Malawi Day 0

Just preparing to leave the US for Malawi is an incredible reminder of how wealthy developed countries really are. All electronic items must be bought here, books and research resources must be prepared and you have to bring your own personal pharmacy, because little of these items are available for any small cost in a developing country. Agreeably, medicines are available, but I would rather not risk Indian made pharmaceuticals nor the health system here. This is, of course, a majorly hypocritical attitude as people there don’t have much choice, but I do. That’s pretty much the crux of being from a wealthy country: we have choices and options and should be thankful we do. There are people in the US who believe that our freedom emanates from a particular political system we have. Our freedom is a result of our incredible wealth. It could disappear in instant is we suddenly became a poor country and one look through the history of the United States can provide insight into how it was in a time when we weren’t so wealthy. I can only hope that one day, all people in the world (and even in the US) will be so fortunate.

I traveled through Amsterdam to change planes, had an exquisite cup of coffee (I forgot how good European coffee is) and marveled at the selection of excellent English books available in the airport. The Detroit Airport Border’s stock Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck books in their non-fiction section, Amsterdam stocks books on complex European politics and narratives about human rights and world economies. The downside to widespread literacy, free markets and large book chains is that the less insightful (trying to avoid the word “moronic”) become a market for books.

The plane to Johannesburg was filled with Chilean soccer fans, most which didn’t appear to ever have been on a plane before. 10 hours to Johannesburg was filled with soccer chants and generally high spirits, which was noisy but completely awesome. It made me even sadder that tickets to all the games were pretty much gone, unless you by them from third parties in South Africa. The 2010 World Cup is a big deal for Africa. South Africa gets to show the world that they are on the way to becoming a developed nation, despite their incredible social and economic challenges, and all Africans can beam with pride that the world’s most popular sport is being hosted in an SSA country. This would be equivalent to having Mississippi host the Super Bowl. Hopefully, it won’t be the last time and that either Botswana or Kenya is able to host the games someday.

Either way, the incredible influx of visitors to SA must be an incredible boon to their troubled economy. It can also be a way for the world to look past the problems to see a country doing the best it can. My generally cynical and skeptical attitude toward South Africa certainly changed in the 20 hours I was there. It’s clear from interacting with South Africans that, in contrast to Malawi for example, violence pervades every facet of life in South Africa. It reminds me so much of New Orleans. People are generally as friendly as they can be, but guarded and human relationships, particularly between the haves and the have-nots are complicated and troubled. However, despite the hardened demeanor of it’s citizens, the World Cup can do wonders to generate some local pride.

Plus, the Germany – Australia game was awesome not to mention a North Korean goal against…. Brazil???

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

2 responses to “Malawi Day 0”

  1. kumasaki says :

    Hello,

    The conflict between have and have-nots reminds me the recent riot in Kyrgyzstan.
    Such conflict is fueled by the grievance that the people with few opportunities bear long time.

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