Sunday, December 12, 2010

Walking Cash Machine

Did you know that I am actually an ATM? I am full of money and it never runs out. I actually have never realized it before, but clearly because I am of European dissent I am rich and everyone is going to try to get a part of it. You say hello to kids at the beach they say, “You give me a dollar”, you go to the market to buy anything and your price is 3- 10x’s the normal cost. This is a frustrating thing to me about travel that I have tried to reconcile over the years. I am fortunate to live in the US and to have been born in a country with opportunity, infrastructure, and a somewhat functioning government. I do want to help other people. I think everyone should be able to feel their family, but clearly (to me) I cannot provide the funds for everyone. Now how do I convince the locals of that?

After years of travel around the world I know a pen or a dollar here and there is not the kind of change that is needed to make a difference. It may make the donor feel good temporarily, but I have seen these dollars go to soda pops and the pens disgaurded in the gutter.

On a more philosophical level, I also think it creates a strange power dynamic that plays into the old colonial paradigm of the white man having more and being superior to an African. If you beg and receive on some level of your psyche you cannot ever see you self as the equal to the person who is giving to you. I seems to break the cycle of poverty and the dominant psyche of fatalism the last thing I should do is reinforce it by dolling out dollars to the children. So I have started this game called, “You give me dollar”. Every time the kids say, “you give me dollar” or “school pen”, I say, “No, you give me dollar”. They all look a bit perplexed as they try to explain no you are supposed to give the dollar to me. They still don’t see the humor in the whole thing, but at least I am beginning to laugh at the fact that I am now an ATM.

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