Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Gravity of the Situation

One more Ukraine post!

Alright. Before I begin, I just want to give you fair warning: this post is serious. While the previous Ukraine blogs have been funny (or maybe not, maybe I actually have no comedic skills and no one thought my puns and lines were as funny as I did...) I want to make a point with this post and its a fairly serious topic. Ok, ready? I did warn you. Let's go. 
One of the most surprising elements of our Ukraine trip was witnessing the corruption that riddles the nation. As a child I didn't catch on to anything going on around me, or maybe I was sheltered from it, but coming back this time, I was absolutely shocked by just how deeply and tightly the fingers of The System reach. There are major examples, but mostly, on a day to day basis, its the little things that make the difference. 
Ok wait, before I go on, I want to just put it out there that I feel this experience is important for me to retell. You, as the reader, might not care, in which case I totally give you permission to stop reading now, or you might disagree, maybe you know better. But in the event that someone reads this, what I observed, someone who can make a difference somehow, even maybe far in the future, then this post will have mattered. Or maybe its just important to draw a little awareness to a world issue. Ok then. 
The mafia is real. It's not just history, or a game played in summer camp cabins, neither is it confined to Latin and South America as I'd thought (forgive me if this stereotype offends anyone). And its big. It controls everything. Small businesses are shut down if they refuse to "contribute" to the "state". Government officials are... "connected". The richest parts of the city are beautiful and clean and sharply contrast the poorest neighborhoods.  

One of the sharpest shocks was that the mafia is in every organization, including law enforcement. Especially law enforcement. Drivers can be pulled over for anything (or rather, nothing), or even for violating a sign that is illegally positioned. Ok, fine, enforce driving laws, sure that sounds great. But most policemen give the people the option to bribe them immediately, instead of paying the fine. And most people do, because they think they're getting the cheaper option, when, often, if they argued their case they might be able to get off, as the offense was imaginary. 

The corruption reaches even to children. Students do not earn grades, they pay for them. No joke. And it comes from the teacher. A family friend of ours recounted having to decide whether to submit to such corruption, to allow her child a chance to get the grade she deserved, or to oppose the system but cost her daughter her academic record. It's insanity. How can the society hope to improve and evolve past this primitive system when they teach even their children such manners?

Seeing veterans standing on the street begging for a penny from the people they fought for, children worried about their future because they don't want to be part of the system that is inescapable, and family members working to provide for themselves but stay undetected so as not to have to share their "wealth".

It was... very educational. This post is just a very brief glimpse into what we saw or what what I understood. It's difficult to share it accurately. But don't think it's a miserable place; people are happy and do what they can to live how they want to live. But still there's a lot of work that needs to take place, a lot of growth that could help the people so much. Reminds me of why I'm at UWC. I just hope that one day, as cheesy as this souds, each child can earn their grades and have dreams for the future.

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