 meters south of La Marseillaise Restaurante.” Some directions are even based on landmarks that don’t exist, “three blocks north of where the water tower used to be…”

Our first task of the day was meeting up with our guide from Accion Medica Christiana, a local partner organization of Church World Service. After a background briefing from Belinda Forbes (and project manager Dr. Reyna) at AMC headquarters in the capitol, we were off. 

Our trip got off to a rough start.  While stopping to pick up water and supplies at a gas station, we discovered a slow leak in one of the rental car’s tires and in the chaos of changing it, someone made off with our translator's travel bag.  I’ve gotta say though, since we had multiple bags containing tens of thousands of dollars' worth of video and audio gear, they probably picked the best bag.  Since American Airlines lost my bag for a few days, I had already replaced some essential undergarments and just passed them on to our translator, Marcos. 

We’re finally out in Matagalpa and I’m falling asleep while writing this blog post- with a dinner in my belly so fresh that I can imagine the chickens running around free just earlier today. 

I cannot spend enough time talking about how terrible the roads are here.  No wonder everyone is always running late…  Glad we chose to highlight road construction and infrastructure development as part of the video.    

I’m also fascinated by the differences between our more “time oriented” culture in the U.S. and the more laid back “event oriented” culture of our neighbors to the south.  It’s all relative though. When I was seven and my parents were working at a refugee camp in the Philippines, my dad used to joke with me that I ran on “third world time.”  Back then that term wasn’t offensive - now we say “developing countries.”  Once upon a time, developing countries used to be referred to as “retarded nations,” meaning literally, “slow to develop.”  But develop into what?  In the U.S. we may all have two cars and high-speed wireless cable internet, but we don’t have very good health care and women can’t afford to stay home with their kids for very long.  Compared to Europe, we’re the ones who are “retarded.”  With their healthcare, family leave and extended vacations- maybe they need to be doing development work in DC…
  
I’m missing the U.S., but I am pleasantly exhausted, remembering how much I liked being an expat NGO worker overseas.  We might not be making cash hand over fist, but we have no problem sleeping at night, and speaking of which… zzzzz…

Brian P. Duss is the multimedia associate at Bread for the World. 

 

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