Thursday, February 22, 2007

New Perspectives

Anyone doing a trip like this will most definitely come out of it with a different perspective on life. I came out with two.

First, after seeing and experiencing how others live in other areas of the world, I must say I've come to really appreciate being a Canadian citizen. We may often complain about our government and how things are run in this country but compared to many parts of the world, our government is doing an amazing job.
The support system this country offers is fantastic and it's so comforting knowing you can always rely on it. For instance, you know if you need an ambulance, it'll be there for you within a few minutes. If you need help on the streets, you know you can flag a cop down and trust them to help you out. In many other countries, these so called figures of authority are either so inefficient or corrupt you're probably better off trying to save yourself. I remember thinking when we landed in Zurich, on our way back from Nairobi, that we can now get sick and we would be okay. Being Canadian should never be taken for granted.

Second, I now realize I know so little. There is just so much out there in the world, we really are so isolated up here in the north. You really don't have a good understanding of events or the lives of others worldwide until you get there and experience it for yourself. Before our trip, I had read a lot and thought I knew enough about the places we were visiting. Unfortunately, what the media shows us is always filtered to their liking and we never really get the true picture here.

A good example would be Rwanda. So many I've talked to were surprised we visited Rwanda because the only image they have of that country is the genocide. Everyone thought it was still very dangerous but had the impression that Kenya was very safe. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Rwanda is currently one of the safest and most developed countries you could travel to in eastern Africa. Kenya on the other hand can get quite dangerous, especially in Nairobi.

Another example is Malaysia. I never understood why Malaysia was classified as a 3rd world country. From the outside, it looks amazingly advanced, more so than Canada in many ways. They have the Petronas towers (once the tallest towers in the world), they have a much better subway system, and they have gleaming shopping malls. How could this be 3rd world? After spending a few months there, I finally understood why. The way the country is run and structured is in no way as advanced as its physical structures. There is still a whole ton of corruption in that country and surprisingly, still a lot of racism. I never would have known this had I not been there for so long and experienced it for myself.

My last example here is based in China. First of all, I never realized the huge diversity this country had to offer. Did you know it has 56 ethnic groups? The Han Chinese being the majority. Unfortunately, the government is not so fond of its other ethnic groups and would prefer everyone conform to their ways. A good example of this is Tibet. Lhasa is slowly being taken over by drab Chinese stores and the Tibetan people and culture are being pushed into a smaller and smaller area. Where you see a symbol of another culture (i.e. the Potala Palace), you will always see somewhere close by, a large symbol of the Han Chinese culture. It's sad. I feel terrible for what the Tibetans have experienced in the past and are still experiencing to this day. They are being repressed and they are not the only ones in China going through this. I never would have thought that this was happening there until we got there and saw and heard it for ourselves.

These two new perspectives that I have in life today alone are well worth the trip we took. It was a fantastic journey and one that I would recommend everyone try to do at least once in their lifetime. Many think that it costs a fortune to do this but really, it doesn't. We lived out there for way less a day than we could ever do in Toronto. It's a life changing experience, I don't know what else to say. It's just completely worth it.


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