Far from home, often bored, how an international placement can be an invitation to excess.

Maybe I should pick up smoking. But I won’t. I bring it up though for the following reasons. A pack of cigarettes in Dar is cheaper than a pack of gum in Montreal. Booze is cheaper in Bangkok than soda in New York. Drugs are cheaper in Central Asia than a dinner for one at McDonalds in Europe. For the traveller and especially the foreign worker in most of the developing world, it is not too difficult and quite tempting to fall into these vices. They are cheap, readily accessible, and temptation is ever present. For those who already partake in such things, availability and low cost couple to exacerbate the situation.

Cigarette’s cost so much in Canada because of heavy taxation. Here however, the government doesn’t impose such high levies. Likewise, there are no heavy duties and taxes placed on alcohol. When I saw a 1L bottle of Smirnoff cost the equivalent  $10, I was, not lying, elated. But I also fell into the trap of saying, “at this price, might as well pick up a bottle of rum for good measure, you know, for the sake of variety.”

Given their accessibility, these things are easy to fall into. When a beer at a bar costs $2, even a NGO worker who’s not getting paid well (or at all) can still afford to get pretty sloshed for very cheap. Consider that you can get 3-5 pints of Guinness in Dar for the price of one highball in Vancouver. Moreover, you’re surrounded by very enabling environments. There are others at the bar drinking with you and it’s not hard finding drinking buddies who are down to down a couple of beers any given day of the week. 

In addition to cost and accessibility: self-deprecation. You’re away from home, you start to resent being so far from friends and family, you can’t bear the difference in culture, you even start to dislike your work and as a result, you start hating your situation. Hate leads to the Dark Side that is excess. You decide that ‘hey, I’m stuck in this hell hole so f_ _ k it, Thug Life! I’ll pick up smoking and drink myself into a stupor.”

So ultimately, expats or anyone working/living/studying in these parts of the world should be slightly weary of falling into these habits. Yeah, it sounds paternalistic of me, and no, I’m not your father and I won’t admonish you for the choices that you make. But in all things, moderation is a beautiful thing. There are definitely nights where it’s worth just going balls-to-the-walls all out and have a great time. But those should be rarities, exceptions rather than a daily rule. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to meet up with my buddy Morgan who also happens to own a boat docked not too far from here. It’s going to be a bumpy ride…

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