Anna Cleal, KF13, Kampala, Uganda

These words were inspired by a recent conversation I had with a Ugandan man who had spent 10 years of his life living and working in the UK.  He left shocked over the lack of community, how you couldn’t just talk to a stranger on the streets like in Uganda, and how people would refuse to acknowledge someone sitting next to them on the subway.  ”They all just want their space!” he exclaimed mortified. He looked at his watch and said; “and it’s all about time.”

Here I seek to compile a list of my observations from living in both developed and developing. In my eyes both have certain advantages and a merger is what we need to aspire to.

The Developing World

Pros

  • Sense of community and openness:  One thing I loved about arriving in the Philippines was that you could drive along the street and see into peoples lives, doors were open, children played happily on the street, everything seemed alive and you could feel the heartbeat of the place.
  • Evidence of culture and cultural identity:  One of my biggest fears for the world is that it will become like an extended airport. I’ve passed through many an airport recently and apart from the shape of the building they really do feel much the same. Sometimes when I’m in Manila, Philippines, I have to think very hard to remember which country I am in, yet when I go to Bohol where I volunteered last with Kiva, I know I am Philippines. Likewise there are parts of Kampala, Uganda, where it is hard to tell what country you are in, and other parts where it is screamingly obvious. We need to hang on to these parts, to cling to them like a kid you’re walking across a busy road.
  • Less emphasis on time, less rushed, more idle time, time to think, waiting isn’t such a burden.
  • Vibrancy, colour, disorder, noise – I think one thing one notices about the developing world is it’s lack of aversion to colour, vibrancy and noise. A carnival-type atmosphere often results which I think development can sometimes suffocate. Yes, I think we want suitable infrastructure and a degree of safety, but I also think we need to let the true colours of a society to shine on through.
  • Local markets, buying from just down the street, vegetables of natural size, local produce

Cons

  • Lack of freedom based on financial restrictions – continually have to make decisions based around money, very difficult to travel, can’t afford luxuries and purchases that make life easier (e.g. washing machines)
  • Lack of infrastructure, access to health care
  • Stress from monetary pressure and greater physical hardships
  • Less regard for the value of human life, safety
  • Susceptibility to corruption, disease, natural disaster

The Developed World

Pros

  • More freedom of choice based on access to capital, savings, in a word money.
  • Quality of education, access to knowledge, world becomes oyster
  • Physical ease of lifestyle, comfort, less time spent on menial tasks
  • Potentially more opportunities to pursue dreams, to dream big
  • Orderly infrastructure and sound legal system

Cons

  • Increased stress from job pressures, often still monetary pressures to keep up with a certain type of lifestyle
  • More time pressures despite having machines to carry out menial tasks, what I like to call “I’m so busy mentality” which is quite different to the “I might just sit here on the side of the street all day” mentality of the developing world
  • Lack of connection, safe houses with walls, gates, locks, not stopping and talking
  • More structured sense of community instead of general ‘all inclusive’ sense of community
  • Tendency to become disconnected with nature because of the lack of contact with the outside world, and no longer relying on personal crops, food supplies (e.g. cursing the rains when, in actual fact for someone growing crops, rains are a blessing)

Please note that I realize that many people live outside the generalizations I have made.  I’m merely commenting on observations I’ve made over the last few years and realize this is not true for everyone.

Ultimately I think we need to…
1) Aim for quality of life as well as quantity – for us to develop, but to slow down. Not to clock watch, not to have to be so aware of time.  For all people to have the ability to stop in the street and talk. For no one to say “I’m so busy or I’m so stressed.” For those in the developing world who do live a slower paced life, to have greater access to health care and to live longer.
2) Aim for greater financial freedom for all around the world, access to capital and opportunities.  For every individual to have the right to dream big.  For everyone to have the opportunity to travel, to explore different cultures.
3) Aim to maintain a sense of community and culture as we develop.

These are my dreams.  Maybe I’m unrealistic.  Maybe I’m not.  Of course I can make these decisions for myself as an individual yet realise that not everyone wants to live like me, and that some people thrive on that fast paced lifestyle.  I just want to let people know that for some reason I think living 80 years at 100 miles an hour probably feels the same as living 40 years at 50 mph.  So how far have we really come? What is development? Have we really developed at all? What does development mean? Does it mean more money and better living conditions, or does it mean happiness and the time to enjoy the wonders of life? I think as we develop we need to put more emphasis on happiness and the enjoyment of life than on statistics such as life expectancy and gross GDP.

Thus my belief… The developed world can learn as much from the developing world as vice versa. Let’s keep this in mind as we grow.

I call on all those reading the blog, traveling, working in both developed and developing to comment and share their observations.


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