Friday, August 28, 2009

Socioeconomic Contrast Tour

Do you know what a socioeconomic contrast tour is? I didn't. I mean, the name spells it out pretty nicely, but I didn't really know what it was. I got to go on one though. It was interesting. See, in Nicaragua there are a few families that own a lot and have a lot of money. However, most of the country lives on two dollars a day, or about forty Cordobas. Two whole dollars. The point of this "tour" that we went on was to show this extreme in Nicaragua.

The marketplace was full of people of all ages. People were milling around buying and selling all sorts of things. At this one marketplace everything could be found, foods, clothes, hair accessories, toothpaste, the list could go on. And on.

We got into groups, or families, and were given forty Cordobas. We were instructed to use the money that we were given to buy food for a family of four or five for a day. It took finesse to find the best prices for beans and rice, two staples of a Nicaraguan diet (to make yummy gallo pinto), and anything else that could be afforded to add variety to a diet. This exercise was not a new one to me. I did a very similar one when I did a short term missions trip to the inner city of Fresno. This idea of not having nearly enough money to supply a single hearty meal for one's family was something that I have been grappling with since that summer I went to Fresno. What was different about this "tour" was the next stop.

After we purchased the food at the market (which we took back to those that were preparing our food for the week) the whole group headed over to one of the malls in Managua. It was less than a ten minute drive away from the market and it was air conditioned and nicer than some of the malls I have seen in the United States. Did I mention that it was virtually empty? And Sundays, the day of the week that we were there, are the busiest days! The mall only sold clothing, shoes and electronics, like I said not much different than the malls we see in the United States, and interestingly enough the prices were in both dollars and Cordobas. The prices were also well over my own budget for clothes. And the brand names plastered on the advertisements and tags were all too familiar.

This is where my heart started to wander into thought. In my ear I heard that the sad reality is that most of these malls in Nicaragua are a great way to harbor and hide money laundering. That is the only reason that the malls are open air conditioned and serving the wealthy Nicaraguans and tourists. Yet, they are open and shoving a facade into the minds of people. This facade that there are people making enough in Nicaragua to keep this place open, but the reality is that these malls do not need the people of Nicaragua to stay open-- except to be employed by the empty stores.

And then I started to think about my family. What would it be like if they were still in Nicaragua? During this whole trip I was not able to separate myself from my familial identity. I don't know if I would ever be able to. No matter where I am. It was just on hyper-radar while I was there. So, that was the socioeconomic contrast tour. A little un-climatic compared to the rest of the trip. Just like this post.

No comments: