Thursday, June 14, 2012
I recently read Mountains Beyond Mountains, the story of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, an incredible man who helped revolutionize the public health system worldwide, specifically, what things people accepted as dogma or possible. I heartily recommend it. There was one phrase from the book that stopped me in my tracks. At one point, frustrated with life in Haiti, Dr. Paul Farmer says: “Clean water and health care and school and food and tin roofs and cement floors, all of these things should constitute a set of basics that people must have as birthrights.” And it was then that I realized that perhaps I have become too complacent with the way things are here in Mozambique, my very intimate 2.5 years experience with the developing world. Our water isn’t very clean. We usually just joke about it, and I posted a picture a few months back when it came out particularly dirty. In Mozambique there aren’t nearly enough health posts, especially the more rural you get. A lot of my neighbors don’t have tin roofs, and I just read a malaria study conducted in Zambezia province (central Mozambique) that found that 77% of the families had thatched roofs. Many of my neighbors don’t have cement floors. What really rattled me when I read this was that I had forgotten that I used to also consider these self-evident truths, but over time and through my experiences, I have come to accept a lower standard of reality. It hasn’t crossed my mind in a long time (many months? a couple years?) that people should have cement floors—having packed-mud floors here is just the way life is, just how all the kids run around barefoot and play with trash they fish out of trash pits. It’s shocking how drastically your world view can change. Now I am searching for some happy medium, because life here is simply life: there are good aspects and things that need to be improved. I know many happy people here and I often find comfort in how not-materialistic people here are, in comparison to America. But at the same time it’s good to be reminded that we can’t just accept things as they are, but should always aspire to at least minimal standard of living.