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Mountains Beyond Mountains

August 7, 2010

I just finished reading this book and immediately set to work on writing this post. I know this will take a long time to fully write and will take many edits and editions, but this is just another one of those books that really makes you question your life. I took a lot of quotes from the book and will be throwing them into this post and discussing them. I am also going to continue on this subject by reading Dr. Paul Farmer’s book “The Uses of Haiti” which is a book that describes the abuses that Haiti has suffered. From being used in the slave trade to the U.S. destroying the countryside and impoverishing thousands of people in order to create massive farms to help not the Haitians but Americans. I read this book after reading Three Cups of Tea and really enjoyed this one. I enjoyed Three Cups of Tea more but this is still a must read!

“The world is full of miserable places. One way of living comfortably is not to think about them or, when you do, to send money.” Pg 8

Everyone sees the commercials on TV, the starving children, the begging for money to alleviate the pain. You see it in the news everyday, how some environmental disaster is making thousands of people suffer. Never mind environmental disasters, look at what other humans have been and are doing to each other. The never ending struggles in Africa, revolts over mock elections, you name it. While most people are able to acknowledge the fact that there are a lot of horrible things in the world, most won’t do anything about it. Here in the good ol’ U.S. you get what you want and never have to see this suffering. Maybe once in a while you will feel bad about it and send a few bucks off “to help others” and once you do this your conscience is clear for the next few years of any wrongdoing. Is this really what the world has come to?

“The veins stand out on Farmer’s thin neck as he eases the needle in. Wild cries erupt from the child: “Li fe-m mal, mwen grangou!” Farmer looks up, and for a moment he’s narrating Haiti again. “She’s crying, “It hurts, I’m hungry.” Can you believe it? Only in Haiti would a child cry out that she’s hungry during a spinal tap.” Pg 32

So I have never had a spinal tap, but I know that in no way is it a fun procedure. A huge needle being plunged into your spine, it is definitely up there as being one of the most painful procedures. How is it then that a child is crying out in hunger rather than in pain of the procedure? There is something seriously wrong with the world when this is going on. I have erased the word starving from my personal vocabulary for reasons like this. I have never felt overwhelming hunger, but I have seen it and I know it exists. Being in the U.S. and being fortunate enough to be from the family I am, I have never experienced hunger even to the slightest amount. I have seen hunger. When I was in the Dominican Republic for the first time we were taking our lunch break inside the church. PB & J sandwiches, some fruit and a bag of chips.  Nothing special for a lunch, but this whole time sitting in the church all we could see was the Dominican kids starring at us through the windows. With huge sad longing eyes just starring in. Those faces are burnt into my mind, something you can’t forget about, how hungry those kids were and how much they starved for a PB & J sandwich. I felt disgusting sitting there eating the sandwich, those kids were the ones that needed the food, not me. I was only going to be down there for a week, they were stuck down there forever. We were told to eat our sandwiches because we needed the energy in order to continue working on the church and help them, which is true, if we don’t have the strength to help we are useless for them. Any leftover sandwiches would go to the kids, and this did happen. We had leftover sandwiches and we started handing them out to the kids who greedily grabbed them up and scarfed them down. I have never seen anyone fight over such a small thing in my life before. The way the kids were struggling to get a piece of sandwich, you would think they were fighting over a million dollars. We didn’t have enough for everyone and had to control the situation. All of this over PB & J sandwiches. Here in the U.S. most people take having food for granted, the truth of the matter is that this is not the case in the majority of the world, everyday is a struggle for existence.

“One health worker recited a Haitian saying: “Giving people medicine for TB and not giving them food is like washing your hands and drying them in dirt”. Pg 34

Poor health of the Haitians is not the cause it’s an effect. The poor health is an effect of poor living conditions, poverty, no food, horrid living conditions, no education, repression, and so much more. How can a problem be resolved if you are going at it the wrong way. Dr. Paul Farmer is doing an absolutely phenomenal job in Haiti, but the problem will always remain as long as the conditions remain the same in Haiti. He can cure the entire island, but the diseases and problems will arise again due to the living conditions there. To combat the problem takes a multi-faceted approach. Greg Mortenson realized this in his journey, that education is the only way to pull people out of their unfortunate situations in the mountains in Pakistan.

“He felt drawn back towards catholicism now, not by his own belief but in sympathy with theirs, as an act of what he’d call “solidarity”. He told me, “It was really the experience of seeing people up there in Cange, or in some awful hospital, or at a funeral, or knowing that people were awaking in their huts to two rooms full of hungry kids still going on. Religion was the one thing they still had.” How could a just god permit great misery? The Haitian peasants answered with a proverb, in literal translation, “God gives but doesn’t share.” Farmer explains as “God gives us humans everything we need to flourish, but he’s not the one who’s supposed to divvy up the loot. That charge was laid upon us.” Pg 78

I have felt feelings so similar to this, I am happy it can now be put to words. I have always struggled with religion for one reason or another. Being down in the Dominican Republic(DR) I understand it. Religion is that sense of hope that so many people hold onto. The Dominicans I was with had so little, yet with us they praised us for the help and praised god for providing them what they had. That with the power of god they would continue to live. It took me a while to figure this out too. How can building a church in rural DR help these people. The last thing these people need is a church, they could use schools, water, houses, energy, etc, etc, etc. When we interacted with them I saw it differently. In the community if someone was suffering their first step was to go to the church and see if they couldn’t get help, the church provided schooling options, the church provided hope! Religion isn’t about how much you pray, how often you go to church it is about divvying the loot where it is needed, it is about being the change you want to see in the world, it is about having hope!

“He murmured something about how much could be done in Haiti of only he could get his hands on the money that the first world spent on pet grooming.” Pg 211

This statement doesn’t even need an explanation. Such a true statement, and even I am especially guilty of this. I don’t take my dogs to a pet grooming place, but my family has spent a large sum of money on dogs and I absolutely love my dogs, but is it right? People are dying and we spend money on a bunch of unnecessary things.

“I think whenever a people has enormous resources, it is easy for them to call themselves democratic. I think of myself more as a physician than as an American. Ludmilla and I, we belong to the nation of those who care for the sick. Americans are lazy democrats, and it is my belief, as someone who shares the same nationality as Ludmilla, I think that the rich can always call themselves democratic, but the sick people are not among the rich. Look I’m very proud to be American. I have many opportunities because I’m American. I can travel freely throughout the world, I can start projects, but that’s called privilege, not democracy. ” Pg 229 This quote came in response to a Russian Colonel pulling out a pack of cigarettes and asking Dr. Farmer if America was a democracy ( he was just asking if it was okay to smoke).

“…and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.” Pg 294

Here is one thing I will live by in life forever. Just because I live in a richer and better off nation does not make me any more important in life. I hope to be one of the people able to stick up for those that are shunned, held down, and considered to matter less.

Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have.” Margaret Mead

A great piece of hope taken from the book. It doesn’t take the world to make a difference, and you shouldn’t count on the world to make a difference, because more than likely it won’t. This doesn’t mean you should give up, YOU can make a difference!

So what is Haiti like? That is a post that I will be putting up later. Since when I finished reading this book and putting together this post a lot of time has passed. Enough time for a devastating Earthquake (7.3 magnitude) to hit Haiti in January. The quake killed an estimated 300,000 people and plunged the country into even deeper poverty, which is unbelievable considering the level of poverty they were already in. So I finished reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, read The Uses of Haiti by Dr. Paul Farmer, and now have also visited Haiti. There is so much that needs to be done in Haiti. I will have another post coming later about my experiences in Haiti itself.

haitimapHaiti is the poorer of two countries on the island of Hispaniola, and the poorest in the Western Hemisphere

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