This one may be controversial. It is definitely a departure from what I normally do. I like to keep things light. I like to see the humour in where and how I live.

And that’s kind of what got me into this. You see I posted a picture on Facebook of a goat on the back of a moto without a helmet. And another friend posted a picture of a pig in a basket ‘going to market’ on the back of a moto. And there was blowback for both of us. And that’s fine, because everyone is allowed to feel how they feel about everything. But it got me thinking about different realities and different perceptions and different perceptions of reality.

You see the goat, to me, was a statement on the conditions of life here. A social commentary if you will. That they make a law that says the driver of a moto has to have a helmet on but not the passenger(s). So as long as he is wearing a helmet he can put four wee children on the back and drive like a maniac through the crazy and often dangerous traffic of Puerto Plata and it’s all good. It’s all legal. I now try to take carros or guaguas instead of motos. It’s only marginally safer considering the condition of the vehicles and the lack of driving skills of the driver and it’s actually cheaper, but it’s also a lot less convenient. And I’m fortunate enough to be in a position to make that choice. And I’m fortunate enough that I usually get a ride in a friend’s car to get where I need to go and don’t have to make that choice often. For many a moto is the only choice. So I guess I didn’t really see the goat as an abused animal. My reality is different and my perception of reality is different. And I guess I feel you aren’t going to get a goat to ride behind you on a moto if he doesn’t want to. But I get that other’s see it differently. And so I felt bad.

As I’m sure my friend does about her pig post. But that pig has to get to market. That’s the reality. And a moto is most often the only viable way they have to do it here. And it’s okay for you to be vegetarian and animal rights advocate – that’s your reality, from where you are. I’m big on humane treatment of animals. Their reality is a bit less cut and dry. A lot harsher. That pig is the way they will keep their family fed. A roof over their heads. Clothes on their backs. They can’t afford to feel sorry for that animal. They, literally, can’t afford to find a more humane to transport it.

And yes, I hate seeing those emaciated horses pulling carts down the road. Man, I hate it. But again, it’s their livelihood. It’s what they know. Find them a viable alternative. Or give them a supply of feed and medicine for the horse to keep it healthy. Because, odds are, they probably barely have enough to keep themselves and their family fed and healthy.

And maybe we become inured to it. Maybe we have to. Because on the other side of all the sunshine and beaches and rum and freedom we get to enjoy by living here, well, is the darker side of people living in some pretty extreme poverty. So maybe we do develop a bit of gallows humour. And a bit of a tougher hide. Maybe we do stuff down some things that shock us or break our hearts. Maybe we do the best we can to help and try not to realize that our best might not be good enough. Especially to the real world. And maybe we already feel bad enough about that. Because we know that even if we are struggling to get by, we are still living a more privileged life than so many and we have choices they don’t. The ultimate one being, for most of us – we can leave.

So forgive us if we seem to make light of some of the darker things we experience here. We aren’t horrible people. We are doing what we can and just trying our best to deal with and understand the rest of it.

I have been called a bleeding heart liberal more times than I can even remember. And I’m good with that. Because yes, if it was within my means and power, I would wave my magic wand and make everything beautiful and safe and wonderful. I would make sure every child got to school safely and got a great education. I would make sure every animal was loved and treated humanely. I would make sure every family had a safe and comfortable place to live and lots to eat and access to great medical care. I would make sure everyone was treated with respect for who they are and what they contribute. I would make it a world of rainbows and unicorns. Wouldn’t we all?

But we all live with certain realities. And we all have our perceptions of those realities. And we all do the best we can to help and effect change. And we all learn to cope with what we can’t change or help. Living here has changed my perceptions. And I know for myself that I can’t take it all on. The weight of it would literally crush me, my heart, and my spirit. It almost has at times. And so I sometimes make light of it.

And I can’t honestly say that if it was a choice between the survival of my family, and the comfort of a goat or a pig or a horse, that I wouldn’t do the same. It would be with a heavy, breaking heart but sometimes that’s reality.

And if you are privileged enough to live somewhere or be in a position to have a different reality, a kinder reality and a whole other set of perceptions of life, then just take a moment and try to perceive what it’s like for people living a harsher reality. You can bet they are doing that about your life.

This isn’t meant to be critical of anyone’s feelings about things or perceptions of life and how it should be. Please carry on being those wonderful crusaders and effectors of change. But when you see something that isn’t in line with your perception or your reality or your perception of reality, just pause, and realize it may be in line with the other person’s. And give them the benefit of the doubt.