Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Update 2 from Somaliland

This is the second update from my old roomie Danny:
Update 2

Why I’m incredibly safe here:
Hargeisa, and Somaliland in general, is small. No one knows the exact population of this soon to be country, but it is thought to hover around 2 million. Somaliland is governed by an intricate and all inclusive clan system (literally everyone is part of one, except for the Ethiopian refugees) that holds clans responsible for the acts of their constituents. Because of this communal structure, as well as the size of the Hargeisa community and the palpable desire to be recognized as an independent nation if anything were to happen to me, be it robbed, raped, or murdered, punishment would be assured, swift and severe. So I feel that I am much better off here than probably anywhere else in the developing world, and am less likely to get robbed or molested here than the school I worked at in South-Central Los Angeles.

Despite living five minutes away from my work, my organization insists on having a driver pick me up and drop me off every day. My organization takes this precaution because they are worried for my safety. Not because there is a danger of anything happening to me (the last attack on a westerner was in 2001) but because if something does happen to me, they are afraid that it will hinder Somaliland’s attempt to be recognized as an independent nation. It’s nice to know that someone is looking out for me,

So far everything is slow, because this country is very poor, and it’s Ramadan. Since its dry and hot, and no one can drink or eat during daylight hours, the pace of life is considerably slow. At an “upscale” grocery store I saw beer for sale that had an advertised 0.0 percent amount of alcohol (they take that part of Islam very seriously here) At first I laughed at the idea of buying a 0.0 beer, but I have a feeling that in a month the idea of non-alcoholic beer will become more enticing.

On Poverty:
Poverty and under-development seems to be heavily romanticized in the white west, especially poverty in the developing global South. But just for brown people, not white. When brown people are impoverished it’s quaint, noble, authentic. When white people are poor its shameful and disarming (granted this romanticism trend might falter as poverty becomes a more likely lifestyle option in the U.S.). Some argue that that’s what the novel Heart of Darkness was all about. The Europeans were raping central Africa for its ivory, a symbol of Europe trying to reclaim its lost innocence. Well if could choose between my innocence or a life free of the threat of malaria and the option of running water…I’ll take door number two. All I can say is that after a week of this shit I’m totally over it. I’m tired of having to boil water all day, and of having to wash myself with a washcloth. I’m tired of walking on an unpaved dirt road that glimmers with thousands of multi-colored discarded plastic bags, sprinkled in with a random shoe here and there. I yearn for green leafy vegetables whose consumption isn’t entangled with the prospect of life-threatening dysentery (although the death-vegetable connection is also becoming more prominent in the west).
So after a week’s worth of observation I feel like I can definitively say that poverty blows.

So USA is number 1!......... or at least in like the top 25

P.S. There is one thing that Hargeisa and Boston have in common, a dearth of street signs.

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