Monday, March 3, 2014

Happy in an Unhappy Country?

This week  the latest results on the Millenium Development Goals of the United Nations came out. Only 3% of all households in Madagascar describes itself as ' happy '.  The other  97% find their living conditions (very) difficult. Now I wonder: can one be happy in an unhappy country? 

I'm happy here. I belong to the 0.2% who are very well off. We kind of live like Hollywood stars, with our spacious home and staff, including a private driver.  But as soon as we step outside our yard, we are in the middle of the misery; smelly rubbish dumps, open sewerage, slums, and rows of beggars banging on your car window.  What to do? We do what we can.  Both my husband and I are working to stimulate the development of Madagascar. In my spare time I help street children, disabled elderly, teens in prison and orphans. 

Can't complain
But the rows of blind, legless, armless  or otherwise deformed beggars appear to be  longer each day. Every day here is a reality check;  an opportunity to compare your own expectations and situation to others. And so: I can't complain. I mean that literally. Sometimes I would like to complain (the holes in the road, internet that keep breaking down, I discovered another wrinkle, PMS, ...) but I don't allow myself.

I feel almost obligated to be happy here. Because we have so much, and they so little ...

Poverty is ubiquitous here (everywhere)


  1. Ik ken het gevoel , woon sinds 3 jaar in Lubumbashi , Congo , en probeer het elke dag opnieuw een plaats te geven (wat de ene dag al beter lukt dan de andere.) bij iedereen die hun :kleine:grote problemen zo belangrijk vinden denk ik :kom maar eens hier heen , en zie hoe de mensen hier 'overleven'.

  2. Shameless plug: The tyranny of experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor by William Easterly is out.
    There is no magic bullet solution for poverty. One thing is for sure, it's not gonna be a top-down one like the Millennium Development Goals. It must start from the individual who has the desire to have a better life.

    A Malagasy Reader!

  3. Thank you for bringing up such a fascinating subject. I think when we are talking about poverty the question of happiness and unhappiness is so important! I loved Madgascar when I came by about 2 years ago. I will continue to follow you and if you have the time to follow mine, here's the site:

    Thanks, Vesper