Monday, December 16, 2013

A Simple Life =/= A Poor Life

Dated September 7, 2013:

In case anyone's been wondering what I've been up to, I've been in The Philippines for the past 2 months. Cultural enrichment, finding my roots (LOL), yada yada, all that good stuff. But mostly to see some nice shit.

The title is something that I've been thinking of for a while since I've gotten here, but I guess I didn't develop the idea fully until I talked about it with some people that I met. I was in a town called Batad, which is only reachable by foot (from the closest road, it's about 400 steps down, and a 30 minute-1 hour hike to get to the village).
I got to wake up to this for a couple of days and It's probably been one of my favourite places so far in The Philippines (which is saying a lot as I'm writing from the infamous Boracay beach right now). I hiked all day and bumped into another Canadian named Shannon while looking for food and after she asked me about my funny-looking toe shoes, we  got into a pretty interesting discussion about Philippines. I was able to offer a little more insight because I'm often treated like a local/can speak the language but happened to grow up abroad.

 Anyway, Shannon and I got to talking and we both agreed that peoples sometimes [mistakenly] equate a simple life with one of poverty. We see kids with dirty feet and ripped clothes, and we automatically assume that they're in need. But I think we forget to ask: "but by whose standards?"

Instead of seeing underprivileged people, I see communities that are happier with less things. Their clothes have holes because they don't need to throw away a functional everyday shirt due to a rip or two. In fact, many of them have nicer ones to use when there's an occassion. Money goes to more important things because there's less to go around and a rip in a shirt is less important than something like food.

 Don't get me wrong; I'm not rationalizing, I'm not claiming that it isn't a significantly poorer country in general, and I'm definitely not claiming that this is always the case. I'm just saying that sometimes we need to check our privileges and remember that our standard of life can sometimes be higher - with the emphasis on our.

 As silly as it sounds, "nicer" isn't always better.

 Anyway, I hope that you're all well. My visa expires on Christmas, so I have to start thinking about what my next country's gonna be soon. If you'd like to see my write-up on my 2-week motorcycle tour in Luzon, you can click here

- Alvin

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