Smiles: Worth More than Gold
What you take for granted is a life goal for others
Written by: Sue Yoo
For my life so far and even now, I am not the kind of person who is satisfied with what I have or feel grateful for any points of my life. Living standards, environments, appearances, what I have done today; none of these factors with my life satisfied me for several reasons. Do you
feel satisfied with your life? Any living standards or environments that you have? I guess many of you would feel quite the same as what I feel. I’ve probably never been really satisfied until I went to Cambodia for WeekWithoutWalls trip this year. After spending time in Cambodia, I came to realize that my living standard is high and everything that I have is much more than I need; I just took it for granted.
On the 14th of January, Grade 10s went to Cambodia for our WWW trip. When we were in Cambodia, we had to stay in a camp named ‘Beng Pae’, which is located in a small village in the countryside of Cambodia. A week before we left for Cambodia, we started to learn and think about Cambodia’s trip in class. Based on my prior knowledge about Cambodia and a some different research that I did, I imagined several times what the week that we were going to spend in Cambodia would be like. Cambodia is one of the LEDC countries, where gender equality is still an important issue.
Everything that I experienced in Cambodia was all impressive and precious to me. However if you ask me to choose one thing that I liked the most while in Cambodia, I easily and clearly can say that spending time with children in Cambodia I considered the most precious and valuable. I had several chances/opportunities to spend my time with local kids in Cambodia, which taught me a lot and even now is remembered as the peak of this trip. The first time that I met children was in Sok Say Bay, which is a shelter to take care of kids from the age of 7 to 18.
Kids in Sok Say Bay usually come to here and escape from their serious and miserable reality that they can’t even endure any more. Students in Sok Say Bay have several different reasons why they stay in Sok Say Bay other than their housing. Some of them escape from their parents’ abuse and others their difficulties that they cannot handle by themselves. For these poor kids, Sok Say Bay is the place where they can stay and live without any worries.
When Mr.Matthews asked us whether we wanted to go to the Royal Palace or Sok Say Bay, without any hesitation I decided to go to Sok Say Bay as I love to hang out with kids and play with them. As soon as I arrived at the place, all of the kids were in the yard where they can do their activities. Kids were welcoming us with their shyness, with smiles and we started to play some games. Although their first language is not English, they tried so hard to communicate with us even with a single word. While we were playing games, at first most of us were just too shy to talk to each other or even to look at others’ faces but as time passed by, we became much closer than what we expected to be to them.
Whenever I recall the moment in Sok Say Bay, one of the girls named Michelle pops into my mind. While in the yard for the first time, I was not sure what to do for them or how to be closer to kids as I was worried about what if I failed to communicate with them. Meanwhile, a girl just walked towards to me out of nowhere and said “Hi! What is your name?” At that time, I felt both thankful and surprised to see such an open-minded girl even though she had been through difficulties and pain. As soon as she and I started to chat starting with the question, “What is your name?” we became best friends. From this one girl, Michelle, I c learned a lot of things especially with feelings and emotions because while I was spending time with her, I had many more thoughts and feelings that I had ever before
Children in Cambodia are suffering not only from many problems that they have as citizen of the Cambodia but also from their living standards and limited education. The opportunities to pursue their education is not given to all the people who live in LEDC countries. Most of them have difficulties getting those opportunities. I felt shock and pity because all the Korean teenagers should go to school until the end of middle school and not have to pay their education expenses. During the trip, we once went to a school and helped them to build a brick wall and played football against them. Kids in that school who want to go to school and get educated fortunately don’t need to pay any education costs according to their government institution and policy. Therefore both students and their parents don’t feel under pressure and can have some open choice to either go to school or not.
One thing that surprised me happened when I was working on digging holes in the school. My group members and I divided into two different groups and worked on digging holes and serving those sands that we’ve got from the holes to the other side. Before I tried to dig a hole, I thought that it would be so much easier than others as it looked like I just simply need to dig mine, but as soon as I tried it, I realized that this process was such hard work. While we put so much effort on making holes, students at the age of 6 to 7 or so took their tools and started to work on those holes that we had already worked on. The tools were double their heights but they were perfect/skilled at controlling those tools and worked on those holes faster and easier.
The majority of the children in Cambodia are learning how to make cements other than how to do maths. They know how to dig a hole in efficient ways but they don’t know how to write words with the right spelling. They love to eat sweets just like us and they love to hang out with their friends. Boys play football while girls love to talk with their friends. They don’t have any toys or dolls that we take for granted, to say nothing of digital cameras or cell phones. When I was trying to take some photos with kids in Cambodia, they were just so curious about my iPhone and its functions. What is this thing? How does it make some of animal faces on my faces? What are those? They were so excited
when they took their own photographs with a little strange thing. They kept coming to me and asking me to take photographs with me, which made me feel sad for them as well as regret for myself. Sorry for being such a person who has much more than what I need and is not satisfied with and grateful for what I have. What I take for granted could be what someone else in other side of the world dream.
After spending time in Cambodia, I realize that I have such high living standards. Those kids I met in Cambodia made me feel regret for what I’ve complained about in my life. People want more than what they already have. They think the more, the better. The greed of human being is endless. Nevertheless, spending time with local kids there changed my perspectives and have had a significant impact on me. I want to ask you now. Are you satisfied with your life?