Friday, April 8, 2011


When you live in a third world country that is stricken with poverty, it is often difficult to stay positive about how some locals choose to ‘get by’.

And when I say ‘poverty’, I am referring to mass poverty that you would never see in the United States. The poverty I am referring to is not that of beggars or homeless….or of pickpocketers that just want 'more'. I am talking about desperation. I am referring to babies crying all not long because a family cannot provide milk, families that squat in bushes as they cannot even afford the corrugated metal as a roof, swollen bellies in children that go hungry day after day, hundreds of people gathered together downtown that are handicapped with polio and other diseases as their family couldn’t afford to vaccinate, and garbage cans that are sifted through night after night hopeful of finding just a bit of rice or food that was thrown away. Day after day, we are asked for money or are approached by someone begging for a job. It is rampant and it is everywhere.

The unemployment rate here is astronomical. There are no jobs. One is lucky to have a job of a housekeeper, nanny, or a guard. Our housekeeper speaks five languages fluently, is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen, and went years without work while desperately trying to support a family of five.

A few weeks ago, our house was robbed. I am still trying my best to recover from an intruder watching me for hours, entering a room where I slept, and being just a few feet away from my children. I am still lying awake at night watching our balcony, doors getting checked, double checked, and triple checked, and often questioning if Richard or myself had remembered to set the alarms. Friends that this has happened to assure me that this will take time to recover from, and that soon, I will be able to relax.

Yesterday, I was driving in the car with Astou and the boys. By mistake, she left her keys on top of the car and of course, once we got on the Corniche (a four lane high speed road) we heard the keys fly off the roof onto the side of the road. I quickly pulled over, and Astou got out and began to look for the keys.

I became nervous that a car would hit us, as there is no breakdown lane on this road. I rolled down the windows, got the safety-warning triangle, and got out of the car to place the triangle 15 feet behind the car.

While doing this, two men on a moped stopped and asked if we needed help. I quickly walked back to the car as Astou told them the car was fine. The man reached in my car, stole my phone, and took off.

Luckily, my wallet was in the backseat at the bottom of a diaper bag. And more importantly, the man did not drive away in our car with the boys in the back as I had mistakenly left the car running.

It is hard to not let these incidences break you. Still recovering from the break in, I was not prepared for another scare like this.

But on a positive note, I have again learned something about living here. Mopeds, are apparently, known for their theft. Purses are snagged easily by men on mopeds that simple grab them while they are scooting by. Purses are grabbed when left on the passenger seat of the car, and motorists that have broken down on the side of the road are an easy target.

Like I said, it’s hard to stay positive when these events keep repeatedly happening. But what gets me through, is believing that the robbers have been able to feed their starving families from selling the goods they have stolen from me. I have to believe that maybe, just maybe, these robbers can afford medicine for their children, or even purchase a bag of rice to feed their families for the month.

People are desperate here. Desperation is fueling these crimes. They don’t care about getting caught…it doesn’t matter. These crimes are what helps them survive.

I have to believe these things, or otherwise, my negative attitude and fear will take over.

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