Friday, October 14, 2011

#5 Stay with People You've Never Met

In the Carrasco International Airport in Montevideo I met the mom in the family I would be staying with. One e-mail had been our previous correspondence. I met the mom at the airport and gave her a besito(kiss...sort of) on the right cheek (it is how they greet). She drove me around parts of the city showed me one of her daughter's house and told me about each one of her twelve kids. Yep 12 not a typo. The 12 includes 7 daughters and five sons with the youngest a typical 17 year old boy and the oldest has 5 kids with the oldest being 11.

Quite a change from my family of about 15 including grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Here they live with their parents until they get married, so there are 6 in house now, 4 guys and 2 girls. I had never met any of them and my Spanish was terrible...at the time, but they made me feel welcome and tried to include me. I asked them how long I could stay they said until you feel comfortable(obviously there are limits to this), but they couldn't be nicer. They've included me in their family functions such as a Sunday barbecue(Asado in Uruguay) and I've played soccer many times with some of the guys in the family and their friends.

However, in the U.S. I never would have done this. Maybe it is just me, but I would guess most of us wouldn't stay at someone's home that we had never met. The media tells us to fear everything like your kid being kidnapped or murdered or something. Stranger Danger is taught to kids early, so they won't talk to people on the street. However, was the "safety" we gained really worth losing the sense of community that used to exist or at least I heard existed, maybe it was just made-up.

Another observation being from the United States we expect countries in the Third World/Developing World to be poor with lower standards of living than here. I didn't know what to expect with the family's living situation, but I guestimated it would probably be a little less than what I was used to. However, when I got to the family's house it was huge with 5 or 6 bedrooms at least 4 bathrooms spacious dining room and living room. They have a yard of nearly 1/3 of an acre with another building where they do asados(barbecue) on the weekends. Admittedly I wasn't expecting this, but then again their dad is the head surgeon at an accidents ward at a hospital, so you get the idea.

Now yes I do realize this is obviously a very wealthy family and more the exception than the rule. However, after having walked around I see no more beggars on the street or those less-well-off than I would in Iowa, Downtown KC, St. Louis, or Chicago. Actually I've seen less. One interesting thing here is that poor and rich can live right next to each other unlike the "white flight" that many Midwestern cities have, which can lead to some major problems. At the extreme end you got cities like Cleveland and Detroit. I was born in Detroit, but you couldn't pay me to go back and live there.

Montevideo also has less violent crime than any downtown Midwestern city. On the other hand, there are "bad" spots like the barrio(neighborhood) 40 Semanas(40 weeks) which is close to the ritzier barrio I'm living in (Prado). This barrio is in the suburbs along a stream where the government built what are essentially projects. They are parts where little education and opportunity make violent youth and drugs more popular. However, I don't believe KC or St. Louis could feel they're any better. I mean the KC and St. Louis school districts are failing and crime is up in KC at least. I've talked with the family and they think Uruguay is third world, but in some ways this beats the heck out of many parts of America.

What is crime like in your area? What do you think about crime in America? The Media's portrayal of it? Please Comment Below.

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