Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Round the world view

Yesterday was my first day back in the office following three weeks on the other side of the globe.

What an experience it was, to see first hand how people live in Singapore, Indonesia and Australia. The cultural differences couldn’t be more dramatic, especially between the remote islands of Indonesia (we spent 10 days on a small island group 600 miles east of Bali), the bustle of Singapore and the quiet beauty of South Australia.

We saw families transporting cows on the cabin roof of their small boat, visited a family’s home on stilts, carefully walking on the floor joists so we wouldn’t crash through the grass mats covering the floor, and stayed on a winery in picturesque McLaren Vale.

In one of the most remote villages we visited, age 50 looked ancient and the average life expectancy was very short.

In Singapore the government has recently decided to allow people a third day off each week, in addition to the weekend, in the hopes that they will procreate more freely and help offset the aging population. There, with the third oldest population in the world, the health and social needs of an aging population are at near crisis. With too few young workers, migrant laborers, mainly from India, are imported to provide the needed labor, raising cultural and social challenges of their own.

It’s always interesting to see how the rest of the world lives, and how they tackle some of the very problems we’ll soon be facing here.

On the other hand, it’s always good to be back home, too.

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