Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Different thoughts

In the heart of Cali, Colombia, the "Hotel Pension Stein",
a refuge with a Swiss flair.

At lunch, James and Soraya were dining at another table with Gabriella. I had just written the notes for the previous entry. Looking at this couple, with their adopted daughter, I realize they are actually doing something that in a small, yet significant way addresses the social injustice I cited. They are giving a child, whose prospects in Colombia are grim, a better life.

I shared my thoughts with them and learned a little more about the adoption process they (and other families staying here at Pension Stein) are going through. They are working through the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF) and the "Chiquitines" orphanage. After a year-long process, when the time comes to meet their child, the parents come to Colombia and spend roughly a month working with the folks at "Chiquitines" who offer parenting training, counseling, support and guidance. Apparently, Pensión Stein is recommended as a safe, convenient and welcoming place to stay. (So we have three or four families here right now, at different stages of the process.) The final step before heading home is securing a passport and visa for the adopted child.

During this process, they have met with mothers considering giving their children up for adoption. Soraya said that often the mother's motivation is "love"; they want to see their child have a better life than they are capable of providing.

I began to look at this couple, and two other couples I've met from Holland, in a different and much more appreciative light.


The "Social Room" at "Hotel Pensión Stein"

One of the lunch treats here is fresh fruit nectars. Today's was papaya-passion fruit. Wonderful!

Since the hotel was still having internet connection problems, I went to a location James and Soraya recommended: the "Cibermatrix" internet cafe at the mall in Chipi Chopi. A fairly up-scale shopping center, this is clearly a popular place to gather, and not just for teens. It is crowded with people of all ages. The internet cafe, on the other hand, was predominantly occupied by young people. It's a large facility, and doing a very big business providing internet and telephone services.

My room is that little one on the ground floor, with the Swiss shield by the door. (Photo: Hotel Stein)


Maybe my sense of responsibility to family and other readers will help overcome my reservations about taking photos in uncomfortable situations. A smaller camera for this journey would have been much more practical and inconspicuous.


Tonight, as I watch Spanish fishermen express anger at their market being flooded with cheap imports, citing low wages in other countries as the reason they can sell so low. This is such a common refrain. Jobs in First World nations will only continue to disappear as borders become less of an obstacle in this Global Economy.

At some point, if there is indeed a collective conscience, the World will need to establish a Global Minimum Wage, and a basic standard of living to which all people are entitled. Those in the First World will have to make greater concessions, paying a fair price for the products produced in Third World nations. Organizations such as the U.N. and W.T.O. (or other international body) must be empowered to address a new paradigm in corporate greed. (When production costs can be cut by 80% by exporting jobs to the Third World, while retail prices vary only slightly; when environmental, social and ethical standards can be evaded by the same mechanism, First World governments, corporations and citizens are all culpable. It is the same scenario I cited earlier: effluent and pollution flowing downhill, to those who can least defend themselves.)

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