The privileged life

Trip Start Jun 27, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Friday, August 15, 2008

Medellin is the only city in Colombia that has a metro cable. It is well organized, very efficient and a fantastic means of transportation throughout this large city. Years ago the city added a metro cable to the system, connecting the "barrios" in the outskirts of the city with the center's commercial area. The cable meant that a normal 2 hour commute is now only 20 minutes.
I decided to spend my morning riding around the metro and I ended up taking the cable to the barrio's of Medellin. I was ill prepared for the ride. I hadn't really thought about what I would see, or how it would make me feel.
The area is run down, filthy and dilapidated beyond belief. Garbage is everywhere... all over the roads- on the roofs of half finished homes- throughout the uninhabited land surrounding the homes- in the fields- the river banks and the river itself. The river is a dark brown- and I am quite certain that it is not merely from the silt in the water. Homes are packed tightly together, side by side and literally on top of one another. I doubt that they all have main electricity and I am left wondering if they all have running, potable water. The vast majority of the homes were clearly not weather proof, with large gaping holes that allowed me to see into their living spaces.
I watched two young boys run down a litter covered hill while holding the end of a hand made kite made of a couple of twigs, string and a used plastic shopping bag. I could see that they were laughing and having just the best time that two young boys could possibly have. My mind flashed back to a moment a few months ago while I was in Target with my sister back in California... there was a young boy throwing the biggest tantrum a child could throw because his parents were buying him one brand new toy when what he really wanted was two new ones. I wonder if these two boys playing in the hillside had ever had a brand new toy in all of their years.
I think about my childhood- and all of the things that my parents were able to provide me with. I had everything a child could ever wish for, let alone need. I had my own bedroom in a beautiful home- new clothes every time I outgrew the old... entirely new wardrobes each and every year with loads of new shoes to boot. I had never experienced hunger or ever lost sleep due to cold nights without enough warm clothing or heat.
My stomach hurt and my heart ached as I thought about these contrasting lives. I have taken so much for granted. I was so blessed to have been born into a "privileged" home- with opportunity- choices- options. Do these children have ANY options in life? Could anyone ever ask these children "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Do these kids have a choice in what they will become?
I met a woman in the Quilotoa Loop that comes from a family of 17. Five of the siblings had died before the age of 11 due to illness and lack of medical attention. She is the wife of a farmer- she told me he was a campesino- a peasant. Her parents were also campesinos and I am quite certain that her 8 children will follow in their parents tradition.
This woman's daughter Jessica is five years old. Her responsibility is to take care of her new born brother of 4 months while her mother and older siblings are in the fields working. When the baby cries there is nobody to help her and she must console her brother all on her own. Jessica helps her grandmother prepare dinner- uses a butcher knife to cut potatoes for their daily soup. Potato soup is this families breakfast, lunch and dinner. I stayed with this family and never once did we eat a fruit or other vegetables... let alone protein.
They were growing corn in the fields and as soon as the crops are ripe they will be able to go to the closest town to sell their corn. I can only hope that it is a good year and the corn grows quickly. I planted garlic with them for an afternoon. It is back breaking work- work that they do from sunrise to sunset. All the while, the children laughed- made fun of my Spanish- and chatted happily as they worked. I can't help but think back to my childhood- grumbling and hating the handful of chores that I had around the house- taking me no more than a couple of minutes out of my play time. And I can not help but feel very ashamed.
This journal entry is not intended to preach or tell you something that I know you all already know. Perhaps I just want this to be a gentle reminder to all of you reading this... every single person reading this is privileged. You should be happy, ecstatic really- to be who you are. You have been educated and are able to read. You have options and opportunities in your life that millions and millions of children can not even fathom. Please look around you- and for at least a moment... see everything that you have and know that you are truly blessed.
*btw- the photos of the family from the Quilotoa Loop are Jessica's family. 
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