Tuesday, June 27, 2006

It's a Different World

On the surface, life is much easier here than it is where I live. Things work.

On Monday we had some government-type business to do - simple things like renewing my driver's license. My husband recently got his license renewed in Tecwil, and it took three weeks and cost about $100 US. And the reason it was so quick and easy (!) is that we had someone helping us out who knows people. When I renewed my license here, it took about ten minutes and cost $21. The service was friendly, nobody asked me for a bribe, and - big bonus here - my new photo makes me look much less like a convicted felon.

Last week our car broke down, and in the hour or so we waited for our friend to come help us, two policemen stopped to see if we were OK. When we called for help, the cellphone worked immediately. The tow truck came right away. The mechanic did the work when he said he would and charged a reasonable price. Probably none of these things would have happened in Tecwil. People would have stopped to see if we were OK, yes, and a crowd would have gathered to stare. If the police stop where I live, you're more scared than anything else. Ordinary folks are very kind and helpful, but the infrastructure doesn't really lend itself to problems being solved quickly. Just wait, relax, stop being so American. As the guy at the electric company told me one of the many, many times I had to call and ask them to fix our connection, "Just be patient, Madame."

Once, the first summer we were in the States after moving to Tecwil, we hit a cow. We were driving a borrowed tank-like American car from the 1970s, and our car wasn't even dented. After being struck, the cow fell over, then rose, only to be hit by the small Japanese car behind us. That car was totaled. This time the cow remained on the road.

We were picturing the farmer appearing, shaking his fist at us and asking for payment for his precious cow. We continued to the nearest house and asked the person there to call the police. Then we turned and went back to the dead cow.

Within ten minutes, the police were there. Within fifteen, we were on our way. The farmer came out and apologized to US. His cow shouldn't have been in the road. The police had the guy behind us fill out an accident report, since his car was badly damaged, but we didn't have to do anything. We drove on, in a state of (culture) shock.

I spent today in the hospital - my dad had a knee replacement - and I could go on and on about the differences in health care between this country and the place where I live. Yes, health care is expensive here, but where I live people just die if they don't have the money to go to the doctor. And even if they do have the money, the available technology here is probably fifty years ahead of what you'd find in the best hospital in Tecwil.

I know very well that we are in the honeymoon phase of adapting to a culture, when we're still seeing everything that's good. If we had moved back here, we'd soon see/remember things we don't like so well. For example, yesterday on the news I saw a report that Americans have fewer friends than they used to. Here's a link to the story. I can't imagine anyone in Tecwil reporting having only two friends. Sure, the expectations of friends are different in that culture from what they are here. That would be a post - or a series of them - in itself.

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