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What a wild experience it is to come home after 8 months of traveling

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MADLEN HIRTENTREU

What a wild experience it is to come home after 8 months of traveling. I have mixed feelings.

Canada is so very different from Nicaragua. There are no dogs, roosters and drunken men making a ruckus all night. My bed is comfortable and I can have more than 1 pillow. There are no spiders, ants, flies or cockroaches in my room. I don’t have birds living in the rafters beside my room. The electricity, heat and hot water supply here are constant.

I am overwhelmed by the waste and wealth of our culture. We eat fabulous food whenever we want. Our houses are far apart and you can own green-space if you choose. I can’t hear my neighbors’ sneeze, whisper, sweep, let alone hear yelling and every word of their argument. In Nicaragua, food portions are much less. I know how lucky I am to live in a country with health care and social services. We are so fortunate.

We are extremely wealthy in Canada, bordering the excessive. The maid that worked in my Nica family’s home made $40 US per month working 6 days a week. Sometimes I’d go away for a weekend trip and spend two or three times her monthly salary. There are fewer jobs and fewer options in Nica. Yet there is a substantial friend and family support network, many live in the same town for their entire lives. But people seem happier. They laugh louder and more often.

What a privilege it is to travel by plane, car, bus and bicycle. Many of us take short vacations to tropical places regularly, which is an incredible concept. It is a luxury and a privilege to be able to take time off and still keep your job.

Although Nica has labor laws, sweatshops are built in “free trade zones” and therefore exempt from all laws. They bribe the government annually to make sure they won’t be asked to leave. People work 12-16 hour days, 6 days a week. They are fired the moment they get sick, injured, pregnant or old. They are given a 15-minute lunch break and ten minutes a day to use the washroom. Literally, a card is given to each employee, they put it into a slot in the bathroom door to open it, once inside, there is a timer for 10 minutes maximum. My friends told me of one that was so bad the people chose to wear diapers, so as to ensure that they didn’t lose their job.

My Nica friends would be astounded by our food portions, especially for meat. They would be aghast by the way we buy new clothes, new phones, or new houses when our old ones are still in good condition, just for fun, just for a change, or just to look cool. They would be shocked to know that the majority of us regularly buy sweat-shop products when we all know it’s wrong. They would be terrified by the fact we don’t look after our own children, or our own aging parents. They would be dumbfounded as to why we throw out so much good food.

So there you have it, I am in culture shock.

—Tamara Koziar is a Registered Massage Therapist and Chartered Herbalist living in Peterborough, ON.

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