Thursday, August 30, 2007


I was in the front seat of a taxi coming home from a night of dancing last weekend with 5 friends (it was a tight fit). As we pulled off the main street within a few blocks of the office, we had to stop and then drive slowly around the man lying down handcuffed in the middle of the dirt road.

The driver of the police truck coming the opposite way started slowly, and then slammed on his breaks as a different man was pushed by a policeman into the road as well. A small crowd on the sidewalk watched as the man on the ground tried to get up, but was promptly beaten back down with the nightstick of one of the police officers.

Crime is more rampant here than in the neighborhoods I lived in during my middle class American upbringing. There is a dangerous mixture of a huge income gap between the rich and the poor, along with large numbers of people who literally have nothing to do and nothing to lose.

Money, jewelry, a cell phone, plates, spoons, knives and all our forks are among the things that have been recently stolen from the office.

One of the difficulties of dealing with crime of any type is the complete lack of trust between the community and police. Whether it’s an incredibly slow response time (if they come at all) or corruption, people here feel they have to protect themselves, there’s no authority that will.

I have yet to personally experience anything worse than what feels like a few minutes of stalking by a guy on a bike, which is actually somewhat culturally acceptable (I also had three guy friends with me, so while I was creeped out, I still felt safe). But I’ve been told many times that it’s not safe to be out after dark (that’s about 6:30 PM).

I, and family members before me (it’s genetic, great grandma and grandpa moved to Papua New Guinea in their 70’s to name one example), have never let fear of what could possibly hypothetically happen control our lives. But it’s a balancing act with trying not to be stupid and getting yourself killed (or even seriously maimed).

How do you let fear, of whatever scares you most, form your decisions about how you live your life?


Casey said...

unfortunately we do it all the time, mostly without consciously choosing to do so. Whatever we fear (commitment, failure, death, loneliness) it shapes how we make our decisions. Once we know what we fear, we can begin to be free of its control. Its not that the fear goes away, we just choose to not let it control us.

and it really gets dark at 6:30pm? Is that the year round average?

Nic said...

It's amazing to me how things that seem to be small can shape our lives. During my first year of college there were places I didn't really want to go because they were so huge. It wasn't until I started wearing my glasses on a regular basis that I realized it was in part because I was afraid of not knowing where I was or where to go since I couldn't read signs far away.

And yeah, 6:30 pretty much year round, isn't that crazy? I mean I'm glad I don't have to go through it getting dark at 3:45 like in a Spokane winter, but I do miss the 9:00 sunsets of a Seattle summer.

Casey said...

Are there different types of fear? I don't mean different things we fear, but isn't fear a very vague term? Is fear different whether it is based upon (I overuse the word "upon" for some weird reason) something factual rather than something perceived or imaginary?

Nic said...

I usually define fear upon (to borrow Casey's word!) how I'm feeling, something internal, not external. You?

jesse.murray said...

When I was younger, I let fear determine what I did or didn't do far more often than I do now. One thing I learned to do is risk management.

I try to identify what concerns I might have and what kinds of reasonable saftey measures I can take. What qualifies as 'reasonable' may differ from person to person, but learning more about what worries you, factual or imaginary, is probably the easiest way to figure out what those resonable measures are.