Dec 9, 2007


We never realize how lucky we are until we see the distress of others. To acknowledge and alleviate health education and sanitation conditions in the rural areas, the medical school organizes 4 education and health-promotion day-tour to Jian Qing Elementary School this semester. I took part in the second tour, which took place on 8th of December, primarily because my friend told me it would be fun, and secondly because they're severely short of people.
Preparations began a week before, but I was lucky to have selected a storytelling program, which was almost labor-free, and my angelic partner wrote most the scripts for me. I just scanned the illustrations in the 15-page storybook and made it into nice Powerpoint presentations.
On 8th of December all participants woke up at 6 (me at 5.46). Sleep-induced and cold, we transported everything we need onto the bus and off we go. It's difficult to imagine when you say 'rural' in Hualien (which is the most rural state in Taiwan), it's still an hour's drive from Hualien town. And as I expected, the school is located in a small alley surrounded by hills. The school would be the only concrete building in a radius of probably 1km. It faces a wide, undisturbed eye's view of paddy field backed by statues of mountains.
After unloading all cargo, we started preparing the day's activities. We would start with a dance (which I hardly learned the day before), followed by the teacher's 'disciplinary talk'.
Breakfast ensued, and the children were already starting to misbehave themselves. Spilling milk on the stairs, leaving crumbs everywhere from the ceiling to the washrooms, and doing all the following except eating breakfast: run about the classroom throwing everything in sight, sprint and shoe-slide, accelerate and jump on you, shouting 'why is he sitting at MY chair?'
Gobbling down by bun and tea I quickly set up my computer and LCD projector for my storytelling session. We would be telling a deviate story of 'Noah's Ark'. The story emphasizes unity and tolerance, which, as my senior says, important to them little kids because they are fighting 20 hours out of 24 hours a day.
See how those little kids paid attention to me? Do not be fooled. This is just a fragment of a second when they're periodically attracted by the elephant falling off the ark. Most of the time they are busy shouting at each other or reading out the words on the screen so loud your voice can hardly be heard even after amplification by a microphone (note the little black gadget on my waist).
If breakfast was chaotic, then lunch was end-of the world. It was then that I realize rural kids ARE different from urban kids. While in the eyes of a student of SJK(C) Union the teacher is still to be feared, because she will call up your parents and you'll be grounded for the rest of your life, in the eyes of students of Jian Qing Elementary School they solve everything themselves - argue, shout, fight, pinch, threaten etc.
It was my turn taking care of 10 schoolchildren in the afternoon. In the next 3 hours I would be constantly throwing myself in between 2 troublemakers who fight at the slightest provocation, and dragging a handful of children unwilling to leave once the bell rings. I was tired, but I was happy observing little children.
It was then that I noticed something different in them - unlike most urban schoolchildren, who gets the best of everything, they are deprived in all visible ways. They're skinny, and they have flaky skin, an obvious sign of Vitamin C deficiency. To top it up, they have weird tumor-like growths on their skin. I shifted my sight and I saw my own arms - smooth, slightly muscular, and shiny. I have on myself clean clothes, and they even smell of 'morning dew' because I added conditioner in the wash. Their clothes are mostly dirt-stained (partly due to the falls and slides they induce all day), and one boy even have a large hole in his jeans. Their faces are smudged, and you'd faint if you really take a long good look at their fingernails.
We do not realize how lucky we are.
It was then that I realize the day I spent here has not been in vain. I had taught them how important it is to respect, tolerate and accept others through a story (though I doubt how long they will remember it). I had contributed something today. I know then too that I must take part in the 3rd tour, on 29th of December. I have so much that I could give.
We went back to school at 5.10pm, exhausted and happy. The happiness comes from a contentment of contributing to others, from providing unselfish service.


ckjjg said...

^ ^

Anonymous said...

The happiness comes from a contentment of contributing to others, from providing unselfish service.This is what 'education in life' 'shen huo jiao yu' mean. ready to serve the society whenever u can.