Behind the walls

A recent reflection…

Being from the suburbs of the USA, I am used to homes where people put their best foot forward, so to speak. The inside of a home might be a mess, might be in disrepair, or might be void of furniture due to lack of money, but the outside that the world sees tends to look good or look its best.

In some of the countries I visited long ago, it was the opposite. The public saw a simple wall. Only when you walked through the oft-closed gate, did you discover that inside laid an open yard and perhaps a marvelous home.

I am now in Latin America, specifically Central America so far, and again I am seeing some of this. Often, to drive down a road is to see nothing but walls. Most of these have been stone walls or walls of corrugated metal or flat steel. It is not a pretty sight. But I have been invited into a few over the months and have said wow when I walked through the gate.

On the other hand, I have walked into homes which, upon entering, a North American native might say, “this looks pretty much like a typical suburban home,” only to then discover there is no running water, no bathroom indoors, none of the “niceties” we are used to.

One might might say that values are different here. That those things we find important, such as a porcelain toilet — with a toilet seat — that actually flushes, or a refrigerator or a sink and running water in the kitchen, are simply not important here. And that is true in many cases. The people I have met here that do not have those things simply don’t have them, and they simply live without them. No one I have met in Central America has a clothes dryer. Most of the homes I have seen that have a clothing washing machine have not had water hooked up to them so they have manually carried water to fill them.

One might might say that values are different here. Perhaps they are. Then again, if you don’t know of something, you don’t know you don’t have it. Perhaps others have things I don’t know of and wonder that I live without those things.

I must admit that I look at the homes without the shower head, without the hot shower, with the porcelain toilets that lack water hook-up, without an indoor bathroom or indoor kitchen, and I wonder that the residents dress so well, spend their money on shoes (some have more,shoes that I have ever had at once), clothing, America shampoo and soap brands, but don’t invest in those things that I tend to feel are so much more important to comfort. But in each case when I asked, the response was basically something to the effect of this is what we have or we have what we have. And so it is.

I know some folks that won’t go to a hotel that is less than a Ritz-Carlton. I love the Ritz-Carton and have very much enjoyed staying at one. But I have also loved my stays at many a Crowne Plaza while those people would not.

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