Friday, April 20, 2012

the rich and the poor.

i teach at the most expensive university in santiago. my students drive mercedes and bmws. or they have private chauffers who drive range rovers. they wear designer clothes and travel to the USA during vacations.
i walk by this "room" everyday - they
have no running water and their "latrine
is situated in an outhouse behind this

i live in a neighborhood that is middle class. it's quiet and houses are comfortable and mostly not too intimidating. most of our neighbors send their kids to middle-of-the-line private schools and drive middle-of-the-line SUVs to work everyday.

and i work in a community where most have to worry about where their food is coming from tomorrow. how they can send their kids to even the public school, when they don't have the money to buy a uniform or pay for notebooks.

much like most other places in the world, there is a wide range of incomes, a diversity in lifestyles. there are people who work, and people who don't.

this house is being built brick by brick
every time the family has money, they
add on.
as i search the web for information on different NGOs on the island, i am both excited and disgusted. excited that there are so many people doing so many good things to improve the life of people around them. i'm finding more and more initiatives started and run by local people. i see the spirit of the dominican republic alive and well, the community helping each other to survive. and i even see foreigners offering their skills and gifts to empower others.

This mansion comes complete with a
helicopter landing pad and a swimming
but i also see pages filled with pictures only of the very poor. of the "success" of projects exhibited in before and after photos, where in the before picture the family or children always look destitute and unhappy. children with the swollen bellies of malnutrition eating bowls of rice gruel in a modern and amazing center. instead of focusing on the positive of the dominican culture, the seedy underside is shown - and painted as the picture of what life is.

there is extreme-poverty here - families living on less than two US dollars a day. families who eat when food appears and when it doesn't, they don't. houses with no electric, no water, no security.

but that is only a small portion of the population.

a house on the hill.
there is poverty here. there are people who work hard, but their salaries just doesn't make ends meet, and desperate times call for desperate measures. delinquency, illiteracy, depression.

and there is an emerging middle class - a broad range of educated workers to retired, dominican-americans or dominican-europeans. who still aren't riding high on the hog, but probably don't worry too much about where their food is coming from.

and there is a social elite. whose children drive beemers and study in the US. who don't realize how bad life can be for their employees that they pay 200 dollars a month and expect to survive and be productive.

 it's hard to not feel bad, feel guilty, be sad when you see those pictures and of course you send the money. but, wouldn't you rather a more accurate picture of life here? success stories that don't assume that a new bathroom will turn frowns upside down, or that rice gruel charity is better than actual love and compassion?

**please forgive the lack of "average" houses in this post, i wanted to illustrate the two extremes that people usually jump to - either dirt poor, or filthy rich. 

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