A group of youths on a two-week trip to a secluded place sounds
like something with high potential to backfire, or at the very least the
introductory line to a cautionary horror movie. I’m very happy to say
that things did not backfire. Well I mean, apart
from some casualties every now and then (swollen foot, stung by bees,
gastric pain,
the usual) but we had fun together. We had a lot of fun together.
Between the 11 of us we have an entire afternoon at the
Tom Harrison Memorial Hill, chilling out at the white verandah, beading, and
selfies, selfies, selfies. 

My experience in Bario could not have been as awesome as it was if any one in my team had been different. I’m glad to have been given the opportunity to meet and know such strong, intelligent people, and it’s nice to know that although the project has ended, we will always have Bario.

(I don’t actually have a story here, just wanted to show off the picture I took of the beads.)
Moving on to something a bit more serious, after coming back from Bario, when I came back and told people about my trip and life in Bario, I found that most of them reacted with stuff like “wow paddy planting! What a tiring life.” and similar things. Now, I will admit that when I first came to Bario, I compared life in Bario to city life quite often, but these days, I don’t know. I guess the words are said with good intentions but I find myself getting somewhat defensive because it just sounds patronizing. Sure, maybe some people are genuine and maybe I am reading too much into it. Or maybe I just know a lot of terrible people, I don’t know. But there is always this undercurrent of oh my god how could people live like that
in the words that I’ve come to expect when I tell people about my trip. Because I walk into Sina’s mother’s kebun
and she is perfectly contented tending to her fish pond. I watch my Sina
and her family effortlessly adapt to water rationing without a struggle.
And even if there was, it doesn’t make city life any better. 
I’m actually doing a terrible job explaining my thoughts, but luckily my fellow Project WHEE! participant Kan Wai Min similarly blogged about it in a way that is far more eloquent than anything I could say, in his post, Reassessing Happiness, Redefining Success.

Wai Min says: “It’s so fundamentally flawed to think that just because
someone doesn’t want, need or have the same things (tangible or intangible) that
you do, their sense of happiness is less
valid – because it is not.”

I probably sound like some spoiled person saying this but 2 weeks in Bario taught me that there is no rightful way to live. Just because someone spends their 9 – 5 planting paddy, it doesn’t mean that that value of life is any less compared to a 9 -5 in the office. Two weeks in Bario taught me to be open-minded when it came to new things. And not the kind of open-mindedness about accepting each other no matter our size or color (although that’s a very important things to be clear about so do keep your minds open!), but to really go in with a blank slate, watch and listen, learn and understand. 

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