Children and Cultures of Third World Countries-part 2
living in a poor area
common living quarters for 10 or more people
Other true stories
I have already shared some of the things that happened to me or around me during the seven years my parents decided to move to Mexico to become missionaries. We lived in a small village that was located only two miles away from the huge city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. This city is located about an eight hour drive north of mexico city, and is in what I guess would be called the high desert, for it is in the mountains at about 10,000 ft. altitude. Guadalajara is bigger than Los Angeles, Calif. I moved there in 1968, at which time it had a population of approximately 12 million people then. 12% of that population was american, who moved there mostly for work purposes because the USA had moved the Kodac and Volkswagon factories because of financial reasons.
Our village although it was only located two miles north of that huge city, still had cobblestone streets. It had city water that was on twice a week for two hours, that fed into a cistern that was basically a cement room about 20 X 20 ft and 12 ft tall located under our front lawn. On our roof there was a pump that turned on when the 50 gallon tank on our roof became 3/4 empty, and that tank gravity fed into our house. This system was one of the most modern in our village of Ciudad Granja.
We had electricity, and tho we had a television, there was only one movie a week on, that was on Sunday afternoon, and it changed about once every three months. So using the television as a source of entertainment was pretty much out of the question. During the week I was busy with school, I also had a job at an elementary school as an assistant librarian, and I managed to teach private horseback riding classes to kids twenty hours a week.
There was one village in particular that we spent a lot of time in, and most of the time this is where we went when we did our missionary work. The name of this village was Ajuatlan de la Granja. In order to get there we drove on the paved highway for about an hour and fifteen minutes. Then we turned off onto a dirt road, and after about half an hour on the dirt road we would come to a river. There was no bridge. Where the road ran into the river, there was a cable that went from this side to the other, attached at both ends to posts. In the river, was a large raft made of logs, and hooked into the cable with another big cable. We has to drive the bus onto this raft, which barely fit end to end, and we had to get out of the bus and help the old man who charged a fee, to pull the raft across the river. Once at the other end, he would secure it with another cable and we would drive off the raft and continue. After one more full hour of driving on a road that got continuously worse with the pothole getting deeper, bigger, and more of them. Altogether from the time we left the house until we got there it was a 21/2 to 3 hour drive.
The very first time we went there, (I don't remember how we found it) we were greeted by the comesario and his wife, (the mayor) who asked us our reason for coming. When we told him that we had a health clinic and some teaching films regarding the health of the village, he kind of looked at us with a funny smile, and said something to the effect of "you can do what you want, use the plaza, (which was in the center of town with the church and everything surro0unding it,) but he did not feel it was necessary for they already had been educated by the school they had in town, which only went to the 6th grade. But we got the needed permission, and it was expected of us to eat with the family of the comesario. This would be at 2:00.
The wife of the mayor made a special meal, a vegetable soup with fish heads as the meat. and as many tortillas as it took to get the viciously hot soup down;. This soup had so many chili peppers in it, that it made the Pepsi cola we were served taste bitter. I love chilis, but this soup made me involuntarily cry. I must have eaten a minimum of ten or twelve tortillas to consume a small bowl of the soup.
Later, after supper, we set up the clinic, and the people lined up and we saw people one after the next from about 4:00 until 11:00 that night. We saw children with their stomachs so distended from parasites that it was as hard as a drum. The parents of these children all said the same thing as soon as they got in. Look, my child is so fat and healthy he has a big belly. Some of the children were noted to be eating dirt, a definite symptom of parasite infestation. The food the child eats is consumed by the worms, and the child is so starved for minerals and vitamins, they eat dirt. One of the parents of a little girl came back the next day with a mason jar full of ascarids, a worm that is about as big around as a pencil, and anywhere from 6 to 18 inches long. This poor child passed at least 50 or more of them over the course of two days. Still all these people had no clue that their kids had anything wrong with them. We saw women who had children like stair steps, one after the other year after year. A young woman came in that had a question for my mother. Why, she wanted to know, did she only have three children after having been married for 20 years. My mother told her that this was all the children she and her husband wanted. The girl looked confused. This is when we found out just how uneducated this town was. Nobody here seemed to know that the men had a thing to do with the making of kids. They all believed that the females began making babies around the age of 14-15, and would stop as they approached 40 or so yrs of age.
They also had no clue about germs. We had gotten from the health department a health film starring mickey mouse revealing in a funny but informative way about how flies and other insects, as well as dirt from unwashed hands made germ with feces from the fields fall into their food. Watching these adults learning these things was entertaining to a point, for they really did not see it coming, and the look of horror on their faces when they saw the "tiny bugs" that were actually on the hands of mickey mouse, and falling or being transferred into their beans and then eaten was a thing they had not even a clue about.
That first weekend we spent from Friday afternoon until Sunday night at midnight when we left, treating what seemed to be a never ending line of people one after the other, all day long and into the night. When it got to be 11:30 pm on Sunday, we had to promise the long line of people that went from our bus to about half way down the block, that we promised to be back the following weekend and would see the rest of them then.
And this is how my weekends went, or at least every other weekend for months and months. We informed, presented, gave, showed how, and taught any way that would be accepted, and refuted so many superstitions and myths that I cannot begin to know where to begin. Slowly people accepted and learned, and imitated the way that we did things. It was a very slow process, but we made a difference in lives that lives on to this day.