Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Welcome to the worst of the Third World

I've frequently tried to describe to my American friends what it's like to visit the really run-down, seedy parts of the Third World.  Many of them accuse me of making up my descriptions, because "nothing could be that bad!"  Others simply can't visualize it, and admit that.

I came across this article at Outback Medicine the other day, which gives ample warning to Americans visiting Haiti what they're likely to find there.  I can attest from lengthy and bitter personal experience that precisely the same conditions (sometimes even worse) may also be found in other Third World hell-holes.  At any rate, it's good to have another source that I can point out to my friends, and tell them, "See?  I'm not the only one warning you!"  Here's an excerpt.

All you have is what you take with you, and you better take a bunch of stuff, because the Customs Officers that hold you up on arrival will be there to rifle through your stuff and then call it their own – literally!  They always rifle through your bags and take whatever they want, as their personal “fee” for your arrival (and hopeful passage) into their nice country!  (I dare you to object -when they start doing this!  And that look they give all Americans who do that is simply priceless, too, let me tell you!)

. . .

If you get through this process with your bags intact, mostly, you will want to exit this “entry area” to their country fast!  Do you know why?  It’s because there are “bad men” standing around watching this whole process!  They know what you’re doing down there, believe me, and they know you brought “stuff” with you…that they want!  They are ready for your entry into their country, and you will be their next “meal ticket” if possible…so just know you WILL be followed as you leave this staging area, entering their crime-ridden country, without help from anybody around, most likely…which comes next!  Watch out!  (I’m not kidding about this, Mr. & Mrs. Clueless American missionary!)

. . .

Take a trip to the airport bathroom (in pairs), and see if you can comprehend the paper posted signs behind most of the toilets, down here!  It says: “If it’s brown, flush it down; if it’s yellow, let it mellow.” (They leave out the appropriate punctuation marks on all signs, other than some nasty comments about we American Tourists, of course.)  No joke; you should be learning from everything that hits your eyes now.  They want you to know “this isn’t America,” friends.  ”You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!”  The sign also informs you that they have a real water de-salination problem here; that too, you’re about to find out at your first watering hole, soon!  (Better stick to the bottled water – if you can find such, down here.)  Have you ever tasted “Salt Water Tea”?  They have a real fine brand of it – like most Caribbean Islands in the 3rd World do. (Better pack that hand-held Katadyn Water Filter in your back pack; you know, the one you’ll NEVER let out of your sight while down here!  Yeah, that’s the one.)

There's much more at the link - and it's all true.  Read, and be warned!



tweell said...

How far away are we from this? Big Sister's thugs have taken quite a bit from my suitcase whenever I've had to fly. We don't think about our water, but there are plenty of city water systems that have had poor or no maintenance and are in bad shape. Our police arrest those who dare to record them misbehaving.

How far?

Joe in PNG said...

When you need a fence (with barbed wire on top) and security guards for your home, a backup generator with an automatic switch, and the need to make an international flight for health care, then you're in the 3rd world.

So, yeah, we're not all that far...

MSgt B said...


You've heard me say it before as well. Most Americans have no idea, and they're happy with that.

Try to tell them what the real world is like and they pooh pooh at you.

Phil K said...

Some friends and I have been going to Haiti annually for many years (except when interrupted by "rebels" taking over the airport and keeping us from landing). We do dental missions up in the mountains there.

His description of events at customs are dead on and for years we paid some pretty hefty brides to get through with all of our equipment and medications. Then we hired our own gangster who now meets us at the gate with his crew. They escort us through the airport for a fee that is quite a bit less than the bribes we used to make.

Our last trip, on the way back, I was "detained" by airport security - this is a good story that would take up too much time here, but the upshot of it is that there are folks there that still appreciate the Americans who show up to help the needy there.

Anonymous said...

I would often visit this type of place for work - exporting food products affordable & popular in third world countries. One learns to navigate the status quo: official corruption, crime, filth, disease, mass demos, riots, broken infrastructure, etc.

I visited pre-quake Haiti a good number of times. Even then, it was 'exciting'.

I once landed in the Dominican Republic about an hour after a military coup. No heads up from the airline prior to landing thank-you very much. The airport had been occupied by the army. Brazened my way through that and got out. I think my fellow passengers spent a day or two living at the airport.

Jakarta and Manila can be colorful, as well.

I really can't be too hard on fellow Americans who don't comprehend this way of life. Most are busy living their own lives in a decent way. We do indeed live in a fortunate place.

It is the constant carping whining over little things and what I would call 'the bad American attitude' that would get me when I returned here. People don't appreciate what they have and seem to have forgotten our way of life and the peace and prosperity we know takes a great deal of work to achieve and maintain. It's earned.

A civil, safe, prosperous society depends on voluntary acceptance of and adherence to a great many 'internal' rules. Once distain for those rules and social assumptions becomes the norm many bad things can happen very quickly.

Stretch said...

Co-worker was in an Army Civil Affairs unit that was deployed to Haiti.
Upon their return they had tee-shirts made up that read "Go Earthquakes!"
He explained that relief supplies were delivered under the "10% rule." Ten Percent was skimmed at every step of delivery.
Cash was assessed under the "50% rule."