- Posted February 18, 2013 by
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Carnival Triumph’s nightmare
Not to make light of people who actually died or lost their homes in Sandy, but for the vast majority of Americans that had to endure a hardship you will hardly find a kind ear to listen from former Peace Corps volunteers. Why? We endured way worse for much longer periods of time.
Stories flashed by the media described people without electricity and hot water (or in some cases no running water at all), the sight and smell of sewage, and descriptions of hot rooms and people sleeping outside. I looked at cruise line passenger photos and thought, “Not bad. Sleeping outside sounds kinda nice.” There was a dramatization of people for four days, FOUR WHOLE DAYS, waiting to port and leave to fly back home. Were there any actual safety concerns (boat capsizing, an epidemic breaking out)? None that I heard. Discomfort? Probably a lot, and when you are on vacation this is a huge turn of events and a letdown. But before we lay out our sob stories to the world of not being able to get around New York, our mobile phones without electricity, let’s first get over ourselves and our ridiculous lifestyles.
Despite the changes of the world in the past fifty years, the Peace Corps has taught us more than anything to integrate and live like others. That means being broken from a lap of luxury and realization that most of the world doesn’t even live close to the conditions we have in the States. At first we cried and questioned our ability to continue when we had a bad meal, but by the end there were women swatting rats out of their kitchen, using pit latrines (and sometimes preferring them) at times with brutal smells, and rolling in terrible public transport for hours on end. They endured major levels of sexual harassment, no electricity, no water (not no potable or warm water, but in the dry season there literally is no water), and a major sense of isolation. By the end they did it with ambivalence and a knowledge that these times will pass.
So you couldn’t use your iPhone and iPad? Good. You had to sleep outside (on a mattress no less)? Good. You had to smell some sewage? Good. Get over it. There are parts of this world where there is very little to no cell reception and electricity. There are parts of this world that prefer to sleep outside every night because it is too hot to sleep indoors. There are parts of this world where people consistently use the street as a bathroom and garbage dump. They aren’t the back corners of this world either, but in a vast majority of this earth. For these people there is no hope, no idea of a better life ahead. There isn’t a President touring to promise to fix up the area. There isn’t an outlet that truly listens to them. There isn’t a Coast Guard helicopter escorting them back home. For the volunteers, we got to leave. For those in these unfortunate situations, there is a return to normal. For the rest of the world, there is none of that.
Oh, and there will be no compensation for their bad lot in life. Not in this life at least.