What is a “developing country”?

I used to think that “developing country” was just a really lame PC term to replace third-world country which became offensive to some people at some point for some reason that I am entirely unaware of.  Not any more, though.  I now completely understand why the term developing country is appropriate and fitting for places like Ethiopia.

Living in a developing country literally means that everything is still developing.  It’s hard to picture just what that means until you are living it.  Even visiting on a short-term mission trip or to complete an adoption does not give a full picture.  You have to be intimately involved with daily happenings to discover what all is still developing.  Here are just some examples of things we experience that remind us that we are in a truly developing country:

  • Scaffolding is all made of sticks.  They are nailed or bound together while someone is standing on them.  It does not look safe and it is not safe.
  • Buildings (including homes like ours) take up to 10 years to complete.  Construction began on the property next to ours, a rough foundation was laid, that was it.  Cash in hand ran out, so construction is halted.
  • Speaking loans…there are none.  I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but paying all cash for a house or a car (especially when 25 year old cars are around $11,000) would definitely keep the “classes” very separate.  Again, not necessarily a bad thing to not have loans like the US does available to anyone, but it keeps the lower class very low.
  • Trash removal is hilarious.  A few years ago, there were no huge trash bins that I can recall.  Now, they are everywhere.  But, they have to be hauled away, one at a time, for garbage removal.  They are loaded onto the back of a truck, driven off, dumped and then returned.  With this system, the job will never even be close to done.
  • More on trash…they are moving an entire trash dump.  Why???  It smells awful when the wind blows just right, but the edge of the city has expanded, so the dump must be moved.  Problem is, they’re not moving it that far and the city continues to expand.
  • Nothing is convenient.  NOTHING.  Cooking is all done from scratch (there are no frozen pizzas or hot pockets).  Shopping must be done at several different stores just to complete a short list–grocery, furniture, clothes, etc…  Items may never be stocked again once they sell out, or at least not for another several months.
  • Driving.  AH!  So many times I have wished I had a dashboard camera so I could give you all a glimpse of what driving is like here, but it is unsafe to record with my iPhone while driving, so you’ll just have to imagine it.  When traffic slows to a stop, people just turn around in the road and go the opposite direction–into oncoming traffic.  People cross the street wherever they like, even the highway.  People attend driving school, but I’ve been told they never leave the compound, so they “graduate” with next to no knowledge of how to handle actual traffic and/or roundabouts, which are everywhere.
  • Speaking of road crossings…can you think of any city of millions in the US (a non-developing country) where you have to constantly swerve or stop to miss herds of goats, cows or a random donkey?  Yeah, me either.  It’s like country and city collide here–quite literally sometimes.
  • Nearly everything costs an arm and a leg but almost no one can afford it.  I still don’t fully understand this one, so I won’t try to explain it, but it is part of living in a developing country.
  • There are tons of traffic laws, but almost no way to enforce them.  The police are everywhere, but they have no way to monitor speed and no transportation, so unless you make eye contact with them and choose to pull over if the wave you down, there is little that they can do.
  • Helmets required,  but a construction hard hat with a strap totally counts as a motorcycle helmet.
  • There are different prices for everything–white people pay a different price than the locals, almost nothing has a price sticker on it, so you never know if you’re getting a good deal or now.  Haggling is expected–I loathe this.
  • There is cell service everywhere, but in order to build more towers, too many SIM cards are sold.  Rather than building a tower and THEN selling the SIM cards, they sell the cards then use the $ for towers.  Sometimes I can make a phone call, sometimes I can’t.  Well, most of the time I can’t.  Good thing I really dislike talking on the phone!
  • Internet…ugh.  It’s almost 7 am.  Let’s just say I’d better hurry up and get this posted before 7 hits or it’s a lost cause.  We have internet, yea!  It’s really slow at normal times of the day to be awake and using it, boo.
  • Cars still run from 1969.  Uh huh, I should know, I drive one daily.  They can make cars run forever here (as long as they’re manual and Toyota or VW).  If your engine fails, there’s no replacing it.  It is removed and rebuilt with a few new parts, but mostly old.  That’s a bit cheaper than trying to find a new one!  And, it works.  New cars are a rare sight.
  • People are content with what they have.  There is no keeping up with the Jones’.  The Jones’ don’t have much either.  But, the people genuinely seem happy and content anyway.  What a blessing to be surrounded by that, rather than greedy commercialism and the world of “I want, I want, I want”.  It is refreshing.
  • God is needed.  People need God here.  You can feel it.  They embrace His love and they long for their heavenly home.  Spiritual matters are much more prevalent here because people are seeking God and the Holy Spirit.  Daily people need God and they depend on Him for provision.  Worship is a sight to behold, it is not reserved, people want to praise the God that provides for them.  Too often, in already developed countries, people don’t “need” God.  They can provide for themselves and the church (not the building, the body of people that make it up) just approach the idea of God differently, definitely with less passion and less spirituality.

This experience has definitely taught me a lot about living in a developing country and just what that term means.  Some parts of it, I love.  Some parts just make me laugh.  Other parts, I could live without.  But, no place is perfect.  The grass is literally greener here than in WI, so we’ll stay for now. 🙂


***For the record, 7 minutes left to spare until the dreaded 7am internet slow down.  Here’s hoping this post publishes today.


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