The Corner

Bolt Holes

In my August Diary I mentioned a conversation I’d had with a lady from Uruguay. That brought in this e-mail from a reader:

I stumbled onto your post on Uruguay. I spent two or three weeks hacking around there a couple years ago, and it’s a splendid little country. They claim what is probably an honest 97 percent literacy rate, the cities are clean, street dogs are well fed and don’t cower, out in the country kids in smocks go to neat little schools … it’s really nice. The current president is a center-left guy, oncologist by trade, who goes back to his lab once a week to work. His nurses kiss him on the cheek. The country had a military govt for some years, but when discontent arose, the generals held an election, lost, shrugged, and went back to the barracks. The uruguayos are civil, good-natured, and kind, the sort of folks who’ll walk to the corner with you when you ask directions, just to be sure you got it. They are, as they say, more European than Europe, so you don’t have that uneasy feeling of a potential machete moshpit lurking always. Were it not for stern duty, I’d happily move there and spend the sunset years drinking tannat, the vernacular red wine, and eating beef and pasta. Keep those fantasies going.

Not an Uzi or a pair of smoky sunglasses in sight, apparently.

On the other hand, a different reader poured cold sheep-dip on my dreams about New Zealand:

Dear John — I was a [senior medical professional] in New Zealand, at [name of town], from [dates, a recent year and a half]. Shall I tell you all the ways it sucks?

1) Its lawyers make much more than its MDs, on average. Sorry, that’s a bad sign.

2) It always rains. (Places that are very green always rain)

3) Its medical system sucks on toast.

4) It’s anti-semitic.

5) It hates the USA.

6) Its children are poorly educated, and its teenagers have one of the highest rates of suicide in the Western world — it has very poor child psychiatric services, much worse than ours.

7) Its indigenous people (the Maoris), make our Native Americans look like Puritans (“Once Were Warriors” is no exaggeration).

Oh, did I mention that they heat their homes using wood, that their homes are much chillier than ours, that their best brand of clothesdryers goes by the name of SMEG (deservedly), that prices are two-three times higher than in the US for much shoddier goods, and that the food is in the best British tradition?

Don’t get me started on taxes.

I kissed the ground when I returned back to SF, which is not my favorite city. But to be back in the USA! Even under Obama, it’s better here, and they’re under their brand of Conservatives right now!

I resent that remark about British food (see here for the luminous truth), but am not otherwise in a position to gainsay my reader. So bolt-hole-wise: Sell NZ, buy Uruguay!

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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