Stepping out of that bus and seeing more than a hundred people looking at us was frightening, not because they were staring at us as if we were aliens, but because they looked at us with such amazement and joy. They greeted us with dances and songs in which they were so energetic that I was extremely overwhelmed. As I got assigned to my family but the two that I interacted with the most were my 7-year old brother, Andrew and 2-year old, Niar who went everywhere with me.They were one of the happiest families I have ever seen. The children were always happy and hyper even though they have so “little” compared to us. They do not have the materialistic things we have which made me realize we really do not need them to be happy. All of those materialistic things especially money is what makes people become selfish because they always want more.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The new environment that I was living in was completely different from America. They were no toilets, we had to poop and pee in a small hole and sometimes in the bushes. The hole was usually in a dark, brick room with huge flies and giant cockroaches running around everywhere. By the end of the trip we were experts in squatting and not afraid of ants or cockroaches. Our shower room was made out of straw where everyone could peek through and we only had one bucket of water which may have seemed too little, but it was enough. There was a big field in front of my house where giant sticks were set up to be the goals and the soccer ball was made out of newspapers. We had no electricity, only a lamp as our light source, but by the end of the week, we used the stars and the beautiful moon. My siblings and I would lie in the front porch and just talk while looking up at the sky.
Lastly I learned to value the most important thing in my life, my family. As I was lying under the stars with Andrew, we started talking about his family. It turned out he was an orphan, but I could not believe it because he was just one of the happiest kids in the whole village. He went to live with his uncle after his mother and brother died of malaria and his father died of cholera. He had one older sister who left him to go study in the capital. It broke my heart when he had told me what he had gone through. He had a giant heart and a lot of love to give. He gave me hope and happiness. I valued my family more than ever when I came home because I do not know what I would do without them. I cannot describe in words what this experience especially Andrew and Niar have brought to me, but I did realize that their pain was my pain because I had already accepted them as my little brother and sister. They were family, and I learned a lot about life except how to say goodbye. Andrew and I stayed up crying and looking up at the stars while I cradled Niar and he sang “A Whole New World.”
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