Outback Law & Order

Sound asleep a few nights ago, a rhythmic knocking sound woke me just before 1am.  It took me a while to register that this needed investigating and I eventually peeked through the bedroom blind.  I would never have seen the dark shadow hunched over on my front porch had s/he not been making such a racket trying to jimmy open my front door.  In my unnerved state I forgot the emergency number in favour of the non-urgent assistance line, whose automated system told me “If this is an emergency hang up now and dial 000”, which I promptly did.  They answered immediately with “Police, Fire or Ambulance?” and I was put through to a police line before I’d even spoken the word in full.

The next minute or so of my life went something like this:
“I am home alone and someone is breaking into my front door”
“What’s the address”
“<Address>…..  He’s gone quiet, I think he might already be inside!”
“Can you lock yourself in a room?”
“No there are no locks anywhere”
“Okay find somewhere to hide”
<Climbed into the wardrobe> “Okay I’m in the wardrobe”
“Stay on the line but don’t speak unless you have to.  I am here, the police are on their way, they shouldn’t take long.  You’re doing really well, the police know and they’re on their way, don’t hang up on me I’ll keep talking so that you know I’m here, you’re not alone and the police won’t be long, I am just letting them know that you are in the wardrobe…”
“<Whispering> I just saw a flash of a light”
“Are they in the bedroom with you?”
“I’m not sure”
“The police are going to arrive at any minute”.

I don’t believe I was in that wardrobe for longer than about two minutes when four uniformed officers arrived, knocking and shouting “Hello!  Police!”.  I climbed out of the wardrobe and opened the front door, relieved to learn the intruder had not succeeded to get inside.  Two policemen had jumped over my 6 foot front gate, frightening him into the back yard and losing him over the back laneway.

The 000 woman left me with the police and I am still thinking about her help that night, advising me based on what I told her was happening.  Had I not thought he was already in the house she would have advised that I turn on all lights, make noise and shout “the police are coming”.  Her ability to support me through a frightening few moments revealed someone well trained and highly skilled at her job.  There is no way of knowing who she is or where she was speaking to me from, so no way of thanking her.  This is not expected because she was doing her job, which it can be safely assumed she receives an acceptable living wage to do.

A female officer stayed with me while I calmed down; another went through the house to confirm no one was inside; two others scoured the yard where evidence of what had happened was collected.  The culprit had spent a significant amount of time at my back door, and only moved to the front door when he couldn’t get through the deadlock at the back.  The fact I had not heard anything while he was at the back likely made him assume no one was home.

An hour later various evidence had been taken, including fingerprints on both doors; I’d been led through the yard under an officer’s torchlight as he pointed out various clues such as a lighter, a water bottle, an open shed door; I’d given my statement; and I was assured they would be patrolling the area all night.  Cameras, iPads, torchlights, fingerprinting equipment; skilled teamwork and training to identify what had probably happened were all part and parcel of their excellent service.  I went back to sleep feeling safe and sound, unharmed, nothing having been stolen from me and not having to pay for any of the services that had just been spent on me.

This is another example of how we in wealthy countries are safe and cared for thanks to having such sound systems in place.  In most parts of the world, services with such levels of expertise, resources and skilled care for a complete stranger, do not exist and any attempt at providing a version of such a service comes at a cost to the provider on a user-pays basis.  In my world, citizens are valued and have a level of power and control we are not even conscious of, thanks to the strong systems which protect and respect us.

The difference is not cultural, but systematic.  When a country is left war-torn and not supported to full and proper recovery, then uneducated and amoral leaders have the chance to flourish.  This is happening in many countries around the world today, with millions of citizens suffering the long term consequences of wars, many of which ended decades ago.  Corruption established at the very top filters through every aspect of any system.  An example that I know of, is the way that government staff are paid unlivable wages (but guaranteed said wage until they die, which is more guarantee than most citizens have).  Applying for government positions costs a significant amount of money, with many taking loans, for the guarantee of a lifetime salary.  These fees filter up through the system, with higher level officials receiving the most benefit.  This largely explains why, when you visit a third world country, the rich-poor divide is so evident.  After years of living in Cambodia I have made some vague sense of these observations.

Earning an unlivable wage forces public servants to top up a number of different ways. One way is to have your own private business separate from your government employment.  This sees public servants spending minimal amounts of time at their government workplace, resulting in low quality of service in any government department.  Various user-pays demands are also made on anyone attending a government institution, such as a patient’s level of nursing care being determined by how much cash crosses their nurse’s palm at each encounter; school students required to pay a small daily cash fee to their teacher; police checkpoints where a fine with receipt will cost $X but if you don’t need a receipt you pay less; drivers licence applicants pay one fee for an exam with no guarantee of passing or a higher fee for a guaranteed pass; medical clinics and hospitals charge patients with no health literacy for treatments they don’t need.  The list of possibilities for corruption is infinite and a never-ending cycle of the poor indefinitely indebted in order to feed the rich.

A telephone number to call if you are in an emergency does not exist in most of the world, let alone one where skilled staff are on the other end of the line at the blink of an eye.  Four uniformed police turning up at one home within minutes of a reported break-in is an impossible fantasy, as is the idea that no cash or other benefit is required from the victim.  When my phone was stolen from me in Phnom Penh 8 months ago now, we attended a police station where a statement was written on letterhead for me which I was able to use for insurance purposes.  There was no talk of any investigation and local friends and colleagues all talked to me with the same theme: that the police often benefit from any robberies taking place in the area they patrol; they can be embroiled in, or even lead, robbery gangs; that I was lucky I didn’t have to pay cash for the statement; that usually locals don’t even report crime to the police because there is no level of trust in the system and a lot of suspicion and fear.  More than simply a lack of money, the real definition of poverty is a lack of protection.

Meanwhile the only follow up I can expect from the police – if any – is if they identify the person who attempted to enter my home the other night.  Any fingerprints they can lift will be placed into a computerised program and held indefinitely, so that if the culprit has never been fingerprinted yet, then it doesn’t mean he won’t be identified even years on from now.  Justice can’t be more complete than that and the world – for me – can’t be a fairer place.  If only everyone sharing the world with me could say the same.

How Not To Be Ignorant About The World

A garden with only one type of flower or flowers of only one colour is no good.  This is a reminder that our strength, growth, survival and very existence lies in diversity.  It is however, a message of courage as well.  For a flower does not ask for anyone’s permission to bloom, it was born to offer itself to the world.  Fearless love is it’s nature.

Attributed to Chheng Phon

Last year Professor Hans Rosling, a Professor of International Health at Karolinska University in Sweden, passed away from pancreatic cancer following a long fight with Hepatitis C infection.  He had dedicated his life to public health and was described in this Guardian article as “a kind and constantly curious genius. He was truly committed to the poorest people in this world, passionate about statistics and dedicated to communicating a fact-based worldview. His knowledge, virtuosity and humour infused his unique data visualisations with a life of their own, encouraging people around the world to engage with facts about population, global health and inequality that might otherwise have passed them by.”  His work took him from Sweden to India, Africa and Asia.  Had Professor Rosling been born in a war-torn or impoverished nation, his potential would never have been realised, to the detriment of all of us, whether we have heard of him or not.

A toddler at the time, I don’t remember the first time I traveled overseas (from Australia to New Zealand).  I also have no clue how many times I’ve traveled overseas since that time.  Whilst always aware that the ability to travel is a privilege, due to my own personal enjoyment of the experience, I have never considered what it means to hold a “powerful” passport.

Passport Index is an interactive website ranking individual country passports according to their power.  This is determined by how many countries will accept entry using a specific country’s passport.  The Passport Index includes a total of 199 countries, states or territories who issue independent passports.  The Australian passport has a high visa-free score with a power rank of 8th in the world, alongside Malta and Czech Republic.  Australians can travel to 157 countries either visa-free or by purchasing a visa upon entry to the country being visited.  Singapore are ranked 1st in the world with 164 nations accepting their passport easily.  In contrast, Cambodia ranks 79th with only 52 countries offering visa-free entry to Cambodian citizens.  Perhaps not surprisingly given the ravages of war in the region, but adding to the disempowerment of their people, the four bottom ranking countries are Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

This power of passports is a very human construct, based purely on perceptions and decisions of people in powerful positions.  It makes me wonder how much the world misses out on due to our deliberate limiting of human potential.  By “our” I mean all of us – including governments involved in oppression of their own citizens.  Despite two world wars and untold other conflicts including mass genocides, as well as natural disasters, last century saw colossal global progress in improved health outcomes, medical breakthroughs and scientific discoveries.  Noone has captured this information better than Professor Hans Rosling in his various presentations at conferences and TED talks.  I wonder at the loss of potential directly resulting from the need humans seemingly have to discriminate against each other?  How many potential scientists, researchers, artists, leaders and peacemakers have been unable to realise their potential because of the power others have held over them?  How many today are instead pushing trash carts through impoverished city streets or surviving by other menial and demeaning pursuits of mere subsistence?  What have we all lost because of this individual loss of realised potential?

Obviously laws are needed and countries need to have borders.  But I wonder if our attitudes and laws were based on the need to promote human potential, rather than on anxiety and fear of things that are considered foreign, how much we could all benefit?  In Australia we have some very fear mongering politics and I often wonder, for a country with so much unlimited opportunity to shine, where our visionaries are?

Today’s national news featured an item about one young visionary, Molly Steer from Cairns in North Queensland.  At just 10 years old, Molly was deeply affected by a documentary she saw highlighting the damage done to oceans and marine life by plastic straws.  She began a campaign, Straw No More and has managed to convince 90 schools in Australia and overseas to abandon plastic drinking straws.  Earlier this month she won Cairns’ Young Woman of the Year Award.  During her acceptance speech she called on Cairns City Mayor to join the campaign.  Almost immediately, Cairns Regional Council unanimously agreed to eliminate plastic straws from all town council operations (which includes office buildings, markets, events and venues that the council are responsible for).  Cairns is on the doorstep of Australia’s infamous and beautiful but threatened Great Barrier Reef.

As I watched Molly on this morning’s news, my 10yo amputee friend Dara entered my thoughts.  Out in his dusty remote village where the damage of single use plastic is likely not something anyone has an awareness of, let alone power to do anything about.  In places like this, sellers drive sugar cane juicers attached to archaic motorbikes, serving their iced fresh juice in plastic bags with plastic straws along the roadside.  There are no waste disposal services.  Ocean pollution begins on land and flows to the coast via river systems.  This is a tiny example of the fact that for global benefit, we must fight for global equality of opportunity across populations.  Not only does Dara deserve a safe and healthy childhood, a basic education and the opportunity to shine, but we all deserve for his life to hold such value.

This week I received a call for help from a friend in Phnom Penh.  The family of a 2yo who drowned in the Mekong in March (mentioned in my blog of 15 March), needed a boat repair.  The boy’s grieving father was unable to feed his family without the ability to fish.  They were asking for someone to make a micro-loan to them of US$150 so that they could repair the boat.  I put a message on Facebook and within two minutes a friend contacted me to say it was not a loan, the money was en route.  This morning my friend visited the family to inform them of the good news and organise the boat repair.  “What a difference” was her message attached to the photographs of a smiling couple with their surviving baby.

We all have our own inherent biases, related to our personal experiences, attitudes and beliefs, which limit our perception of reality.  This is discussed well by Hans Rosling and his son Ola, at their 20 minute TED Talk in 2014, How Not To Be Ignorant About The World, where they discuss perceptions of poverty and how wrong we can be based on our preconceptions.  It is so common to hear that there is no point helping the poor because nothing gets better.  If the smile on that father’s face is not enough, listen to Hans and Ola for twenty minutes and learn how wrong this idea is.

Perspectives

When I lived in Kampong Cham during the two years between 2013 to 2015 there was one swimming pool in this town, about 5 metres long and knee-deep, belonging to a local hotel.  In the past two years two swimming pools have appeared here.  “The Chinese” built a large town pool complex with four different swimming pools including a large diving pool, a large lap pool and two smaller pools.  The $1 entrance fee makes it inaccessible to most locals meaning that it is often empty of customers.  Which is great for the likes of me who wants to swim away from the crowds.

The crystal blue waters always remind me of my childhood, swimming at pool complexes in New Zealand.  On days when there are other customers, almost all of them wear an orange life jacket hired from the entrance desk.  The sight of so many orange life jackets on bodies in a town pool strips me of my NZ memories entirely as it’s so foreign to my experience.  Locals who can afford the entrance fee are also likely to be educated and therefore informed of the high rates of drowning in Cambodia, which I guess feeds the assumed need of a life jacket in a place where swimming lessons are extremely rare due to a lack of trainers in such a micro economy.  On busy days I have seen young men sitting poolside watching swimmers and occasionally directing people away from rule breaking behaviour, who appear to be hired as lifeguards.  On quiet days such as today and yesterday the guards are missing, I guess it’s not financially feasible to employ them for only a few customers?

Swimming Pool

Around the same time as this western style swimming pool appeared, someone built an undercover pontoon structure in the river.  It seems like a rectangular wooden terrace enclosing a strip of river water, covered with a tin roof and accessed from shore via a wooden platform bridge.   With many decades of only ever swimming in blue pool, ocean or river waters and the parasite phobia I have developed since coming to Cambodia, this is not a pool I ever plan on swimming at so I don’t know the entrance fee but imagine it to be cheaper than the Chinese town pool.

Kampong Cham - Piscine !! Cambodia - October 2017 (213).JPG

Yesterday I brought the Phter Koma children, who have moved to another organisation, swimming and then for lunch.  Last time I saw them we also swam together.  I arranged with their carer to meet up at “the new town pool”.  Arriving a few minutes late, I was nevertheless earlier than the children.  Some time later they still hadn’t arrived and I called the carer, who said they were due to arrive any moment.  Some time later he called me to say the children were at the pool but they couldn’t see me?  We soon worked out that while I was waiting at the Chinese pool, they had interpreted “town pool” as the riverside pontoon!  They soon joined me, donning their life jackets before a raucous time ensued in the crystal blue deep waters.

This mismatch of assumptions reflected our different perspectives.  A town pool to me, is a crystal blue chlorinated complex with lifeguards.  That concept is very foreign to Cambodians who only ever swim in the river which feeds their homes and soaks their rice fields.  Of course the undercover pontoon would be the place they interpret me as meaning when I said “town pool”.  Equally, of course this was never going to be the place I meant!

At work last week I told a staff member that we only needed her to work for two hours on Friday, from 10am to 12pm so she could use her annual leave for the rest of the day.  Without the translator present, she mistrusted her interpretation of what I was saying, double and triple checking with me.  I repeated slowly, using signs to depict my meaning, that she should arrive at work at 10am and then at 12pm, she could go home.  Many laughs were had during the conversation as we knew we weren’t entirely on the same page.  Sure enough, at 10am the following day she arrived at work and I felt confident that we’d managed to understand each other.  About an hour into the afternoon I approached the nursing staff and there she was, still at work!

Mix-ups like this are a part of everyday life here as I, with my western privilege and monolingual interpretations of the world, try to navigate a foreign world which makes limited sense a lot of the time, with people forced to communicate with me in what is a foreign language to them.  Miscommunications are common, often time consuming and also often amusing.  This includes my experience of frequent miscommunications with the French as well as Khmer people I work with.  Through our Khmer translator, I often hear the words “there is not a direct translation for that”.  The way language informs cultural perspectives means that bilingual and multilingual people are far more adept at cultural awareness, as understanding another language also gives an insight into the world view of people speaking the language.

Communicating in writing can be even more challenging.  This week I had this conversation with Sokum’s husband on WhatsApp about her return to hospital with complications following her heart surgery.
Her surgery body need to clean.
Yes, the wound, is it ok?
<Photographs of an infected wound with opening areas along the suture line>
It looks infected, did they give medicine?  Very important not to touch it with your hands, did they put something over it to protect it?
They give medicine to my wife before clean wound everyday.
For pain?  But maybe she needs antibiotics to take everyday for maybe 2 weeks?
Yes.
Did a doctor look?
The doctor go to Korean now.  After they were clean it ready send to doctor.
Do they put something on it like this <photograph from internet of gauze dressing>
Yes, they use like this after cleaning.  <Photograph of her chest with a thick dressing>
An infected wound in this setting is a very worrisome situation with such low standards of infection control.  This will all be adding to their expenses as she rents a room in Phnom Penh to be near the clinic and they travel daily to have the wound dressed.

After living for almost three of the past four years in Cambodia and still speaking only very broken Khmer, unable to string more than a couple of full sentences together, I have a deep respect for Sokum’s husband’s ability to get his message across, even though I am not as fully informed of the situation as I had hoped.  He may sound simple in his use of written English to mono-linguists who have never had to communicate in another language or culture but he is in fact, highly skilled.  Noone understands this better than the European contingent, who jump between their native tongue and their second, sometimes third and fourth languages, as a mainstream behaviour.  Many Khmer people do the same and of course, Australia’s indigenous people are highly adept multi-linguists.

Dara’s parents are working in Phnom Penh again, on another construction site and this week I visited them after work.  My regular Phnom Penh tuk tuk driver probably knows more English than he admits to, forcing all of our communications except when totally desperate, in Khmer.  I like being forced to use my limited Khmer with him and we always seem to make sense of each other.  Unlike my other regular tuk tuk drivers, this means he doesn’t double as a translator.  When we traveled to Dara’s parents’ work location Tuk Tuk called them to get a pin point on exactly where we should go and they instructed him to wait at a particular corner beside a massive construction site.  The workers traveling home in all manner of styles were fascinating to me.  Tuk Tuk was far more interested in watching my reactions as I photographed vehicles heaving with workmen and women being transported home after a hard day of physical work at various heights above the city.

Communicating with Mum and Dad is almost easier than with people who speak English, because we know 100% that we are guessing each other’s meaning.  They are living in a communal building with other construction workers along a narrow, muddy, bumpy dirt track about 2km from their work site.  They earn $5 per day (Mum) and $5.50 per day (Dad, who has a team supervisory role).  Their tiny room in a corridor of other tiny rooms is furnished with a mosquito net hanging over a bed-sized bamboo mat on the floor, a tiny toilet with a shower hose on the wall and a small bench holding a rice cooker.  Most of their meals are plain rice with a little fermented fish for taste.  We sat on the floor of their room together as neighbours lined up at the door, staring in at the foreigner and speaking English words at me as I spoke Khmer words  back.  When I asked Mum and Dad about their salary they seemed to be saying that they earned $5 and $5.50 per month.  Only when Dad wrote it down and added x 30, did I realise they were saying that they get paid their daily wage, monthly.

Yesterday afternoon Dan traveled to Dara’s village without me to collect grandma with Dara and his tiny sister, bringing them to town so that we could share dinner together at the Night Market.  It never ceases to amaze me how much fun you can have with people, especially children who are so communicative, despite having no shared language.  I am also always aware that the way I experience something, such as eating fried rice at the Night Market, or swimming in crystal clear swimming pools, or interpreting health care, is completely different to the way my companions are experiencing it.  The same goes for my experience on board a river cruise boat earlier this week.  Friends were on an expensive cruise from Ho Chi Minh to Kampong Cham and when they anchored in Phnom Penh I was invited on board to join them for drinks and a meal.  It was a fabulous experience in plush surroundings.  Yet all I could think of, was the Cham people on their little wooden boats less than 500 metres on the opposite shore from us, hungry, on leaking boats with no roofs, surviving from one meal to the next.  At times these contrasts are confronting but I am constantly grateful for my good fortune which in fact, can only be genuinely enjoyed and appreciated when it is shared with those less fortunate.

Mirroring Me

It’s essential that in life, you see yourself reflected in other peoples’ stories….”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Oprah is talking about her need, as a little black girl in America, to find people who “kinda looked like me”, at a time when there were no black people in high profile public roles to model for her, who she could be and what her potential was.  Her quote is important for those growing up and living without the privileges that others of us take for granted.  I’ve often had this thought for indigenous children in Central Australia who learn from birth in many subtle but intense ways, that they are less worthy than others in their community.  Yet Oprah’s quote is equally and conversely relevant for those of us living with often-unseen privilege.  To see ourselves in that little black girl, or in any number of others with a different identity, perpetuates our own humanity and potential.

The difference between my networks in New Zealand, Australia and other wealthy countries and my networks in Cambodia, is a disparity that is difficult to articulate.  When Cambodians talk about their aspirations, their focus is more likely to relate to more basic facets of life.  Physiological experiences such as hunger and shelter are not uncommon topics of conversation.  In contrast, my New Zealand friends are much more likely to aspire towards a winter trip to the ski slopes, an overseas holiday or wondering about their next career move.  At no time in more than twenty years of nursing in England and Australia, did a patient ever claim to have gone hungry to pay for a medical appointment.  Last week when I was informed via translation by a patient’s wife, that “we sold everything including our rice, and contacted all of our relatives to source the money so that we could pay for the transportation to attend our appointment”, it was a commonplace Cambodian anecdote.

It is so hard to raise money for people who have no money.  When you look at GoFundMe, there are funeral, memorial and animal medical funds which have raised many thousands of dollars for causes that are human and animal, dead and alive, in the wealthy world.  I wonder at the comparison with the $1,000 so far raised with great difficulty for Sokum, a 20yo young woman who will die without the heart surgery she needs but cannot access without private funds of US$6,000.  I remember being 20yo very well, living a productive and happy life in London on the other side of the world from my home.  I was safe and secure, had I needed health care it was available to me, my potential was unexceptional and being realised as I assumed it would and should be.  Yet I now appreciate that it was pure fluke of birth, that at the age of twenty this was my experience.  It is equally pure chance that this 20 year old, who could just as easily have been me, will die because the equivalent of the funds I spent getting myself to London at her age, are unavailable for her survival.

There is still hope that we will raise enough money for Sokum in time.  Some very kind people are involved in helping with fundraisers but it seems a long way to go with limited time due to her deteriorating health.  Some have expressed that they don’t want to donate through GoFundMe, and we are happy to receive the money privately as well (contact me directly for options).  Anything donated will go directly to Sokum and all donors will receive a personal acknowledgement and progress report(s).  The below photographs are shared with Sokum’s permission.  I think they show well, that you don’t have to give a big donation to make a big difference.

The family home
The family kitchen
Sokum and her husband at home earlier this week

People From The Sky

Good enough

It’s okay to be imperfect.  On the other hand, we should not allow perceived success or praise for perceived success affect our ego.  Someone cycling Road X is no better or worse than someone walking Road Z.

In the field of humanitarian work it’s easy to find people willing to shower you with praise.  This sits uneasily with me as I’m well aware that I am living the life I want to live, because it suits me.  I don’t believe there is a humanitarian anywhere with entirely selfless motivations.  Living as a nurse in a place like Cambodia is really not so different to living as a nurse in Australia.  The challenges are different and there are difficulties that don’t exist in the wealthy world, but ultimately I’m using the same skill set to do similar work, only for a different population and with different resources.

Yet it could be easy to believe the praise.  Which I guess is why it is not so difficult to find people working in the so-called humanitarian world, who are driven by ego and power.  Thankfully my current assignment has no such characters among the expatriate team.  My first assignment was a mixed bag, as I made firm friends but I also struggled enormously with one or two conceited narcissists.  Some of my Khmer friends with a long history working in international NGOs such as MSF confirm that it can be extremely difficult to work with “the people from the sky” (they fly in, dominate with an air of aggrandized importance then fly out again).

It’s very true, that you find all sorts in all places.  It’s also true that there are different motivations towards pursuits which are seen generally as altruistic.  The best example I have is a French doctor some years ago who, in criticising MSF for not approving an extra day off, declared “They should be grateful to have me!  I don’t have to be here!  I am not a local staff who has no choice!  I am a Ewe-Manit-Eerian!  So are you!  We are both ewe-manit-eerians, ‘Elen!”.  Never had I wanted the ground to swallow me up so badly!  Being ewe-manit-eerian is a running joke within my current team who appreciate the farce of over-inflated ego.

The definition of what makes a humanitarian is also an interesting question.  MSF focuses on emergency relief so that many of our expatriates have experienced war zones, famines, disease outbreaks and natural disasters.  Some of these field workers, after multiple assignments, move into the ranks of management based in first world cities such as Paris, Tokyo and New York.  One recent such visitor from London suggested that “you should not stay too long in one place, because it becomes something other than a humanitarian action if you end up staying for your own reasons”.

With a deep love of Cambodia, I’ve ruminated on this statement greatly.  It is dangerous to be poor in this world – you will be forced to live in varying degrees of peril.  If you are incapacitated there will be almost no assistance outside of your own unqualified and un-resourced family or village.  If you die prematurely, it will likely be as an invisible non-statistic who was never counted anyway.  The billions of dollars going towards medical research in first world institutions across the globe generally don’t benefit anyone but those living in the wealthy world, so that preventable illness, injury and death is a common theme in the poor world.  I have loved realising the experience of making small differences to lives which ultimately, to the powers that be in their own higher society and levels of government but also to most of us in the world, hold little to no value.  Stay or go, like all of us with a choice, I’ll choose what suits me most.  Whether here or elsewhere, my main hope is to avoid becoming one of the “People from the Sky”.

Meanwhile, The Excruciating Fundraiser has surpassed it’s goal and our friend can have surgery with a safe and more comfortable recovery than would otherwise have been possible.  We took the family swimming today at a local resort with a small water park.  It was their first time at a swimming pool and a very happy day was had.  On the way home we crossed a bridge over the mud brown river, where a bunch of children were playing on a black tyre in the muddy water lapping at the doors and floors of their little wood and tin shacks. The contrast with where we were coming from was stark.

This 4 minute video, which I think I’ve shared before, explains why this stark contrast exists.

The Richest 300 People