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Census 1980 vs 2011: Dominican Republic and Australia
I happened to spend a couple of months in Newcastle NSW, at exactly the time when the Australian Government held its Census 2011 on August 9. I was given the choice of completing a paper form or doing it online and I chose the latter. It was interesting to do it that way, as the Internet form had sections where they gave specific information. This census was completely different to the one I participated in back in 1980 when I was living in the Dominican Rep. I guess that times are different now, especially with respect to the Internet.
Back then I was told it was compulsory to participate in the census, as I was a government employee. We had to carry the census on the weekend and I was not too happy at the time about the idea of having to sacrifice my weekend to work on the census. I found out which area had been assigned to me and I was very pleased, as it was the horse-racing stadium! I thought that would be an easy, as there would only be horses there and no people!
I was soon to find out how mistaken I was, as unknown to me, the area inside the racing stadium was like a city in itself! There were men to look after the horses and I got the feeling that the horses were leading better lives than those men! I guess the horses had to be given preference, as they always had the chance of winning large amounts of money when they won a race. The men were not the only people in the stadium though, as there were also women and children!
I had only been in the country for a few years, so people could easily tell I was a foreigner because of my accent. Yet I found that everybody treated me very well and those I had to interview would first find a chair, or place for me to sit on and then they offered me a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the Dominican tradition. Once the cup of coffee was finished, then we could proceeded with the questions. I noticed that they were not really designed for what I was confronting, so I had to make do with the questions I had regardless.
One had to explain to people not only the reason for having the census, but also ask every question individually, in a way they could understand it. Everyone had patience and seemed proud to be participating in something they considered to be important.
I found a young woman with a baby and a small school age child and they were living in one room, with just a bed, table, a couple of chairs and a small fridge, that was all. Halfway through the visit, I noticed she called the boy aside and gave him something. A few minutes later the kid returned and gave me a mentol lyptus, as candy people usually take when they have a sore throat. I thought that was very considerate of her, as hours of talking had taken their toll and made my throat sore and uncomfortable.
I thanked her, but that action of hers really moved me and it is something that has stayed in my mind ever since: Just the word Census makes me think about that woman and the experience I went through those two days when was involved in the Dominican census many years ago!