The best way to pursue happiness is to help other people. Nothing else will make you happier. - George Lucas
Even though I am in a First World country that ranks #13 in the world’s most dynamic economies, I often miss Third World countries. This may sound absolutely insane to many people, because you often think of both rural environments, sanitation and health issues, as well as general safety, but from spending a fair amount of time in what is considered Third World countries, I find the overall populus much happier and while they may not have the luxuries of materialistic objects, their quality of life seems much happy and the family dynamic structure is more in tact. Don’t get me wrong, growing up in the United States I certainly appreciate many of the opportunities and things that I was given, but I feel that maybe as a global society we need to take a harder look at what is truly important in our lives. For example, being in Korea there has been a rapid, almost overnight transformation of Western culture and influence. The pressure of women and even men about physical appearance is becoming more prevalent. Self identity is lost and replaced with people’s potential earning power, education level, and career fields. Stop and think about when you meet a new person, often the question is, ‘what do you do for a living?’ And based upon this reponse people tend to sum you as an individual up by a few short words–teacher = probably not making much money, construction worker = often uneducated labor worker, doctor = smart and wealthy, and the list goes on. I know that through many of the conversations I’ve had with other travelers, we enjoy that while as mundane and repetitive the questions may be about where you are from and traveling and etc, at least people are not only interacting but they are not as quick to define you or pigeonhole you to a specific type A or type B person, but taking the time to get to know you as a person. Since I have had a very hectic week, and have lots to catch up on while the memories are fresh I will just say that there are several things I do miss about Third World countries and give a short list:
As a backpacker these are the countries that offer the best bang for your buck! While scams and hustling are an issue, these countries tend to be more relaxed about tourists visa days allowed, border entry and exit fees, and for many countries they have a separate division of tourists police because a significant part of their economy relies upon those that are willing to travel to these so-called dangerous or underdeveloped countries. But things such as accommodation, food, drinks, even activites are much cheaper. For example I did a single-day diving trip in 2010 in Australia when I was still working in television and paid over $680 for 3 dives, while on the other hand I paid $259 for my PADI Open Water Diving Certification in Utila, Honduras with Parrots Dive Center that included the mandatory amount of dives, classroom materials, an additional two fun dives after being certified that were about 45-minutes each, a celebratory day-trip to one of the uninhabitated islands in the Caribbean, and 5-nights of accommodation in a 4-bed dorm. And yes, all of this for only $259.
While you can still find hotel rooms with air-conditioning, when you’re traveling and staying where other locals or backpackers stay this is often not an option, but embrace it. You will be amazed at what your body can get adjusted to, whether that be the cold or the heat). Also another obvious, but I will still mention it, don’t visit any country regardless of what so-called degree it may be considered and expect the same type of luxuries you are used to back home (i.e. firm beds, western toilets, etc).
SIMPLICITIES OF LIFE:
Yes power outages ocurred often at times, but instead of breaking down and getting pissed off, we chose to view this as an opportunity to set down our electronic devices and have even more conversations. I feel that especially being in Korea and talking with a variety of people in age, the older generation worries that the younger generation is so enthralled in their smart phones that the idea of human interaction is all done through social apps, texting, Facebooking, etc. and we forget what it’s like to talk. I remember my parents began texting us when it was dinner time and how often do you see couples (in a wide variety of ages) sitting in restaurants or bars not speaking to one another as they sit directly across from one another and just staring at their smartphones, often playing games not even communicating with another person. Very sad.
There can be things such as I mentioned, power outages that occur frequently and can last for hours or even days. I have also experienced times where water went dry from the faucets for a few hours or even an entire day.
Because these countries are quite poor it seems that petty theft is a larger problem. For example in Nicaragua when the average monthly salary for an individual is just over $160, and people carrying smartphones around (which are just now beginning to come down to an affordable price for many people) they often view these objects as something that can be stolen and sold and cover feeding their entire family for several months.
While I don’t want to poke fun at this, my friend Lindsay and I would always say that common sense is non-existent in many areas of Central America, and it’s due to the fact that education standards or just continuing education may not be available to all families, often due to the cost to send a child to school.
So again these are just a few things that are pros and cons about Third World countries I thought I would share. And, again as surprisingly as it may sound to many of you, I do enjoy traveling Third World countries very much, because the people tend to be so wonderful and inviting.
Today is our earliest morning according to the schedule for the week. Most of us are waking up at or before 6am, which makes for a rough morning since several of us did not make it back to Mugunghwa House until after midnight. One of the interesting things in Korean culture is that it is a late-night culture. It is very rare to find a coffee shop or any restaurant open before 11am. The reason for this is that many shops will stay open late in to the night, even on weeknights. When I asked about this, I was told from a local that it is a problem and is actually often a reason for divorce, because men are pressured to work both long hours as well as be expected to participate in after work dinners and drinks. It is also a cultural difference that workers will not leave the office until their boss or superior does, which from what I’ve personally noticed averages around 8pm. Also it tends to be a reverse drinking culture, where once again young men growing up are spending all of their time studying in high school and university to obtain highly valued careers that there is not time for going out for drinks, so the reverse aspect of this is that you will often see grown men in full on business suits puking on the side of the street or passed out in the street in their suits because they are not used to drinking in this manner, but oddly has become a part of Korean culture, I think some from Western influence. (Photo is © of John P. Gamboa)
Where are you from? And when we answer things like Colorado, Minnesota, New York, they follow up with no, no I mean where are you really from.
Asking our parents so who is this? Oh so you’re not a foreign exchange student?
The phrase ‘me love you long time,’ get some new material.
I bet you know karate or something huh? So according to this logic being white I bet you know how to shape a pillowcase into a cone and make a noose.
So being adopted, you should feel really grateful. Ok number one, yes I am grateful for the opportunities I was given, but that’s just very offensive on a lot of levels. That’s like telling a person’s biological kid that they should feel special because their parents decided to have sex and they were born. Really people! Constantly pointing out the fact that we are different from our families BECAUSE we are adopted is VERY insulting and rude!
I feel as though the girls get a lot worse…they HATE things like when guys come up to them and tell them that they have an Asian fetish, they have the yellow fever, they’ve always been in to Asian girls, etc.
So seriously people, I know that racial sensitivity and political correctness is often over exaggerated, but just STOP and fricken think about the stuff that you are saying at times. It’s similar to the fact that OUR close friends and among each other, we can make fun of one another and often it is self-deprecating, but if we don’t know you and you try one of these things, you will unleash the ninja-dragon. For example it’s just as with African-Americans there is a certain degree of words that can be thrown around among one another, and within the Asian community it is the same. So just again stop and think and have some respect.