Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Global South: My introduction to San Pedrito

Today is the last day of my time  here; I fly out in the morning.  I thought I needed to make good use of today as by being sick Monday and Tuesday, I lost much time.  I was able to see quite a bit yesterday, and talk to people, but wanted to follow up in San Pedrito today.

Fortunately for me, I am not a sun worshipper any more, so it has been fine that it has been raining and cool.  I stopped by the station to air my two rear tires that keep going low.  I will have to fill the tank again before I turn in the cart this afternoon--or they charge you double!  After filling the tires, I headed back to San Pedrito, with intentions of taking some pictures to help illustrate the situation there.

I found I simply could not take out my camera and do so.  While there were many houses where it did not look like anyone was home, or at least not outside, there was much activity in the neighborhood.  Children were walking to and from school, women washing clothes on the porch and hanging them out, even though it was raining, and at one house, women washing dishes on the porch--under the faucet.

The community is dotted with little stores and the occasional tortilleria, but I did not see any bars there.  There is a pre-school "Brighter Tomorrows" and a church.  Houses are up on stilts due to the water that collects--particularly after heavy rains like the last few days.  It is near the lagoon, and many houses back up to the lagoon on both sides.  The houses vary from some that are fairly nice and made of concrete and painted, to those that are nothing more than plywood and tin pieced together, with only wooden jalousie windows or shutters.  While the smell is not as bad as in San Mateo, it was not altogether pleasant in many areas.  The streets are sand and thus filled with many large holes after a rain like this.  It is difficult for people walking to maneuver the streets.  I passed by Cynthia's home--the woman I gave a ride to last night who works with Marlin.  I thought of her walking an hour to work in the rain this morning, and it would have still been dark.

When I have gone to South Africa, I have always taken my pictures either from a distance or with people's permission.  I am very mindful of how it must feel to constantly have "tourists" coming into your community to see your poverty.  I have been the same here--I cannot just take pictures of people unless it from a distance and they are no identifiable among all the other people and it is just a "street shot" or if I have their permission.  As I drove through San Perdito--dodging potholes, careful not to splash water on people on bicycles or walking, I was struck by all the incongruity.  In the midst of all the inadequateness of much of the community, people smiled and spoke in response to my smiles and greetings.  People seemed to be happy, even washing dishes on a front porch under a faucet.  The two women were giggling and laughing as they worked.

It reminded me of the conversation last night with Butch and Marlin, and I was saying that in South Africa it is always the same: the people who have the least are the ones who are most generous to me, and kindest to me.  It is one of the ironies of life I think.  That is not to say that rich people are not generous or kind; I just find it often the case that the more one has, the less willing one is to share any of it with others.  I suppose that is a broad generalization that deserves a much deeper look, but it has simply been my experience when traveling in the "third world countries."

So, my primary purpose in coming here was to determine the ability to do a comparative study of child maltreatment in regards to St. Paul, Alaska, Cape Town area, South Africa, and San Pedro, Belize:  what common risk factors?  Resilience factors?  Interventions?  I have been able to do some of that, plus volunteered for 4 days at the school last week and a partial day this week.  I have talked to a variety of locals and gotten different perspectives on what is happening here, as well as its history.  With that sense of grounding, now I need to go do the literature reviews, what we used to call in the days prior to Internet "going to the stacks" as we looked at books and articles in libraries.  I still recall with great fondness many hours in the stacks during my research--there is something about it--pulling a book from the shelf and finding a quiet corner to open it, touch pages, make notes--that is simply pleasurable to me, in spite of the ability to access so much so rapidly with computer technology.

As I get ready to wind down and prepare to leave, I will say it has been an interesting addition to my education about a part of the world I did not know.  Whether it is to be in my future still remains to be seen.

And, as always, though the journey has been incredible, I am longing for home with a renewed appreciation for all the things I complain about when I am there and having to deal with them.


Gigi said...

It sounds like it has been an engaging and enlightening experience despite sickness and a longing for home. I look forward to hearing more. Safe travels and hopefully your trip will be smooth. Talk with you soon!

coachk said...

Packing up the bathing suits, pulling out the cowboys boots.

Suzassippi said...

Yep, all packed up and ready to go. Got on my tank and capris with my sweater in my carry on for that 13 degrees I am going to see in Memphis tonight. LOL It has been a great time. I have one last blog to do from last night's final evening, which was quite sweet. I will do that whilst in Houston waiting for my plane after clearing customs. :)

Thanks for coming along for the ride, all ya'll. :)