Hello and welcome to Episode #43 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Never Go to Sri Lanka, Using a Child as a Broom, and Unclutter the Cluttered.
A moment of adversity called: Never Go to Sri Lanka
I will never go to Sri Lanka again; once was enough! It was not easy to enjoy it as a number of unexpected things happened that put me in dire straits.
Before arriving, I had checked and doubled checked with a travel agent about my tour package and if there were any hidden fees or other expenses because I wanted to make sure I brought enough money. Online she assured me that everything was in order and to have a good trip.
Upon arrival, I immediately discovered that Taiwan dollars were not acceptable for money exchange. That was all I had since I was working in Taiwan. They would take American dollars, but I did not know that to bring with me. Immediately, I was in great distress because it was like being penniless with no emergency money in a foreign place. I had asked the travel agent if I could do the money exchange upon arrival, and she assured me I could. What a fool I was! I looked for my chauffeur for the trip and hoped he would be able to help. He directed me to the black market. In desperation, I exchanged some money, and they charged me an arm and a leg! It didn’t help much, but it was better than nothing. I seriously wanted to turn around and fly back to where I came from. I lost my appetite and excitement for the trip.
Things seemed to get worse. I had a driver and no tour guide to help answer any questions or learn anything about procedures. My driver was very reluctant to do anything other than drive me. Since I felt penniless to spend any money other than what I prepaid in my package tour, I tried not to spend any money.
My first tour was supposed to be to a safari, and I would ride on a jeep for it. Upon arrival, the workers told me I had to pay for the jeep ride. I told them I had prepaid it in my tour package. They insisted that the jeep ride was a separate fee. I had them call my agent, and I tried to talk to my agent to no avail. It was like we weren’t even speaking the same language! Maybe they were trying to scam me and get extra money, but I only had a tiny amount of Sri Lankan money from the black market. Even my driver got agitated trying to talk to my travel agent. In the end, I didn’t go on the safari that was prepaid. Who heard of going on a safari without transportation? Maybe I should have attempted to walk it, freak them out, and then they’d let me on a jeep!
My next activity was an elephant ride. Before even getting on the elephant, the attendants said I needed to pay a tip beforehand and another fee for the tour. I said I had paid for it in my tour package. They said it was only for the elephant. The worker guiding the elephant for the tour was a separate fee, and the tip to the worker was another fee. I couldn’t believe my ears! Who heard of paying for an elephant ride but guiding the elephant was a separate fee! Before the trip, I asked my travel agent about any hidden or extra costs; why didn’t she tell me?
I told my driver I could not afford the extra fees. He said, “Come on, you American, you have money. Use your credit card.” I was now disgusted. I did have a credit card but was afraid to use it for fear they would take more out of my card than stated. I repeated that I could not afford it. Didn’t he know? He was the one who led me to the black market and knew how little money I got out of it. “I don’t have the money, so take me back to the hotel,” I said.
Then for once, my driver helped me a bit. He said there was another location where they had elephant rides. The elephant was smaller, so it would be cheaper. I said, “Okay.” Upon arrival, the driver had to park in a parking lot. There were two window booths. One was for locals, and one was for foreigners. It was a different price for each, and the signs were large to see: FOREIGNERS and Sri Lankan residents. I was taken aback to see it; it felt like stepping back in time when there was segregation in the USA., only it was happening in the twenty-first century in another part of the world.
I got my elephant ride with a smaller elephant, but it was large enough for me! The workers asked me to provide a tip before the worker guided the elephant. I shook my head, saying, “Sorry, no money.” Luckily, I did get my ride without paying the extra fee. It is not that I am cheap; I had very little Sri Lankan money!
On another tour, I was to climb up a mountain to see a temple. Along the way were some children selling sculpted figurines. They were pretty aggressive and persistent in chasing me on the narrow paths up and down the winding mountain paths. I know they must be poor and only trying to make a living, but this tourist didn’t have the dough.
It seemed like I was asked to pay a fee for the smallest service or help everywhere I went. Needless to say, I did not enjoy this trip of Sri Lankans asking me for money for every little thing. Worse, I didn’t have the money to give and help either. I was trying to survive this trip myself! The experience left a sour taste on me, but luckily I got back home safely.
This trip reminded me to be most grateful for what I do have. Don’t take things for granted, and be thankful that I have a job, a roof over my head, and food to eat. I am grateful I don’t, at this time, need to beg for money or try to scam others for money. There are always others who are less fortunate than you. Don’t complain about what you don’t have; do appreciate what you do have.
A moment of an encounter called: Using A Child As A Broom
With no teaching experience and no knowledge of the American sign language, I was ecstatic to get a full-time position as a teaching assistant. It was for a class of five hearing-handicapped children. Why did I want it? It was only in a special education class where assistants would get more work hours. I needed the money to pay for my apartment and expenses as a new college graduate. I soon learned that the position was difficult to fill because the ideal candidate would have experience with hearing-handicapped children and know how to sign. I didn’t have any of those skills, but because I was bilingual and one of the students understood a second language that I also spoke, I got the job!
I soon learned some sign language on the job through the students and the teacher. I was assigned to work with two of the students, and they were eager to learn to read. They studied my lips each time I spoke, and they communicated with me in sign language. It was quite a learning experience for me.
While working in this position to make a living or survive, I also pondered what I wanted to do in a career. The school counselor in college had suggested that I become a teacher since I studied child psychology, but I wanted to be a child psychologist. Knowing that it would require more money to get another degree, I was not ready for it. It was already a miracle that I completed four years of college because I had to finance it myself along with government aid.
Though it was a unique experience working with the two students I had, I was also bored with it. There was nothing wrong with the job, but I didn’t enjoy it a great deal. I observed the teacher working with the other three students. He didn’t seem to be teaching much, but he seemed to enjoy himself as he “played” with the kids.
I didn’t see myself becoming a teacher as the kids did not excite me, but I still wanted to do something to help children. This job was not to be my destiny, but what was I to do?
One day, while the teacher was “playing” with one particular child, Tim, my eyes widened. I couldn’t believe what I was observing. I was horrified and disturbed. It pained me to see him laughing because he was having fun doing what he was doing. The teacher, James, held up skinny, light-weight, and scrawny Tim upside-down. He then swung him from side to side like the motion of sweeping the floor. The boy’s hair hung down, nearly touching the floor as the swings lowered him somewhere in the middle, swinging from left to right. The teacher laughed, and the other children looked on laughing too.
I am sure the innocent kids didn’t know any better, but the teacher should have known it wasn’t the right thing to do. The twenty-one-year-old me had never seen such a scene and was appalled and troubled. I had studied about children in college because I wanted to do something to make a difference for children. Maybe Tim didn’t feel the pain of being treated like a broom, but he was not treated properly from my perspective.
I can only guess that the teacher had a difficult job as it was not easy teaching the children. Maybe he needed to relieve his stresses or challenges by playing with the kids in that way. Still, it wasn’t right to treat Tim like a broom.
This scene, this teacher’s actions, that I witnessed would impact my life. From that day forward, it became clear what I wanted to do. I decided to become a teacher and treat kids better. I decided to get my license to teach. Because of the encounter with James and witnessing what he did, I solidified my direction to become a teacher to make a difference. I did become a teacher and have enjoyed many years working with children and being mindful of treating them better.
A moment of a perspective called: Unclutter the Cluttered
I have always enjoyed tidying up messes; it makes me feel good when I see things neatly organized. My friend Selina always said that anyone could always drop by my house unannounced, and my place would be as neat as can be. My Grandma, who started me on the habit, would be surprised to see how neat I was when she’d visit and open my drawers to see inside. Even one of my bosses dared to open the small doors of my Ikea organizers to take a look and found my socks and undies neatly folded! Since she did that, I proudly opened my closets of hanging clothes where my shirts were all lined up by sleeve length and the seasons. No one ever served as a model for me to do all that. So, I don’t know where all my organization originated! Maybe it’s because Grandma always told me to tidy things in the house when I lived with her.
Selina and other friends have repeatedly asked how I keep up with being so disciplined and organized all the time. I don’t know, but I always had an answer to make a response. I need to declutter my outside world to help declutter my inside world! And my inside world is full of too many thoughts and memories!
For the people who don’t care to keep their things tidy or clean up messes, I have an idea that is food for thought! Maybe you’d like to say you don’t have the time or energy, but it is so much easier to clean up the environment around you to enjoy and see the results of your labor in your home or even your desk.
You might say, “Easier than what? “ It is easier than cleaning up the clutter in your mind! The baggage of the past, the to-do lists, the heartbreaks, the failures, the disappointments, the things that disturb or bother you, the anger, the opinions, and so many other things are not as easy to erase or clean!
Do you often think about uncluttering the cluttered mind? Have you ever thought about uncluttering the cluttered thoughts in the head?! I do! Sometimes they drive me crazy! They make me tired and give me sleepless nights. They dampen my mood and suck the energy out of me! Worse, many even inadvertently affect my behavior and attitude. Too many of these negatives affect my happiness. Taking the time to declutter and lower the volume of the automatic negative comments in the head is a must.
I begin by cleaning areas in my home; it feels therapeutic! Feeling calm, I take the time to declutter some thoughts in my mind. With some of the thoughts that don’t help make me feel good, I replace them with ideas that would improve my mood. With the notions that anger me, I replace them with activities that reduce the anger. I keep the helpful ones and toss out the unhelpful ones for my sanity. It’s like doing spring cleaning. You accumulate numerous things, and after a while, it overflows to an uncomfortable level, so you take a look at what you have. Keep those that will make you happy, and toss out those that don’t. Easier said than done. However, that is why doing it in the outer physical environment helps to lead to working on it in the inner world. With a clean house, you can feel more space and time to engage in more activities and hobbies that would improve your mood and bring some peace of mind. Remember, unclutter the cluttered outside and inside!
Key Takeaways: Though I had a horrible experience in Sri Lanka and saw what people would do to get money, I was reminded to be grateful for what I have and to be thankful that I don’t have to scam or cheat others to make a living.
Though I was horrified at witnessing what a teacher did with a child, I vowed to do a better and became a teacher.
Though some may not enjoy cleaning or chores, I assert that it is therapeutic, easier to do, and helps in declutter the mind.
Next week, you will hear three new real-life stories called The Planned and the Unplanned, A Special Agent, and What My Eyes Say.
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