5 Cities Around The World Dealing With Surprising Problems
When moving to a new city, people tend to worry about typical city things. What's the traffic like? Is there a lot of smog? Is this the kind of place where naked people leave their curtains open? You know, the basics. Problems we don't tend to expect is whether or not all the movie theaters double as homeless shelters or what the chances are that the entire town gets swallowed by sinkholes. And if those seem improbable, for the people in these cursed locales, they wouldn't even crack the top ten of the weird urban crises they have to put up with daily.
In Hong Kong, People Voluntarily Sleep In McDonald's
Long before the current protests, Hong Kong had another situation where the disenfranchised refused to be moved by the Man. And by the Man, we mean Ronald McDonald, whose restaurants serve as halfway houses for Hong Kong citizens escaping their terrible living conditions.
For years, McDonald's in Hong Kong have hosted "McRefugees," people who take full advantage of the open-all-hours restaurants by spending the night. And their numbers are rising exponentially. According to one study, 84 out of 110 burger joints suffer from supersized snoozers. Over a period of three months, one McDonald's can put up to 334 of its customers to bed, while others regularly host up to thirty tables of people who treat these budget dining establishments as McB&Bs.
It's not uncommon for people to take a quick 60 in a fast-food restaurant, but those unfortunates tend to be homeless and jobless. But while Hong Kong's McRefugees have their share of runaway teens and the mentally ill, over 70% of guests at the Hamburglar Inn are functioning adults with jobs and homes to get to. Except that, in their case, said jobs and homes are so terrible they necessitate crashing on Ronald McDonald's couch now and then.
For many Hongkongers, their work is so exhausting and hard to travel to, it sometimes makes more sense to just not go home but walk to the nearest McDonald's and put their heads on one of its least sticky tables. Not that they have a lot to go home to, anyway. With the city having the most expensive housing market in the world, many citizens can only afford "cage homes," filthy, tiny, badly wired rooms in dangerous neighborhoods where the number of roommates rivals the number of cockroaches under your bed. Compared to those living situations, hanging out in a well-lit, spacious McDonald's in the better part of town is like a four-star hotel experience.
Pirate Air Taxis Rule The Skies Of Sao Paulo
Traffic in Sao Paulo is so bad you're more likely to end up in a book of records than your chosen destination. Congestion combined with heavy restrictions has made car travel so unreliable the wealthy have figured out that the only way to beat the traffic is to fly over it. Today, Brazil's biggest city has a bigger air taxi industry than even New York City, with fleets of choppers buzzing overhead in such volume and with such recklessness it feels like the final scene of a 'Nam movie.
In under a decade, the demand for air travel in Sao Paulo became so great even traditional chopper services couldn't keep up. So it was only a matter of time before services like Cabify or Voom, the aerial equivalents of Lyft or Uber, came swooping down offering to teleport people across town for prices as low as a hundred bucks. But that has only further opened the floodgates of competitive cheap air travel. Now, of the 1,300 take-offs that occur every day in Sao Paulo, a lot of them are performed by hundreds of rogue "pirate taxis," private choppers and small planes offering off-the-books transportation services for prices so low they're in danger of hitting the ground. Just like their taxis.
To save you money, these sky (s)cabs keep costs down by not investing in proper permits, licenses or even training for their pilots. How does that affect their customers? Uh, fatally badly. In the past years, several of these illegal taxis have fallen out of the sky killing dozens, including a famed journalist, a pop star, and a bride on the way to her wedding. Fortunately, Brazilian authorities are starting to crack down on these illegal air taxis, which includes educating the public to report illegal activity and also maybe stop trying to bargain hunt when stepping onto a whirling machine of blades and death like a bunch of lunatics.
Angeles City Is Heavily Populated By The Children Of Sex Tourists
While the Philippines is already a very multicultural country, if you visit Angeles City you'll think you've just stepped into a United Colors of Benetton commercial. But despite the city's young people being incredibly diverse, they do have two things in common: They're all poor, and none of them know who their father is.
While the Philippines tries to downplay how much its economy relies on sex tourism, the stats don't lie. An estimated $400 million is spent on prostitution each year, and of the country 4.7-million-plus yearly visitors, 1.2 million are men traveling alone. And a lot of that money and the horny men carrying it wind up in Angeles, a major Filipino city which neighbored a large U.S. airbase for most of the 20th century. That turned Angeles into a monotown -- a town reliant on a single industry. And that industry happened to be having sex with men for money.
So when that base then turned into an international airport, Angeles soon became one of the biggest centers of sex tourism in South East Asia -- and that's saying something. Today, after over five generations of mass sex work, the job is embedded into the DNA of the community. Almost literally, as countless fair-haired, fair-skinned young Filipinos walk the streets of Angeles. These kids, who are derogatorily called tisoy or "Amerasians," are all the children of prostitute mothers and sex tourist fathers, men of whom they know little, often not even where they came from.
Because their absentee fathers abandoned them and their (often underage) prostitute moms cannot support them, sex tourist kids have it rough. They tend to grow up in abject poverty and get bullied for looking different. And while their prospects in life are slim to none, sadly, they can always step into the family business, with many of the young men going to work as drivers, pimps and security guards while the young women try to fill the stripper heels of their mothers and their mothers' mothers before them. Can we just restart human civilization again to make it less overtly horrible?
Some Indians Still Defecate In The Streets As A Point Of Pride
Public defecation is a global problem. From war-torn villages to the snowballing-prone sloped streets of San Fransisco, those with no access to proper plumbing are often forced to suffer the indignities of squatting on the side of the road. Except for in India, where some people defecate in public not because they have to, but because they really, really want to.
Over the past years, India has made a colossal effort to provide toilets to all of its people, installing more plumbing, constructing public restrooms, and even launching an extensive public information campaign complete with an anti-pooping theme song. Yet many Indians are still taking dumps on telecom towers and in open fields, and those who think this is a poverty issue are looking at the wrong side of the caste system.
In part thanks to President Modi's revival of Indian nationalism, a portion of upper-caste Indians defecate in public as a matter of tradition. They believe that even flushing a toilet counts as having cleaned up feces and that's a job only fit for Dalits, the lower caste who in the past were forced to clean all the public toilets. So to make sure these "untouchables" still have to put up with their shit, traditionalists prefer to squat it in the street and let it drop like a nervous elephant with the pigheaded expectation that someone else will have to clean it up.
Of course, the practice of exploiting lower castes has long been made illegal, meaning a lot of major Indian cities now have a depressing amount of human waste stinking up the place. But elsewhere, Human Rights Watch has observed that hundreds of thousands of Dalits are still forced into collecting the feces of these elite street shitters under threat of garnished wages, exile, or even violence.
Indonesia Needs To Build A New Capital Because Jakarta Has Too Many Holes In It
Forget Venice; the prize for the fastest sinking city goes to Jakarta. Indonesia's capital is sinking at a rate of 6.7 inches or 25 cm every year in a race to see if it'll get swallowed by the earth or by the sea first. But we can't solely blame Mother Nature for this catastrophe; this is all due to industry. Or, at least in part, to a bunch of industrious folks with shovels.
Jakarta is too holey. For decades, Jakartan citizens, businesses and factories have found a loophole around drawing water from the city's heavily polluted rivers by digging an actual hole. From poor families to 5-star hotels, almost everyone in Jakarta has private wells and cisterns accessing the city's vast underground freshwater aquifer layers. And as a result, the ground underneath the Indonesian capital has been turned into Swiss cheese.
All those tunnels into its swampy land have further turned the ground underneath the megacity into quicksand, making this megacity sink at an almost visible speed. That problem was made monumentally worse thanks to our old urban friend, concrete. Apart from its many small holes, Jakarta is basically one giant slab of concrete mixed with asphalt. Not only does all that weight cause the city to sink into the shifting sediment even more quickly, it also prevents rainwater from seeping into the ground and replenishing the water. And with nowhere to go, these storms flood the city like someone forgot to pull Jakarta's bath plug.
But the government has finally pulled the plug. With the prediction that 95% of North Jakarta will permanently be underwater by 2050, Indonesia has decided to let the soon-to-be-former capital drown and start anew somewhere else like some sort of metropolitan Noah. Soon, an entirely new capital city will be built from scratch on the island of Borneo. When it's finished, the underwater people of Jakarta will be more than welcome. Their shovels won't be, though.
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