One of my students went to the Philippines for Christmas. I gave her the assignment of sending me a Philippines Report in exchange for her time off from school. Actually, I give this assignment to all my students who miss school to go overseas somewhere. I do this because in America, we get numb to the realities that the rest of the world faces on a daily basis. This is the true value of travel; coming to terms with how the rest of the world lives. Travel changes lives and perspectives.

As for me, when I go to another country, I am always amazed by how hard the people work (yet also how they don’t overwork for the sake of profit), how genuinely happy most are, and how ingenious their solutions are in solving problems. My student really got it, so I thought I’d share what she wrote:

From all of the things I’ve seen during my one month stay here, I know that one thing is certain. Even through all of the rough times the Philippines has gone through, everyone remains happy and united. Coming from America, I’m not used to a lifestyle where poverty is so common. You go into a richer area of a city and barely 2 minutes away are broken houses with clothes hanging on lines to dry. You see people taking showers outside using buckets and dirty water, something that you’d never see in America. Even the homeless people in America don’t take showers, naked for everyone to see in public.

I’ve seen kids, half my age working out on the streets, but they didn’t at all ask for food. All they did was sell stuff and work hard for what they had. I’ve seen people older than my grandmother sleeping on sidewalks soundlessly and everyone walked past them like it was nothing. On another side of the city, people were eating at fancy restaurants similar to the ones at America and shopping at all of the designer brands at the mall. Police officers filled the streets because it was so common for people trying to come in and steal something, while we barely have two security officers in the mall where we live.

The divide between the rich and the poor is as great as the distance between the Western and Eastern hemisphere. While we, in America, get to eat the same food that the richer people can eat in America, people in the Philippines with no money barely get to eat at all. Seeing the sad looks on people’s faces because they have nothing to eat today isn’t something you see every day in America, and it breaks my heart.