War of Worlds

Someone asked me yesterday why I live in a third world country. She spat out the question like she had overdosed on bitter medicine and looked at me with disgust and fear. Puzzled by her reaction I asked, “What is your definition of a third world country?” “Oh, yuck!” she spat. “It’s a country filled with disease and poor people. Who in their right mind would live in a third world country?”

Since I am in the states visiting my mother, these comments occur more often. Either people fear for my life because of all the ‘diseases I could get’ or like my mother, question my sanity. My mother tells people I am a missionary in a third world country. “Mom, you have to stop telling people I’m a missionary,” I reprimand. “I’m not a missionary. I’m not even religious.”  “But, you do so many good things for all those poor people,” she said. “You are a missionary in my eyes.”  I sigh and nod my head. She introduces me to a friend of hers. “This is my daughter. She is…the word ‘like’ is barely audible… a missionary in Nicaragua.” I sigh again and nod my head.

I’m beginning to understand my mom’s logic. If she tells people I am a missionary, then they won’t look at me with fear and disgust because I live in a third world country. My mother solidifies her good reputation with God and her church friends because she raised a missionary daughter instead of an insane one. I can live comfortably in a third world country because I am ‘doing good things’ for all those pitiful poor people.

This conversation got me thinking about the definition of a third world country. Despite ever evolving definitions, most people envision a third world filled with suffering, dying, big bellied, crying, dirty, malnourished babies living with uneducated, extremely poor, emaciated, suffering, crying, dirty, and unemployed family members, who live in fear of a harsh, unbending dictator in a socialist or communist country with AK 47’s pointed in their faces.  Often these visions are accompanied by lots of sobbing and pitiful cries with bony fingers extended, and a malformed or underdeveloped baby clinging to a mother’s dried up breast, begging for milk money.

Now, my definition of a third world country can be summed up in one phrase…a lack of a middle class. In Nicaragua, there are impoverished millions in a vast lower economic class and a very small élite or upper class who control the country’s wealth and resources. What makes the United States a first world country and Nicaragua a third world country? If we use my definition, there are striking similarities. Maybe it’s time to reconsider our definitions and differences among a first, second, and third world country. Maybe it’s time to cast away our stereotypical perceptions and visions of people living in a third world country. Maybe it’s time to dissolve our differences and concentrate on our similarities.

When I ask people to explain their definition of a third world country, often it is expressed in a ranking scheme of economic development with the first world on top ( a capitalist society), the second world, and the third world ( socialist or communist) on the bottom rung. This comparative economic and political ranking is utter nonsense, and in my opinion, the real source of misguided evil that has poisoned our world.

All forms of societies ( first, second, or third worlds) give us food, clothing, a home, language, and the tools of a trade. As members of a society, we all seek comfort in sharing our joys, sorrows, and pleasures with friends and family. We satisfy our personal desires, dreams, and accomplishments through gaining attention and recognition from our fellow human beings. We all want to improve the conditions of our lives. We should be ONE world because we all share the same basic needs and wants.

The definitions of the three types of worlds only increase the gap and divide us as human beings. Attempts to pigeon-hole us into narrowly defined economic and political categories create a war of worlds. Personally, I’m tired of people asking me if I’m a missionary because I live in their warped perception of a third world country. I’m tired of trying to convince people that I’m safe, secure, and happy in my decision to live in Nicaragua.

I’ll continue to sigh and nod my head when my mother introduces me as a missionary in Nicaragua. Her perceptions of the world were set a long time ago and there is nothing I can do to change her mind or change her viewpoints. But, that doesn’t mean that I can’t plant seeds…little seeds of discontent with the crisis we are facing in the world today. One little seed, tenderly planted in the minds of the young…maybe we can become one world without war…compassionate world citizens. It’s a start.

10 thoughts on “War of Worlds

  1. Even though Nicaragua is a poor country, it is rich in spirit, We have not lost our humanity, it is place were people say good morning and wave when a neighbor or stranger passess by, It is a place were even the poorest families sit together to eat a meal. How often can you go to place and really appreciate what is truly important in life, Nicaragua might be a little rough around the edges but it is a place that is unspoiled from this Monster we call Materialism. I Love Nicaragua and Yearn for my return that God willing will happen soon sincerely. El Greco

  2. Mentality is different. What makes people in the us all that much better than any other country? Nothing! In NY people would only help in times of crises is that right? but that is reality… in nicaragua esp. Ometepe people are naturally helpful! Then i prefer third world!

  3. Great entry Deb, I get asked questions ( from a similar perspective ), about our decision to invest down there. For the narrow minded, which accounts for roughly 75%, the answer has become: “its almost always sunny, and the beer is cheap”, (except the motorcycle rentals are insanely expensive 🙂 and that in itself makes about half of the 75% want to buy a ticket. Rarely do i spend the time to explain in detail the experience of traveling, especially to vastly different cultures, to folks who haven’t already travelled to similar places themselves.Its also pleasant to get away from certain clicks of people if you know what i mean. Hell, a big part of the reason why i chose Ometepe was because of the TYPE of people who tend to relocate there. According to Simone, they seem to have a pioneer spirit.

    The map in my eyes is inaccurate.Three quarters of South America is above worldwide GDP averages, and multiple countries in the middle east, (which are red on this map) are some of our planets wealthiest. Ive always considered the 3rd world to represent a standard maybe even less than Nicaragua,( in fact i would use it as the threshold), while Nicaragua is statistically the second most impoverished country in the west, it ranks 130th out of 191 countries worldwide with statistical GDP per capita, it also has a brighter future.


  4. i guess it depends on your life experience. For example my mother and father came to the us illegally from el salvador during the 80s because they wanted a better life. People in third world country make 5 dollars a day. You cannot.live on that in el salbador nor argentina. That being said, its
    great you live in nicaragua but you have to think of the immigrants leaving those countries to risk their lives to come to the united states and why people here would then think you insane for moving to a country that is poor. I do want to point out u chose a good country to live in. There are other countries filled with violence at this moment such as mexico, honduras and el salvador

  5. Truly, I find that kind of thinking really bizarre – – when you think of the vast chasm between the “haves and have-nots” in America, growing worse all the time; our growing “police state”, seen online; our elections being illegally tallied; our food supply, thanks to Monsanto, Dow, etc. making us the fattest, sickest populace in the world; the many additional work hours WITHOUT higher wages that the poor must work – which DOESN’T keep their financial heads above water; the decreasing time that families have to actually BE a family, due to single parent homes, financial obligations, etc., the unaffordability of health care for many citizens – – – – – – – – people elsewhere should realize that in America, it’s the wealthy MINORITY that are doing well – – NOT the general population. I think you are living in an almost Paradise-like location, Deb – not perfect, as nothing in this world is indeed perfect – but you’re pretty damned close!!! If it weren’t for my kids and grandkids, I’d head out permanently for just such an adventure, to be sure!! I’m glad for you and Ron, and happy that you found your island paradise!!

  6. Why not just briefly share with people (e.g., your mother’s friends) what you find wonderfully appealing about Nicaragua and let it go it that. You may actually impart a little understanding to people who just don’t ‘get’ it! (On another note, re the map: Greenland…’third world’ – ??)

    • Sharon,
      I know…Greenland??? Not sure why it’s categorized as a third world country. One of the reasons I started my blog was to explain my thoughts on why I live in Nicaragua and the impact that compassionate cultural immersion has had on my life. I present slide shows and give little talks when I return back to the states, too. Some get it…others will never understand. Oh, well.

  7. I had a similar conversation with some new friends last night (obviously it was not my choice to be here but at this point i would not change this place for any other) one of the girls in the group had a little fall on a scooter and she was amazed by how people came to help her really quick, cleaned her dusty hands and pretty much took care of her and when she tried to compare that with what she thinks it may had happen in the states, well you are from there so you know what it may or may not happen in a situation like that

      • Compared and contrasted the difference. Had an amazing start of a morning. Fell and hurt my ankle walking down a set of stairs only 1 person had came to my assistance after a good while and everyone else had bystander effect meanwhile when I fell in moyogalpa I had someone assisting me immediately hmm….

I'd love to read your ideas and thoughts below....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.