Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why Hubby Loves His Country

There are many things about life here in Saudi Arabia that are inconvenient, difficult to accomplish, and time consuming. But then on the other hand, there are other things that are so much easier to get done, as well as being much cheaper than in the states.


For example, the other morning my husband left to take my son to school, but he came back in much quicker than usual. Turns out he had a flat tire on his SUV, so he sent Adam to school in a cab. Hubby then called his Nephew to come and assist him in getting the flat fixed. Nephew arrived within 15 minutes, much to the pleasure of my Hubby. In the states, we never really had any family living close to us who would be able to show up like that at the drop of a hat. Together Hubby and Nephew dismounted the deflated tire and drove off to see about having it repaired.

In less than an hour, Hubby returned, smiling from ear to ear. He proceeded to tell me about the saga of the flat tire. Hubby told me that he and Nephew had taken the deflated tire to a nearby garage. Immediately the guy at the garage took the tire and began working on it, without discussing first what work would be involved and what the charges might be. So when the Gargage Guy was about half-way through, Hubby, ever the Joker, started giving Garage Guy a hard time, saying that he didn't have any money with him to pay for his services.

"No problem!" Garage Guy told him. So basically Garage Guy was saying he would do the job for free if Hubby had no money. After a bit more of friendly banter, Hubby pulled out his wallet and looked inside. "Oh!" Hubby said. "I've got five riyals (about $1.25 US). Is that enough?"

"That's fine!" declared Garage Guy. "Whatever you can afford," the agreeable Garage Guy offered. When Garage Guy was done fixing the flat tire, Hubby gave the man a 50 riyal bill (about $12.50 US). Garage Guy reached into his pocket, pulled out his wallet and counted out 45 riyals in change and handed it back to Hubby! Because Garage Guy was so good natured about everything, Hubby gave the change right back to him.

"This is why I love this country!" Hubby declared to me. "Would something like this happen in America? I don't think so. First, I'd have to take a number, then I'd have to wait maybe a couple of hours, and probably have to prepay the gouged up charges before any work would be done." Hubby got the tire back on his car and it's been just fine since.

Of course there are many reasons why my husband enjoys being back home in his country - this is just one example why.

53 comments:

  1. I do agree with this <3 My husband has told me countless stories of good times in KSA - I think what he misses most at the moment are how close everybody is. Here, you can't just drive around and meet your friends out of the blue (usually). In my husband's city, he knows everyone! If anything went wrong, there was always someone who could help.

    It is definitely something that is better there than here. Great post!

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  2. If you husband had spent more time in rural parts of the US, he would find similar things happening.

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  3. do you have a twitter account susie?

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  4. @Jerry M

    This is in Riyadh....one of the (if not THE) largest cities in the country.

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  5. Everytime I read the blog is getting better & better! Great job! Very interesting. Overall comment about the last few entries: The KSA is most certainly a man's world. And if a woman showed up at that garage? What would happen? Would the nice, joking man insult her modesty? Or would she seduce him? Hey, what about the modesty of the woman who buys her underwear from the man's shop in the market? (I remember you wrote about that once.) I think if I lived there I would become fearful of leaving the house. The contradictions (to our Western minds) are so difficult to reconcile. But then your personal interactions seem so lovely. And the places, like the fish restaurant under the sea-fantastic! Snow in a mall-amazing. Keep up the good work. It most certainly is a big adventure. Ilse.

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  6. Things like this still happen in places like Douglas. It is too bad big cities aren't as friendly!!

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  7. Where I live, it's hard to be stuck with no help. Though neighbours aren't always helpful, still it's not a problem at all.

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  8. Texas is like that. Strangers will help each other here. My hubby has been known to walk up to a strange woman in a parking lot that's trying to load something heavy into her car, load it up for her, and walk away. Strangers will chat with each other in the stores, too.

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  9. If all else, the culture and rules of Saudi Arabia definitely do result in closer families, a definite positive. My family is spread out all over Western Canada and gets together every few years for a reunion, so it would be difficult to call on a family member myself. I have to concur with Jerry, however. Coming from a rural background, I have experienced similar stories such as the one your husband had with the Garage Guy. As well, it is very easy to drop in on the neighbours (being respectful of dinner hour, of course) back home, but unheard of now that I'm in the big city. Here, I know exactly two other occupants of my apartment building, and one of them I knew before I moved in..

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  10. That was wonderful. Althogh problems like that can usually be fixed pretty quick, if you have friend or family near by, have bars on you phone to call for aid, and don't feel in a rush about it all. Shit happens to us all once in a while.

    Hadn't heard "Norwegan Wood" in a long time. Thanks.

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  11. I am glad to see you posting some of the good points of living in Saudi Arabia. And I am sorry to hear that your blog has been blocked by the government. I wasn wondering when they would.

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  12. I was just going to add that I am amazed at how cheap garage services are in Saudi Arabia! Then I saw the note that your blog has been blocked in Saudi Arabia :( :( I hope you can get it resolved soon!

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  13. I was thinking the very same thing as Jerry. I thought that very scenario could have happened here easily. The only difference would have been that he wouldn't have had to call a taxi because Susie would have had a car to take him to school and then she could have driven her husband to get the tire fixed. You wouldn't even have needed the nephew at all.

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  14. Things like that happen here too.Of course it helps when the local garage guy is your neighbor!
    Having family around is wonderful........most of the time :)

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  15. Great example of what is loveable about many traditional places, and of the quality of human interaction (the humour,and sense of connectedness) that many Arabs say they miss in North America.

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  16. I've always said the USA does not have that widespread kinship so many other countries enjoy. It's because we are so diverse here. You can see it now and then, though, like how the Latins seek each other out, as well as other groups. It's human nature to feel connected to someone of similar background.

    I can definitely understand Adnan's perspective.

    As for getting a flat fixed. It's been my experience that can pull into any garage here and someone will help you right away. I don't know about the price negotiations though.

    On a side note: I was hurrying to my daughter's school one day when I ran out of gas on the highway off ramp. A complete stranger stopped, took me to a gas station then returned me to my car. Who was that stranger? I'll never know but she was an angel and I'll remember her always.

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  17. I've always said the USA does not enjoy the widespread kinship that most countries do. We are from so many different backgrounds. (It's easier to shun someone outside your group) You can see the desire to flock with birds of a feather when looking at the Latins here who seek each other out, as well as other ethnic groups.

    I can understand the way Adnan feels.

    As for getting a flat fixed. It's been my experience that you just need to pull into a garage and someone will help you right away. I can't say about the price negotiations.

    One a side and similar note: I was hurrying to my daughter's school one day for a function when I ran out of gas on the highway off ramp. A completely stranger stopped, took me to the gas station then back to my car. I will always remember that angel and remain eternally grateful.

    Linda D.

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  18. I enjoy reading your blog and am sorry to hear there are problems with accessing it in SA. i hope that will be resolved soon. I think that the information you post is quite fair and helpful to understand the culture. You also clear up some of our misconceptions.

    sirod Um Umar

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  19. It's somewhat like this in Victoria BC, maybe not with the mechanics ect, but with the willingness of people to help out. However where I live now it's all about greed and no one is willing to help for free, it's very much of a what can this person do for me attitude

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  20. I have lived in various countries and have found the people in the USA to be very greedy and not very helpful to strangers. They may help you if they know you, but if you have an accent and obviously not from around here, they don’t. One time my car battery was down in the grocery parking lot in August, and only 2 miles from the house – my husband out of town – I had no one I could call and did call the AAA. They came 2 hours later. My groceries were all melted and no one had come to help me, and this is supposed to be the friendly South! My father was brought up in the Middle East; he gave so much to many people he did not even know. Here they don’t even expect anything friendly from a stranger – the woman ahead of me at the store needed some change, two quarters, so I gave them to her, she was amazed.

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  21. Hello Susie

    Wishing you all the best in accessing your blog! You have been providing us with an extremely interesting insight into KSA. I think most readers would agree that you also do your best to convey a fair portrayal of life there and air a range of views. Thank you very much, on behalf of all of us readers! We look forward to more of your thoughts, hopefully soon!

    Regards

    Kristina

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  22. Send that garage guy over here! Please! We need him here desperately.

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  23. "I have lived in various countries and have found the people in the USA to be very greedy and not very helpful to strangers"

    That is a gross and sweeping generalisation that I can apply to people I've met in the UAE, Egypt, and SPain: all countries in which I've lived. But oddly enough, I can think of just as many acts of generosity. I've been touched by regular acts of kindness in Seattle (population marignally smaller than Riyadh's), and I've also received very kind acts on the streets of Sharjah from Britons and Emiratis alike. As for negotiating the price, that is generally related to culture. With that said, I stopped by a local Seattle body shop about a year ago w/ a piece of trim hanging of my door. When he screwed it back on, I asked how much. He shrugged and said, "Five dollars?" I think I had $4.30 in my wallet, and that's what he took. While the flexible pricing system in place is unique to certain parts of the world (one could argue about the underpaid staff manning most service stations in the region), kindness and generosity to strangers is not.

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  24. "I have lived in various countries and have found the people in the USA to be very greedy and not very helpful to strangers"

    That is a gross and sweeping generalisation that I can apply to people I've met in the UAE, Egypt, and SPain: all countries in which I've lived. But oddly enough, I can think of just as many acts of generosity. I've been touched by regular acts of kindness in Seattle (population marignally smaller than Riyadh's), and I've also received very kind acts on the streets of Sharjah from Britons and Emiratis alike. As for negotiating the price, that is generally related to culture. With that said, I stopped by a local Seattle body shop about a year ago w/ a piece of trim hanging of my door. When he screwed it back on, I asked how much. He shrugged and said, "Five dollars?" I think I had $4.30 in my wallet, and that's what he took. While the flexible pricing system in place is unique to certain parts of the world (one could argue about the underpaid staff manning most service stations in the region), kindness and generosity to strangers is not.

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  25. Well we've had some good and bad experiences when it comes to helping out in time of need.

    One time my husbands van broke down right in traffic...middle of summer...4 young kids with us. It was a small two lane road which meant cars were backed up to go to the other lane to get around us. My husband was a mechanic so had the hood up trying to fix it...but in that 2 hours we were stuck there not one person stopped to ask if we needed help...this is Bahrain mind you where everyone pretty much knows everyone.

    Another time we had car troubles in this unfamiliar neighborhood. While he sorted it out...a man came out and offered for the kids and I to come inside out of the heat....his wife served us treats etc and the kids had fun. The husband spent time helping my husband and it turned out not to be such a bad day after all.

    All depends on who drives by or looks out the window etc when your in need.

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  26. The Queen, why would it be better if Susie had a car and had to go get her husband and take him to the garage? I drive, but my husband would call a male relative or friend in that situation, and I wouldn't have to be bothered, which is fine with me!

    Another Anonymous

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  27. Nice when things like this still happen. Here happen only in small places, another mood, another pace of life, more approachable people..

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  28. Hi Susie--Just echoing the concerns about your blog access, and hoping all is resolved in a positive way soon.

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  29. Hi Susie,
    Wow! I'm a bit shocked at your blog being blocked by the Saudi government...but I'm not at all surprised. It's too bad...I have found your blog to be so informative and from a true perspective. Are they fearful of that? I've had a great experience with my local Discount Tire just down the street from me! People are helpful and some are not - in all parts of the world. Wouldn't it be a much sweeter world if mankind was always willing to help the other out?

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  30. Another interesting blog, I enjoyed reading your posts which provides hope and inspirations to expats around the world particularly on women living in Middle East. I hope the "block access" be resolved soon.

    Life is Beautiful.

    A blessed Monday morning to you.

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  31. I've just learn that you block is blocked by the Saudi...I hope everything will turn ok for you and you won't get in any trouble....I always find you blog very interesting and it's scary to think that the Saudi gov. pays someone (or use some programs) to check every blog for anything that could offend them...I know that this happens in the majority of the regime around the world (from China to Burma)but anyway this censorship is "personal" to me since "i know you" through your blog

    Ciao

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  32. Another Anonymous,
    Why should a male relative or friend be put out for your family's needs when you are available? Why should your time more precious than theirs? Your family should be your responsibility and only call someone else if you are unavailable or otherwise unable. But see that's what it is like when you are raised to be responsible and self sufficient. It can be considered rude to ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself. Do you understand what I mean?

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  33. I've heard your blog has been blocked in KSA. You've never said anything negative, so I don't really understand why they've done it or what do they fear, people thinking or expressing pros and cons? In today's world...that is going to be difficult...

    I hope that is solved soon, and that there are no other consequences.

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  34. I've come in late and I'm not too interested in joining the above debate--I'd just like to leave a quick comment on the blogpost itself. It made me smile--I do so value the more laidback attitudes of Saudi. It's not just Saudi, and it's not always true in Saudi, but it is refreshing when you DO encounter an honest man who is uninfected by the profit-bug. :)

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  35. And I hear you've been blocked in Saudi?? Here's hoping things work out for you...I'm sorry!!

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  36. The Queen, the nephew IS family. That's the kind of thing he would do for his uncle, and I assume that his uncle would do the same for him if he needed it. If you consider it rude and irresponsible, then don't do it! :)

    But in Saudi, families are much closer (I know some Westerner will say that their family is close; I'm speaking generally); they spend a lot of time together and it's normal to help each other out. It's common for a man to call a friend or relative to keep him company while he goes to do some paperwork or run errands, etc., when he's not in any need. Women do the same when they go to visit someone or go shopping, etc. Just because it's different from what you're used to doesn't mean that you should think yourself so much better. One might argue that a culture where people help each other out without hesitation is a good thing.

    Another Anonymous

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  37. I'm so sorry, Susie, that KSA has blocked your blog. Your blog did nothing but hold a mirror up and reflect the very best and the different of their culture. I enjoyed your adventures and learning about a different way of life. You never said anything bad about KSA. I don't understand their actions. Be careful, Susie. Maybe you should come home? I will miss you! Hugs!

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  38. Vagabonde, what a horrible generalization you are making. I am from the South and there have been plenty of times where complete strangers have gone out of their way to help (And I do the same)....and other times where you feel like no one cares at all....I've experience both ALL OVER THE WORLD. But to make such a negative statement about a WHOLE region paints the speaker in a bad light more so than the group or region he/she is slandering.

    Anon...and if the nephew or another male relative weren't able to make it and susie was available? But she can't b/c she can't drive. If my father's truck were to break down, he would call me to come get him mostly b/c I am the closest one near him. More than likely he WOULDN'T b/c he is a mechanic and would fix it himself. But the fact that I AM available and can come of my own volition with no worries about breaking any laws....a saudi girl who lives in a similar situation as me wouldn't be able to do it. I remember reading an article last year of a Saudi father and his two sons being burned badly in a house fire....for whatever reason the ambulance couldn't come, and the daughter dressed up in a thobe and other male clothing and drove her father and brothers to the nearest hospital....she said in the interview as soon as she pulled up the emergency personnel were shocked at her being behind the wheel. Of course, she didn't get in trouble....although I am sure there were some people who thought she should have. But the sad fact is she had to go to those lengths to make sure her family were safe, even if it meant breaking societal/government rules.

    And as far as the family connections and a culture "where people help each other out without hesitation"...you can find people in ANY CULTURE who are like that. This isn't about one culture being superior to another. There are upsides and downsides to every culture.

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  39. Here in US, I left my lights on and returned 8 hours later, the care didn't start of course, I asked an old guy who didn't smile if he can help me jump start my care, he moved his car ahead of mine, took his time looking inside my hood, suggested some other fixes that i should do and fixed my car in no time, he didn't even hear me say thank you sir, it was so touching his quick response and efficient help, these things just make your day...

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  40. It's nice to hear a positive story about middle east/erners for a change! Thanks for sharing.

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  41. Susie,

    Last year I had a flat in washington DC and I took my tire to a garage on Conn. Ave and they fixed it in 10 minutes for 10 dollars -- no number, no gouge, I didn't ask the price first. It would have been double if I wanted them to put the wheel back on; but in fact it's not hard to do it by one's self and doesn't really require a nephew.

    Glad your husband enjoys KSA as I do now, but let's not perpetuate stereotypes about either country please.

    hmp

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  42. Eastern reflections, The Queen's comments were very much about her way being superior, and that's what I was referring to.

    Another Anonymous

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  43. Another anonymous:'Just because it's different from what you're used to doesn't mean that you should think yourself so much better.'

    EXACTLY!


    'One might argue that a culture where people help each other out without hesitation is a good thing.'

    But of course, and I believe that the comments here have proven that that culture is also to be found in places other than KSA. I think that the difference lies where there is less necessity to intrude on other's lives when the wife is available. This does not mean that the nephew, brother, cousin,sister, neice, mother-in-law, sister-in-law etc in the U.S wouldn't be more than happy to help if nearby and available. How can more choices NOT be superior? LOL

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  44. unfortunately ur husband probably had a good experience because he is a native saudi...unfortunately if he had been a white man i seriously doubt he would have got that treatment..he would have gotten ripped off most probably like most westerners experience in foreign countries...but in america im sure everyone gets the same price, and ill take fairness over special treatment any day of the week.

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  45. The Queen, it's silly that I have to keep clarifying, and this will be the last time, but...

    I never said that other cultures don't have people who help each other; that would be ridiculous.

    Go back and read your comment. You said that by asking a nephew to help with something, a person was being rude. He thinks his time is more precious, he's causing the relative to be "put out", he must not have been brought up responsible and self-sufficient (unlike the Queen). What you see as rude is what others might see as a normal case of family helping each other out.

    I find your method of discussing pretty typical of comments here and on other blogs, though. Someone has an opinion, and if another commenter disagrees with any aspect, she's assumed to be taking the most extreme opposite opinion. It's not conducive to sharing ideas...

    Another Anonymous

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  46. Antoher Anonymous:
    '...I drive, but my husband would call a male relative or friend in that situation, and I wouldn't have to be bothered, which is fine with me!'

    Bother someone else so that you would not have to be bothered? It's your own words. Enough said.

    But the thing is, you are obviously not in KSA or else you wouldn't even have the option available to you which was my ONLY point no matter what you might want to read into it for whatever reason. I think YOU might be the one that wants to do some re-reading because I did and I never said, as you say I did 'You said that by asking a nephew to help with something, a person was being rude'

    What I did say was:
    'Another Anonymous,
    Why should a male relative or friend be put out for your family's needs when you are available? Why should your time more precious than theirs? Your family should be your responsibility and only call someone else if you are unavailable or otherwise unable. But see that's what it is like when you are raised to be responsible and self sufficient. It can be considered rude to ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself. Do you understand what I mean?'

    That's a far cry from saying 'You said that by asking a nephew to help with something, a person was being rude'

    I'm sorry if the fact that I value self sufficiency offends your sensibilities.

    I'm glad that your last clarification was your last. ;-)

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  47. "he would have gotten ripped off most probably like most westerners experience in foreign countries..."

    As a Westerner who has spent the last 20 years in the Gulf, I can tell you that Westerners are typically treated VERY well - often better than natives and certaily better than the foreigners from various other countries.

    As for the heart-warming stories about people helping people in the U.S., I wonder how many of them would have been different if the person in trouble was the wrong race or religion?

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  48. you must be really new to the eastern culture! The same thing happens in any eastern bloc. I am from the east and moved to the US and was reminded of mother teresa's sentence "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love."
    Saudi has draconian laws. Move further east to India or Japan.

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  49. Hi Suzie, so glad your back! While visiting Jeddah about 2 months ago, we had a flat tire comming back from one of the private beaches. While 2 very western women and the poor driver were on the road trying to get the tire off to change, a car did a total u-turn and drove up beside us. Three youn saudi men stopped and asked if we needed help and asked if we were ok. I thought the gesture was so sweet. I dont think this would happen in Riyadh. I was very touched. BTW I loved Jeddah, and am thinking of transfering there to work. So much more to do, And there is just something about a coastal town......

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  50. Wow, the sheer face on someone from India calling the West uncaring !! Most western countries have negligible amounts of destitute people, healthcare for all, and rule of law. All I saw in India was desperate poverty, filth and corruption. Literally, bodies in the street.

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  51. @Blewyn,
    your sentence makes as much sense as saying the Americans are rapist murderers who pillage other countries for something that happened 10 years ago. Your sentence defies logic so much that I am over overwhelmed and don't know where to begin. Let me give you a hint: Poor people does not mean less caring. And did it ever cross your mind that poverty in India is a direct result of western colonization? I am not even saying that west is bad and the east is good. They have their weakness & strengths. For all the poverty that India has its more than made up by non-aggressive nature of its people? How else can you explain a stable developing country with the lowest per-capita police in the world?

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  52. India: Think caste system, bride burnings, female foeticide, the fact that most women and men think it's OK for a husband to beat his wife sometimes, abandonment of elderly widows by their children, children sent to work as domestic labor and treated horribly... for some reason, none of this causes any outrage in the West.

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