So a few days ago I was asked the $64,000 question: do you like
The easy answer is yes – life here is in general much more comfortable. There’s electricity almost everywhere and it’s much more reliable, the roads are in better condition, there’s hot water and a good toilet in every hotel I’ve stayed in, and the general quality of life is much higher. Buildings are large and well-built and the floors are all done in tile (for choosing styles and colors, not saying that the Vietnamese taste is better than the Malagasy in decorating, but it’s a step up from dirt). The number of children is generally manageable – the population is still skewed heavily to the youth, but family planning is a big thing here and there’s a general 2 child policy encouraged by the government. It makes a huge difference everywhere from meetings (mothers don’t have 2 crying babies each hanging off of them) to prenatal care (you can actually find all the pregnant women in a community and bring them to a meeting) to schools (almost all the kids actually are in school here because the government can afford to build enough schools and hire teachers) to driving on the streets (kids still play in the streets, but they don’t LIVE there…so it’s not a lifestyle hazard to drivers) to the number of feet in shoes (with few children families can actually afford to buy shoes for all their children – and make sure they wear them).
People here are also generally very friendly. They don’t call me names or stare at me or shout at me in quite the same was as in
The traffic is crazy, but I don’t know of anybody who’s traveled to a developing country (or even other developed countries such as in
So, yes, I do like it. But your first country is like your first love – you never quite let go or get over it. I’ll probably never have a country that I understand like I understand
Work-wise, I’m definitely a lot more fulfilled here. I’m in charge of my own projects and own work and instead of debating the philosophy of how to do it, I’m actually doing it. It’s extremely challenging to juggle things, but Cao Bang in general is a good working environment with the government and other regulating parties. Still, I know I’m only seeing/understanding maybe 10% of what’s really going on. Between language barriers and just not having a lot of day-to-day contact with policy, I know I’m missing out on a lot here. It took me 4 years in
Well, there, you have a very long answer to a very short question. I can’t believe I typed all that. But I think I needed to think through it myself. I’ve been missing Mada a lot lately, but I think it’s mostly about the communication. Yes, I’m learning the language, but with my other work it’s really slow going because it ends up being lowest on my priority list. And until you learn the language, you never really get to know a culture. I’ll always be more of a stranger here, but at least I’m a more comfortable stranger!