Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Like Coming Home
The human condition has the same smell no matter where you go in the world. This is something that amazed me when I first realized it, but the barrio of La Paz, Bolivia smells just the same as the back alleys of Baghdad or the projects of Atlanta. It's the stench of human waste, diesel fumes, urine, unwashed people in greasy clothing, automobile exhaust, rotting garbage, and food cooking in some nearby kitchen. It's an odor that flashes back memories of other similar locations, places where humans struggle day-to-day for food and means; dirt-crusted, sunburnt children play amid the pot holes and blowing trash; and the old simply sit in the shadows, waiting and staring.
The smell of abject poverty, that which covers the vast majority of this planet, is similar to the odor of human death. It's one that will linger with you forever, one that you will never quite be able to wash out of your senses no matter how hard you scrub. Over time it becomes familiar, almost comforting, like coming home again.