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Living in a Third World Country

September 12, 2007

Bruce & Linda Hanson - Honduras

Last week we were reminded, like a slap in the face reminded that we are living in a third world county.  James Vijayakumar, Vijay, the area minister of the Southern Asia office for Global Ministries, explained to me that third world is not really a pejorative term.  It was coined not to indicate a country that is somehow less than a first world country, but to refer to those living on the margins, those without power in the world.  Yes, Honduras is a third world country.

It is a third world country because there are diseases like malaria and dengue, that run out of control, because there is a lack of resources for garbage collection and clean water that runs in pipes into houses, and there is poor quality education about the spread of disease and there is an inadequate response of a corrupt government more interested in lining its pockets than in helping malnourished children dying from dengue.  We are in the midst of an epidemic of dengue in Tegucigalpa, that personally affected us when many of our friends, coworkers and Charu Vijayakumar, the volunteer living with us became ill, and where several people have died, the majority malnourished children.  

It is a third world country where this week we spent two days living without water, and with intermittent electricity, and were reminded that in many parts of Honduras there is no running water, only a river or a community pump, and in many parts there is no electricity.  We were thankful when the water returned, and didn't complain when it was another day before there was hot water.  

It is a third world country where after a minor fender-bender, we settled things on the spot, for around $75 because there were only four police patrols on, and there were 24 accidents, and it would have been a 3-4 hour wait or more, and the police would have been surly and unhelpful and wanted a tip, and later would probably have lost the report we needed to file with the insurance anyway.  

It is a third world country where in the village of Saldatito, children can't get to school because the bridge collapsed and women in labor have to be carried in a sheet to the nearest health center, because the roads, rutted with rocks so big our 4x4 truck couldn't drive them, are impassable.  

It is a third world country where the police stopped us and seeing we were gringos wanted to do an inspection of the vehicle, claiming they were looking for the jack and the spare tire and the warning triangles, but really looking for a bribe.  And its a third world country because you can speed and drive on the sidewalk and run red lights, but if you don't have warning triangles, they want to take away your license if you don't pay off the police, because the police are underpaid, or haven't received their pay either, the corrupt also the victims of corruption.   And it is a third world country where when the police stop you, and you are gringo missionaries you appeal to God's mercy and ask for mercy in exchange, and guilt the police into letting you go by reminding them that we have come to help his country and are not thieves and we are working in the name of God, so he can't take our license away.  And, it works.  

It is a third world country where hurricane warnings come one right after the other, and there is no hope that the government might improve their response this time, only a resignation that should a category 4 or 5 hurricane hit, a lot of people will die or lose their homes, and there is nothing that can be done.  

It is a third world country where your memories of visits to the most remote part of Honduras, the Miskitia, surge and recede in our consciousness' like the waves on the Caribbean Sea we rode to arrive there, a part of Honduras which is the third world of this third world country.  

But, despite all this, it is a third world country full of third world people that we have come to love.  We are beginning to prepare for our return to the United States in a few months, sorting and tossing, packing and deciding what to sell, store, ship and carry back with us.  Already we are feeling the loss of leaving this home and returning to our other home, even though we plan on returning to Honduras soon.  Kesia and Seth are anxious about leaving friends and meeting new ones, and about trying out public school again after being in home school.  We are anxious about what it will be like to be back in the first world, what the struggles will be for us to live where there are good roads and responsive police, reliable electricity and water you can drink from the taps and toilets where you can flush the paper!  But also we are anxious about what to tell people we care about in the first world that will help them to understand the reality of the third world and how being in the third world affects people that we care about so very much.

Thanks in advance for your prayers during our transitions.  We share some reflections from the last few months.  

The Hansons
Bruce, Linda, Seth and Kesia

Bruce and Linda Hanson are assigned to the Christian Commission on Development (CCD) to serve the Honduran Theological Community (CTH).  Bruce is teaching HIV/AIDS education, prevention and care, while Linda is teaching theological courses.

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