Safely back in Copan Ruinas after two weeks in Canada and the northwest U.S., and still thinking about differences between the countries.
Life is generally better in North America. Schools, health care, government, income, equality - everything works better, I told anyone in the north who asked.
But then I usually warned them, too loudly, that they had to fight to make sure things stayed that way.
Practically, water figured in two of the best things about being back in Canada. I could stick a glass under any tap and drink clean water, impossible in Honduras.
And I could flush toilet paper away, instead of placing tidily folded - I think of it as bathroom origami - offerings in a plastic bag, to be bundled up for garbage day.
Access to drinkable water is important. We buy bottled water, five gallons for $1, which I carry back from the little farm supply store on the next block. (So far, I estimate that I have lugged a little more than three tonnes of water into the house.)
But most people can’t afford water, or can’t get the bottles up the trails into their villages. Many drink iffy water, accepting the various sicknesses that brings. (Another reason that about 29 per cent of Honduran children under five are stunted - significantly too short for their age.)
Partly, of course, that’s because Honduras is just too poor and the government too broke to pay for working water systems. Why it’s so poor, and the government so broke, is a whole other question. Corruption, inefficiency, tax evasion, dependency, failed policies - you can make a long list of problems. (Foreigners do help with water projects, especially in rural communities. But 50 per cent fail within five years, according to an engineer speaking at the Conference on Honduras last year.)
Almost anyone in Canada can turn on a tap and get drinkable water because we decided to make that a priority. We decided to tax people based on what they could pay, hire competent staff and build water systems that served everyone. (Almost everyone - First Nations’ communities have dismal water services, and there are hundreds of B.C. communities on boil-water advisories at any time.)
People pay for water, but it’s affordable and available in their homes.
Not everyone in Canada thinks that approach is right. The less-government crew - or at least the extremists - would argue that the whole process of supplying water should be left to the private sector and the market. Those who can pay will get water. Those who can’t.... I suppose they will develop an understanding of life in Honduras.