How a $20 bus ride taught me what is wrong with the United States (Hint: Not Obama)

cartagena to santa marta

En route from Cartagena to Santa Marta, Colombia. Day 4.

I am sitting on a twenty-seater Mercedes Benz bus from Cartagena to Santa Marta. Despite the sweltering heat outside, I am freezing. The driver put the A/C on max. I should have known from my time in Mexico: don’t wear tank tops on buses.

Most drivers seem to know only two settings: Off, or Max.

I remember riding a cap in Puebla, Mexico. It poured outside and the windshield steamed up. The driver, having all windows down and the A/C on cold, wiped the glass with his sleeves… without success.

He was amazed to learn about the windshield-only A/C setting. In all his years, he never checked.

Anyways, the ride I am on now runs me less than $20 for almost 200k’s.

I’d say that’s a good deal for being picked up and dropped off, door-to-door.

In case you are in need of transportation from Cartagena to Santa Marta, try MarSol.

Ok, so what is this article here about?

The United States, of course.

I spent almost 20 months in the U.S., living in New York, Virginia, and Florida.

Despite what most citizens are told, I don’t think it is the greatest country in the world. In fact, I think it is quite far removed from that.

Here is why:

Most Americans seem disconnected from commonplace experience

Commonpl… What? Let me explain.

When I look out the window now, I see small brick houses, many of them without proper roofing. I see children playing in the streets. I see dogs being fed and people sitting on plastic chairs in front of their imperfect homes, laughing.

It looks like everyone runs a small business.

Some sell Empanadas (fried bread, stuffed with meat or veggies), others repair bikes. Elders take the boys out on fishing trips.

In Cartagena, I noticed similar situations.

There is a cathedral in the middle of the Getsemani-district, surrounded by a plaza.

At night, this plaza turns into the heart of social life.

Kids are being kids, playing soccer. Vendors sell their goods. Local musicians showcase their skills. Breakdance groups are videotaped. Families are socializing, having a bear.

Human beings seem to be connected, enjoying life’s free treats.

In the United States, this almost never happens.

People live in huge houses, all by themselves, building fences. Some cities don’t even have sidewalks. There are no old market squares or natural city centers, but loads of franchise fast-food bunkers and drive-through pharmacies.

In short: Exchange between humans does not come natural.

I’m not trying to bash on the United States here (not more than usual). I am just comparing the obvious facts. In so called “third world” countries, human beings seem more connected, and mostly, happier. I have seen kids in Africa playing in dirt, giggling. I have seen teenagers  in the U.S. driving Bentley’s, looking pissed off.

Hip Hop Hurray!

Psychological distress is among the highest in the world in the “home of the brave”. So are prescription drug and suicide rates.

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Maybe a little more connection and a little less consumption would help.

Or maybe being disconnected and isolated with our phones is the next step in human evolution?

Who knows.

I will connect with you again tomorrow from Santa Marta.

Be well, friend.

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