Travel is something that I’ve done extensively throughout my life. Sometimes I was forced to go places when I really didn’t want to, and other times I was excited for the adventure. One thing I always came away with as a lesson no matter if I was happy about it or not was the importance of it. Travel showed me a world that books and movies couldn’t. It showed me that people everywhere laugh with their friends and love their families. Every person in the world has hardships and every person wants a good life, no matter the circumstances. I’ve seen unimaginable wealth and some of the poorest conditions to live in. I’ve been in some very nice resorts where people don’t even think about money, and in contrast, I have been places where people hunched over the few items of clothing they had, washing them in the river.
This happened in Bali, on a trip that forever changed the way I saw the world. It was more than a trip. My family and I lived there for a few months in an area called Seminyak. Being in the day to day life of a developing country showed me all types of humanity. My mom still says “Bali is heaven or hell. There is no in-between.” While I thought the inconveniences of spotty wifi and the absence of ketchup was hell, the things we saw showed me how good we have it. I saw poverty on a level that is unimaginable here. The beggars. The human trafficking. People for sale. It showed me what people will do to survive and how cruel this world can be.
One day my family and I were on the beach when a little girl about 7 years old came up to us. She was selling bracelets and was very mean about it. When we didn’t buy all of her bracelets, she hissed at us saying “I hope you die a very bad death.” She was mean but we knew it was an act. She was tired and probably very hungry. We asked her if she wanted something to eat. She said no, she said she wanted us to buy her bracelets. Ten minutes later, we asked again and she calmly sat down and said she wanted a mango, but only if her friends could have one too. This skinny, small, hungry girl without shoes was more concerned about making sure her friends and the kids smaller than her had food rather than just taking for herself. Within five minutes, we had 20 kids around the age of seven all surrounding us for mangoes. It was fun watching their smiles as they all got a treat. The little girl waited until everyone else had a mango before taking one for herself. This was the ultimate lesson of compassion and the saying “Do unto others as you would want done to you.”
My time here at REN and the valuable education I’ve received has given me the tools to learn, strive for excellence, and not give up on myself. Like the little girl on the beach, the teachers and advisors here have put us, their students, first. They truly wanted what was best for me. When I didn’t believe in myself and wanted to give up they believed in me. They were patient while driving me to be the best that I could be. I am grateful for everyone for shaping me into a better, smarter person. Thank you.