Sunshine Abroad

The trials and rewards of French translation and beyond

The Common Threads

In Madagascar...

There’s a woman in the next village over whose toddler son is very sick. He had a botched circumcision. And he’s not getting treated because the woman doesn’t have money to take him to see the doctor.

The other day, we went into town for the Internet cafe, and when we got back to the car after a couple hours, it wouldn’t start. Someone had stolen the battery. My host said, at least they didn’t take the tires, too.

These could easily be examples of “how things work in a Third-World country.” Poverty. Poor medical care. Riffraff on the streets. Etcetera.

But...the same things happen in developed countries. In the States especially, there are so many people right now who can’t afford health care. There are reports about people in rural communities lining up the day before a free dental clinic opens to get their rotted teeth pulled, because they can’t afford to have proper dental work done. Late last year, in a town near where I live in Rochester, there were a slew of car burglaries, people breaking into cars at daycares when parents were inside dropping off their kids, to take purses left inside.

There are actually pretty enormous similarities.

The only real difference I see is that we in the States (supposedly) have systems set up to help or prevent these situations, whereas few, if any, systems exist in Madagascar. Instead of not being able to afford insurance to see a doctor, people in Madagascar just straight can’t afford to see the doctor. In the States, car batteries aren’t worth as much as smartphones, and smartphones are equally widespread, so that’s what gets stolen instead. Rich people in the States don’t pay much in taxes because of lower tax rates; rich people here don’t pay much in taxes because they’re able to pay a smaller bribe to government officials for them to look the other way.

Things that go wrong in the States are often the result of established systems not working or being broken. Things that go wrong in Madagascar are often the result of no systems existing to try to fix the problem. But the same things go wrong. It’s not a matter of this “Third-World” country being a haven for crime and corruption and poverty, but everything’s great and safe and gleaming bright in the kingdom of democracy. And it’s not just people all around the world being pretty similar, all wanting the same thing, all having the same hopes and dreams--the basic foundations of many societies around the world are pretty similar, too, no matter what level of “development” they’re at.

Besides, in the span of a week, I had a rich white lady in France and a poor black man in Madagascar each cut me a sprig of lemongrass from their respective gardens to infuse for my tea. If that doesn’t say that countries are basically all the same, I don’t know what does. ;-)