A Day to Remember 

The title of this piece of writing – ‘A Day to Remember’, eerily reminds me of those compositions we would write in Primary School. In those days, we would write a narrative piece narrating what had happened on that particular day and why it was to be remembered. I used to hate writing such compositions.

 But right now, saying that today is a day that I want to remember for the rest of my life, is truly heartfelt.

 Today was the first time I cried while seeing little children stand in the sun. Being a Saturday, we did not go to Da Tong Secondary School to teach but instead, visited different schools in Thailand to give them teaching materials. We received an extremely warm welcome from the students of the first school; they stood in tidy rows, came up in neat lines to accessorize us with colorful paper garlands, and dutifully sang a few songs for us.

 It doesn’t sound like much, I know. Yet whilst all these were taking place, the sun shone unmercifully onto the children. The little children, some not even able to articulate themselves yet, stood upright under the scorching sun waiting for our arrival. They were dressed in tattered clothes, some without shoes, and all without hats or any material at all to protect them from the burning heat. While we, on the other hand, arrived decked in comfortable clothes, with cloth shoes to protect our feet, and almost all of us were wearing hats and had sun-block on. And still, we were complaining about the heat.

 The children were very obedient. As their teacher shouted the commands, they did what was expected dutifully without any complaint at all. They even sang quite a few Chinese songs for us, all still standing under the hot sun. Yet my heart ached for them; that we are all equal and yet they have to live in such trying conditions, that the heat was so unbearable and yet they had to stand there and welcome (as heartily as possible) strangers like us, that they are so young and yet they have to endure such hardships that we have never even gone near to before.

 Later, a little girl even vomited because of the heat.

 All so often, back at home, everybody tells us that we are ‘the future of the country’. We are the next generation and thus the future leaders of society. We are pampered, fed with good food every day, and educated as best as possible. Just the environment we grow up in is so comfortable for us. Maybe because of such constant flattery and comfort, we become complacent.

 We forget that in other corners of the world, there are the less fortunate. We forget that there are people who don’t even get their three meals a day. We forget that there are other children who are ‘the future’ of their country, and yet they live in constant poverty and hardships.

 We don’t even understand the notion of ‘poverty’.

 And today when we went to all four different schools in Thailand – each smaller than the former, I was truly shocked at the state in which some children live in. We saw little children standing on burning sand without any shoes on at all. We saw little children dressed in long sleeves and long pants under the hot sun just so that they could perform for us – their visitors. We saw a sumptuous feast being served to us during lunch and yet it just causes me to wonder – how much is all this costing these poor villagers?

 Everything that I saw and experienced today opened up a whole new perspective to things. I know it sounds cliché, but it has truly made me appreciate what I have back at home. When I’m under the hot sun here in Thailand, I comfort myself with the thought that when I get back to Singapore, I will be able to enjoy the cooling air-conditioning. When I’m tired after a day’s work here in Thailand, I tell myself that when I get back, I can rest all I want. When I am unable to take the unpalatable food here in Thailand, I remind myself of the delicious and sumptuous food I have back in Singapore.

 But the children and people living in Thailand don’t have all these – air-conditioning and the such to look forward to. To put it in not so nice terms: even if they don’t like their life here, they don’t have any other choice.

 Today caused me to think a lot, to question the life that I live everyday. It has been incredibly memorable, and I hope that I will never forget the lessons and experiences I have had today.

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