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What's your number?

My street

I live in a 3 neighborhood so I am pretty lucky. Some volunteers live in 1 and 2 neighborhoods which would be pretty tough for me in my old age.  I have water, electricity, paved streets, low crime, and many of my neighbors are employed and have some sort of degree in higher education. Some even have cars, fly to Bogota to visit family, or minimally, eat out at the mall.

In Colombia, individuals are assigned a number 1- 6 (1 being the lowest income and 6 the highest income).  Everyone knows their estrato (social class); even kids. If you are in a public school, you are probably a 1 or  2. 3s probably go to private school even though it's tough for the family to make the payments. 4, 5, and 6s enjoy vacations at the beach and have American or Canadian English teachers at school.  Parents are well aware of their number too. Their government subsidies are based on it. 1 and 2 families receive support for their children and health care. It isn't much, but it helps. Utilities prices are also based on estrato. The lower the number the less you pay for gas, electricity, water, and sewer.

Of course, in the US, we have clear social classes too. The only difference is that we use lengthy names like upper- middle class for a 4 family.   Our tax rates and government subsidies are all based on a family's income too. American schools with 1 or 2 level students are normally in bad shape and have few resources. Even though, I live in a 3 neighborhood, all my students are 1 and 2 estrato, which is the population Peace Corps has always served. When I tell Colombians that I am an English teacher, they always assume I am working for a private school of 5 and 6s. They look puzzled when I tell them where I work. I always smile and say yes, it's a public school, but I provide a 5 or 6 education. 


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