Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Shaken and Stirred!

We went in to town this morning, between rain showers. It's three weeks since our last visit and cash funds had dropped to a pretty low level on board, hence the need for the visit.
After topping up our moth filled wallets we went to the supermarket, its the biggest one in Fronteras.

Walking around the supermarket I guess I was looking more closely at the products than I usually do. You know what its like, you know the prices of the stuff you buy regularly, you know just where to find it and somehow you don't actually see much else.

I became more and more angry as I looked at the prices of baby milk, diapers etc.Bear in mind that the average wage for a school teacher here is $180 a month. 28 diapers cost 36Q, thats around $4.50. A large can of baby milk 170Q, thats around $27. How the indigenous people manage goodness only knows.

The young couple, they looked like kids themselves, at the checkout in front of us had a tiny newborn baby with them. They had a basket full of things for their new addition. They scraped together the small change to pay for the shopping, anxious glances passing between them.

The store is starting to fill up with Christmas goods. At the end of each aisle a mountain of plastic bowls packed with goodies for the holiday season. Guatemalan equivalent of the 'hamper', that is until you look at the contents. Rice, pasta,cheap candy, packet of marshmallows and so on.It really makes me think about how fortunate I have been in my life.

The emotional surge that I experienced took me by surprise. My throat tightened and my eyes filled with tears. I felt really ashamed at the materialistic, selfish society that I come from. My anger with the Western economies, the exploitative industries, the so-called 'missionaries' that abound here. We spend our lives in denial at the world we live in, not thinking about the real meaning of grinding poverty. Yes, we give to charities, pay lip service to 'humanitarian' projects but which of us can imagine experiencing the mind numbing poverty of so many of the worlds people?

The story told by the clinic in Esmeralda of the mother having to choose which of her children will eat today? It's not about changing people's beliefs, culture or politics. It's about helping them to help themselves.

An old guy in his beaten up cowboy hat stood at the exit to the store, balanced on his crutches, thrusting a scrap of paper into your face, asking for money. I think the paper proved his disability. Struggling to maintain his dignity.

TBH warned me that traveling would change my view of the world, that I was walking through a door that had no way back. I chuckled at him. I am not laughing now. My world is in turmoil, my heart weeps. Somehow I need to make a difference but I don't know how. It's a painful learning.

It is a harsh place this Guatemala that I see. So much wealth in so few hands. A country still riddled with the corruption of violence, war, greed. Wide open to the exploitation of the West.

My cruising journey brings me face to face with myself more often and more fundamentally than I bargained for when I began. The romantic ideal of the nomadic life of freedom comes with a price. The price is high, the rewards great. In every sense this is turning into a true voyage of discovery...

Frankly, I feel very divided. On one hand this echoes my instinct to start talking about what I see. On the other hand I'm afraid it might all be rather self-indulgent.
On balance I think the key to addressing the terrible inequities is to talk about it - or I wouldn't be publishing this blog. We can't begin to resolve such problems if we can't bear talk about them.

If my emotion is to be any more than just sentimentality then I'm convinced I have a responsibility to myself to speak out,to stir it up.

No comments: