We took the plunge. It was a leap of faith. The kids should be able to survive without any electronic devices. Never tried it since the advent of the iphone. No ipad, no electronic games. Just us, them, and everything else in between.
The trip apart from hiking, was meant to show the kids the lives of people in the less developed part of the world.
Prior to the trip, I was worried about many things. The food, the weather and how well they (or we) could survive the long journey without their electronic games. I was worried that the holiday could turn into a nightmare.
We packed some UNO cards and a handful of Lego figurines and the boys were happy playing with them during our 8 hour train ride. At the end of each day, they were tasked to write down in their journals, a couple of things they saw during the day.
During the trip, the kids got to mingle and make friends with the local children. Play was their common language.
They learned about fruits and plants that grow in the wild. Our 13 year old guide showed and fed us some wild weird looking fruits along the way. Some of the plants have medicinal uses but I think they eat them mostly to quench their thirst and fill their stomach.
These are green tea fruits. The leaves are use for making tea but these fruits can’t be eaten.
I am quite sure his confidence level went a notch up after all the climbing and waddling through running streams, muddy trails and slippery rocks.
They bath and wash their clothes in them. The water is used in the padi fields and for generating small amount of electricity in their homes.
The boys enjoyed the food and the new friends they made. They played with what the local kids play with, from climbing trees to slippery rocks, from weaving their own toys to making up their own games.
This bow and arrow was made from bamboo strips that he picked up along the way.
I realised that the boys were more adaptable than I thought. They were much more capable of self entertaining than I thought.
I am not sure how much they were affected by the poverty they saw or whether they feel that they should be thankful for what they have. (I hope they do)
They knew that their friends took months to grow their rice and many of them don’t have a chance to go to school. If you ask my 5 year old, he would probably tell you that his deepest impression of the place was their toilets. They were holes in the ground and he worried about falling into them when his legs get tired from squatting.
Our 1 week in Sapa was an experience that we wouldn’t have had living in our cocoon world of comfort. It was a learning experience that goes beyond the 4 walls of a classroom and I was reminded of the Chinese saying, ‘better to travel ten thousand miles than to read ten thousand books’.
I realised that much of my initial worries were unfounded. The boys did not reject the food that were served or complain about the very basic condition of their friends’ homes. They dug into the gunny sack of toys like treasure troves and they enjoyed every moment spent with their new friends. I am glad that they did not shun the kids they met along the way, often with torn and tattered clothes.
I am glad the boys took in the new experience so well.
If you ask Malcolm about the kids without clothes playing in the padi fields, he would probably shoot you a nonchalant look before diving back into his book and Marcus would tell you that the kids were having fun.
I realised what I saw as poverty and struggle was perhaps to my children just a different life, probably a happy and carefree one.
They had readily take in the fact that there are people who live very differently from them and believe in very different things.
I realised that perhaps my children could see better than me and they were right that the children of Sapa were just different, and happy and needn’t need anything more, at least not iPad or any electronic games and gadgets.