The richness of poverty


”I was in Yugoslavia twenty years ago. I thought that was the worst it could get. I could never imagine this. Such poverty…” he let the sentence hang in the air, holding his breath for a few seconds. Then we both sat silent for a while.

I’ve never really thought of Mauritania as a poor country. But It depends on how you define poverty. Economically, sure many people don’t have a lot, many survive and not much more. In the villages it’s much more difficult than in the city. But being alive? Most of my Mauritanian friends are more alive than my European friends will ever be. They put a value into things that Swedes take for granted. Things that many Swedes can’t see the value of. Such as a variety of food. There are spices and ingredients from all over the world to choose from in the smallest of shops, and there is no way it would be in any other way. What if Ica one day would remove 98% of their products?

I’m not saying that it’s wrong, it’s a pretty cool phenomenon, but it shouldn’t be for granted. It should be something that we appreciate and think about. Why do we have this great variety? Why does Mauritania not have it? Last night a went for a dinner with a girl from couch surfing and her colleagues. Some of them work for embassy’s and some for humanitarian organizations. We talked about food. How much the stores in Europe throw away because they cannot make money of it. If it’s close to the last date no one want to pay for it, and instead of giving it away for free it’s put in the dumpsters. Here you can buy half rotten tomatoes at the market, no one is gonna throw them away. Part of them is still edible.

Here most of the roads are unpaved and the cars often get stuck in the soft sand. Goats walk around all over the city, chew on plastic and seem pretty pleased with life. If a goat would walk around in central Stockholm it would be removed quickly. For its own sake and for the humans. Because humans and animals are not supposed to be mixed in a city, that’s for the countryside. Here it’s a natural part of society to have animals around. Not just goats; donkeys and camels as well. Camels aren’t that common in the city center, but just outside the core of town you can see them; standing in the shade chewing on something, looking as cool as always. (As my ex said; dogs and cats aren’t animals, they’re pets)

People might not dress in expensive brands and eat a great variety of food, they might seem dirty and smell something different (human) than whatever perfume is popular at the moment. They live, appreciate what they have and they are rich in life. Richer than you might ever be.


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