Posted by: nyomnyom | October 28, 2009

Whose poor and whose rich?

When I first time living with people in rural area, I was feeling so powerful because I thought I have the knowledge which I studied from university, I read many books and so on. So, I talked to my self that I am intellegent and they are stupid. I am more civilized than they are.
I have my camera, recording, handycam to show them that I have everything. I have fancy clothes and tools to protect me while living there. I am powerful because I am so prepared and well educated.
However, I was wrong, totally wrong.

At that time, I was live in with my host family in the lovely coastal area but without electricity and toilet. I was started to panic and I couldn’t sleep and eat well for a week. I had to go to head of village house, which is 1 hour by walking, if I want to use toilet. I still can take a shower at my house but they only have a well and it is outside the house. It is a share well with other neighbour. When I took a shower for the first time with my little sister, all the neighbours were coming to see how I took a shower. I felt so embarrassed because they stared and laughed at me. I told to my host parents that I felt uncomfortable with that situation and when I thought they will support me, instead they also laughed. My father told me that it was funny for local people because I took a shower with full clothes. I supposed to wear sarong (large tube of fabric) and tied it around my neck, simple and I can clean my body with soap easily.

Another thing that made them laughing at me was when I want to show them how to cook healthy food. I didn’t know how to use brick stove. My food was terrible and I end up eating fried fish that my mother cook for me. Also, I didn’t know how to use oil lamp and because I was so afraid with darkness, I turn on my oil lamp all night long. In the morning, when I woke up, my little sisters and brothers were laughing and pointed at my face. I looked at my face at the mirrow and I found it covered with black dust from the lamp. Children also laughed at me when I felt down while trying to catch some fish at the beach. I was totally wet. My expensive jeans was full of mud of beach. One of the kids, after pausing his laugh, told me that I should wear sarong wherever I go to make me easier to walk. I only have to roll up my sarong if I want to crossing the river, walking on paddy field or catching the fish. They also taught me how to find and use leaves to prevent me from mosquitoes. My father invited me to join him on his boat and explained me about sea navigation.

And, the most memorable moment that turn upside down my world was when we had dinner together just few days before I left. I asked them why they use hand for eating instead of spoon. Because I can see that they only wash their hand quickly before eating . I couldn’t stop my self to not asking this question to them. But, it was on my head since the first day, and I had to ask them because maybe I could do something to help them understand about health issue and I could buy them a set of spoon. My wise father with smile on his face answered me : ” Eating from your hand is more delicious because you touch the food, you feel it, you sense it, nothing between you and the food. If you eating with your hand, it means you appreciate the food and people who cook and prepare for it. ”

I was so ashamed to my self and before I could say something to him, he added : ” By the way, do you know how to use chopstick like Japanese? ”


So, beside the facts that this community still has patriarkhi system, so many drop school children, destroy their beautiful coral with fish bomb, etc but they has changed my life and I learn a lot from them. Now, wherever I go, I am unpacking my mind and ready to share knowledge with people. In term of knowledge, when you think you know something, you know nothing, but when you think you don’t know it, you learn something…

The question is whose rich and whose poor now?

Below is a very touching story that someone sent to my email long time ago and remains me of my story above (

One day, the father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son :

” How was the trip? “

” It was great, Dad!”

” Did you see how poor people live? ” the father asked.

” Oh yeah. ” said the son

” So, tell me, what you learned from the trip? ” asked the father.

The son answered :

” I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horison. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them. “

The boy’s father was speechless then the son added : ” Thanks Dad for showing me how poor we are. “


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