Saturday, March 27, 2010
More Vacation Spillover
At many points during our week in a third world country, I came face to face with my ethnocentrism. Sometimes I forget I have it. The first time I noticed myself aghast at something the native population took for granted was watching a fire burning out of control as we drove along in our air conditioned van.
Burned rubble along the road, patches of ground blackened and deserted, homes reduced to charred lumber stood out against the lush green fields and tropical growth. At one point I pointed out to our guide that the grass was on fire and seemed to be spreading along the roadside. “Yeah,” he responded, “It does that.” My mind swirled—shouldn’t we call the fire department? Does my cell phone work in Belize? Hasn’t anyone reported this yet? Then I reoriented myself: third world country; no fire department to call.
How privileged we are here in the U.S. If we run out of stamps, we go to the grocery store or the bank, usually open until 6pm. In Belize, there’s one tiny post office miles away from anywhere which may or may not be open on any given day. If something catches fire, we call 911 and the fire department sends trucks, ambulances, and help in a variety of forms. In Belize, yeah, it burns. If we want to go somewhere, we hop in our car, swing by the gas station if we’re running low on gas, and go. In Belize, one waits at a little bus stop for a rattley old bus that runs between villages on an irregular schedule, and fills its tank at the one gas pump in the district; or hops on a bike, or even more commonly, walks—very long distances—to get where one is going. If we’re cold in our homes, we turn up the heat. In Belize, there may not be heat available except for what the sun brings.
My eyes are more open now to the things I once took for granted; I had become complacent, entitled. A trip to a foreign country and four little words, “yeah, it does that,” have restored a sense of appreciation for the abundance in and the ease of my daily life.