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Third World poverty jolts visitors from our country

 A woman and her four kids walk for miles to try to sell firewood (balanced on boys' heads) in the Philippines.
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Date published: 1/20/2013

IN MY LITTLE corner of the world, it seems 2013 is the year we discover poverty.

People who write about travel rarely write about the kind of poverty I'm talking about: dire, life-or-death poverty; subsistence living; life at the edge.

The only time I saw poverty on that scale was passing through the Panama Canal many years ago.

I was on a trans-Pacific crossing and as we exited the last lock, I stood--binocs steadied on the railing--and saw a world I'd only read about, in the city of Colon. As far as I could see, people were living in shacks, under cardboard lean-tos, and beneath slabs of corrugated metal roofing.

Those images were burned into my memory.

My brother is on the Philippine Island of Cebu as I write this. That kind of poverty is all around him. He emailed today:

"Whenever I come to the Philippines the same impressions come back: The abject poverty and lack of cleanliness are two things that hit you; the craziness on the roads, the contrast between the haves (have a lot) and the have nots (ain't got much or ain't got nothin'.)

"But the human spirit prevails, and life goes on "

Life in Philippine cities is better--modern shopping malls, fine universities and hospitals, he writes, and roads have improved in many places by this, his 10th (he thinks) trip there.

"I always return home with a new appreciation of how damned lucky we are," Glen commented.

Nick Cadwallender of Fredericksburg just got back from a family trip to Senegal, where daughter Mary is a Peace Corps volunteer.

Poverty there is depressing, he said. Cadwallender, who has traveled widely, said the poverty--combined with filth and poor infrastructure--was disturbing.

I won't go into detail as Cadwallender, publisher of this newspaper, may write about that trip himself.

But even here there is a positive side. Mary teaches farming to people whose diet is simple grains, day-in and day-out. She has worked miracles in grain production in the 18 months she has worked in the Senegalese village, he said.

Take a look at her blog: marycad.wordpress.com.

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