I didn’t sleep hardly at all last night, as I stewed over the approach of the date I will be leaving. I am going literally from one end of humanity to the other. I thought about the cupboards full of food at home, the comfort, the forgotten things in drawers, unused, everywhere. I thought about this crazy place, the tyranny of the rich here and the desperateness of the poor. Dawn broke with the call to prayer, I brought my mattress outside to the courtyard and looked up at the changing sky. I listened to Tracy Chapman on my Ipod. “You got a fast car, I got a plan to get us out of here…. …we will finally see what it means to be living.” I thought about my one tiny microcosm of friends here, Lasoba, who is a mechanic and makes 3 dollars a week plus lunch and has a heart of gold, is not really different then a slave. He cant leave. He cant do anything but continue, one foot after the other. People joke and shine it on, but under a cheerful facade, they are enduring too much here. I shut my eyes and wished there was a coastline nearby so my imagination would have a place to stop. But I just zoomed out and out, and imagined how many people are living on this continent, just enduring life for its own sake. Not everybody, of course. Las is a mechanic who works for someones shop, and his boss is surely making lots of money, and throwing it around. The “patrones” in most places spend the money as fast as it comes in, so at the end of the month, they also have nothing, but they in the meantime, they drink a lot and have lots of girlfriends, and usually don’t work at all. And the people who go to the mechanic have cars, often really big cars. There are always people in the marquees, buying beer for the money Las makes in a week. The space between the rich and the poor is immense. Stifling. I wonder if this is how the whole world would be if people never went on strike, and demanded a minimum wage. In the meantime, if you send money to Africa for some non profit, just to warn you if any money goes to the cause you think it is going to, you are lucky. The people who run international non profits are some of the rich ones.
I shut my eyes, and Tracy continued singing. “Someday people will look on me with anger and with greed, and Ill revel in their attention and mountains and mountains of things….. …..for those who’s sole misfortune is having mountains of nothing at birth.”
But people don’t unionize here, don’t work together to go on strike. Maybe the lyrics of that song explain it a bit. The culture of poverty contradicts it. The rich come and take whatever they want and the poor don’t protest. A European friend of mine was in a taxi and the driver molested a 14 year old girl who was a passenger, right there with other passengers in the car. He said she just shut her eyes and held still. In a way, that is what all the poor, and all the workers here are doing. Just hoping not to be taken advantage of but to powerless to talk. A lot of people don’t get payed at all, after being promised money. And for the most part, when they dream, it isn’t of a world of well payed workers, it is to be a patrone themselves one day, and to make other people work while watching on, drinking beer. The whole system doesn’t leave a lot of space for change.
And where am I going compared to that? Paradise, basically, San Juan Island, where everyone has enough and therefor people can support each other. I will be there in three little days. I can imagine every single moment, starting with my mom meeting me at the airport.
It is wild how many different lives I have looked in on from the outside in my short life. I am more grateful for that then pretty much anything.