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Monday, 16 November 2009

It’s raining. Again. Funny how rain always makes things look ugly. It makes buildings grey and gruesome. It makes people frown and act grumpy. Only nature looks good when it’s raining: drops are little diamants on leaves that appear fresher and greener than before.

I`m lost in a day-dream, thinking of my sabbatical a few years ago. First I travelled to West-Africa where I worked and lived for one year. I wanted to discover the reality of development cooperation I had a career in. Living in a slum I tried to unravel the mystery of poverty. Of people who buy things and when they break, they just don’t have the money to repair them. Of my neighbour who simply did not eat on the days her husband would not bring money home. Of the border police men who had to bribe me to be able to feed their families. Of the kids in my neighbourhood whom I took to the beach, a five minute drive from where we lived, only to found out they had never seen the ocean. Of the millions of plastic bags that together shaped science-fiction like landscapes sticking out from the dry soil. I felt guilty, I felt powerless and all my ideas on what sustainable development should be just melted in that hot African sun.

Back in Europe, I wanted to see the other side of the coin. I jumped on a bus to the French Riviera and within a day, found a job as a hostess on the yacht of a millionaire. I cleaned, made the beds, cooked and served the owner and his guests. I was astonished by the fact that my boss spent hours and hours in the Casino, playing away thousands of dollars that friends of mine in Africa could have lived off for a year or two. If he wanted to go for a last-minute lunch in Monaco, the captain had a tough job persuading the harbour master to let us in. The two hundred euros necessary to convince him were just a small portion of the budget spent that afternoon. Not to speak about the litres of gas our ship used to get us to our destination and pollute the Mediterranean in the meantime. It was the week of the Cannes film festival and we had celebrities visiting for on-board champagne parties, when I took off. Not just because this lifestyle made me vomit every morning, but also because my boss expected more than just serving drinks to him and his wealthy friends.

The sun has started to shine and the buildings in my street look friendlier now. People have folded their umbrellas and greet each other again. The small park triumphs and shows off its suddenly bright green grass and gently waving plants that shake off their water drops.

I should go back to work, because there is still so much to fight for.

Comments (2)Add Comment
written by elisaalt, November 18, 2009
Your words are really colourful!

feelin' ya
written by Megan MacDonald, November 25, 2009
Hi Kim,
I can so appreciate this. I am spending my second year in Kenya after a summer at home in California. Nothing like a luxury yacht, but the drastic contrast between the haves and the have-nots (both between here and there, and even just here as the upper class pulls further and further from their neighbors in the slums) is mind-boggling at times. But I believe that those of us that are fortunate enough to see both sides, both extremes, are uniquely qualified to share the stories that can help make a difference in how people who have money spend it. Thanks for the work you're doing on this!

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