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Entries in poor (1)


Take bus #11


I'm walking across a screaming motorcycle street in Saigon. Bus #11 is bearing down fast and furious. I escape. Another person in another country in another life along another path said.

'Poor people walk. They take bus #11. It means use your legs.'

The gap between rich and poor - such is the reality in developing countries - is becoming more apparent.

Recent figures speak. Average city wages - $1,054 a year. Rural wages - $540 a year.

The central party hopes their economic stimulus will encourage rural people to buy appliances and cars. I need a 4x wheel drive washing machine so I can I take my family on weekend excursions to the beach, the Himalayas and deep tropical jungles where life is simple. Yeah!

The process evolved like this. I walked. I saved and eventually bought a bike. A Flying Pigeon. Black. One speed. It got me from home to the village rice paddies.  

We had a radio in the work unit. The local propaganda machine blasted revolutionary worker party anthems day and night. We got one for the home. My wife was happy. Then we had the required one child. We wanted another one but the forced abortion committee and local officials said, NO! You do not qualify for two children.

Then my wife wanted a TV. Ok I said, let's get a 24" flat screen with a remote.

What about a new rice cooker? Ok I said.

How about a used refrigerator? What's wrong with the box of ice? You shop for fresh vegetables at the market every morning. Why do we need a refrigerator? Because the neighbors have one.

Oh, I see. I scrounged around and traded rice for some chickens and traded the birds for some used teak wood smuggled in from Burma. I developed some connections. One trade led to another and I eventually found a well used fridge. My wife was happy. Then we filled it up with baby formula.

The formula was tainted with a chemical to increase the protein. We didn't know this small fact.

Our little girl became sick. The Worker's Hospital #8 said I had to pay them a lot of money for medicine or she would die.

I sold my bike to buy medicine. Now I walk to the hospital to see my daughter. It takes forever and a day.

I want to move to a big city filled with neon and food smells and construction projects and appliances hoping against hope to find a job but party leaders say millions of unemployed workers are returning to their villages in the new year.

I have a feeling the new year is going to be a lot like the old year.

The radio and flat screen scream stream tells us to stay home. Be quiet. Don't worry. Practice social stability and harmony. My future opportunities look precarious.

I have to go now because they will cut off the electricity soon and I need to buy some candles.

"Life is found in a desperate situation." - Chinese proverb.