One of the most striking differences for me since I moved here is that I now know myself to be wealthy in a way I did not before. Owen makes less money here than he did in the states, but here it is far more noticeable that we have so very much. I think the reason I notice it so much more here is because 1) unlike in America, the poor are not separated from those who have enough to be comfortable, and 2) there is no social safety net in the Dominican Republic and so poverty is much more severe.
I wanted to mention two different common occurances here that I find so shocking to my American sensibilities.
The first I see every day. Men with severe handicaps or severe deformations (something we are not accustomed to seeing with the medical system in the U.S. intervening when children are very young) beg at busy intersections to make a living. Almost all of them have such a serious physical ailment that they are unable to walk well and/or have such deformed hands (or, literally, no hands) that they can barely hold the cup to receive money. With no welfare or public assistance of any kind, these men are at the mercy of drivers to provide for themselves and, possibly, their families. Many drivers keep change handy to give to these men.
The second has happened more infrequently, but enough times that it is not wholly unexpected to me now. People will ring the doorbell to ask if we have any food. I don't know why I find that so shocking, but somehow it is one of the most un-American experiences I have here.
I will say that the one benefit to the government/societal systems here is that there is a lot less confusion about whether or not to give to the poor. Yes. Obviously, something far more comprehensive and long-term is needed, involving education and health care and governmental reform and many things I'm sure I am not even aware of. It just feels more personal when there aren't organizations taking care of it for us.