I Know I Am Intelligent Because I Know That I Know Nothing .... Socrates

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Before you read on I would like you to consider what you would consider to be the greatest sacrifice that you have had to make in your life to date ? Write it down !

Now, what would be a significant sacrifice you had to make within the last year ? Write that one down too !

Now finally, write down " Your " definition of sacrifice !

All of us would have a similar definition of what a sacrifice is but I would hazard to bet that all of us would differ on what we have had to sacrifice and our personal measurements of what we would consider a sacrifice.

What would you be willing to sacrifice ?

As you can probably guess by the picture, I have just finished watching Mao's Last Dancer and a half a box of Kleenex later I am reminded of just how privileged my life has been. I have had no war forced upon me or my family, I have had freedom of speech and taken it for granted, I have had freedom of religion, freedom of association, political freedom, I have enjoyed free education and free health just to name a few.

And yet generally, as a society we still feel like we make daily sacrifices ! We feel like we are constantly deprived or denied because of our hunger for possessions and status !

But I have to say people ... What Sacrifice ?

In the movie Mao's Last Dancer it looks at the life of Li Cunxin, removed from his home as a small child by the communist state and transformed into a Ballet show piece for the Republic Of China. When he gets the opportunity to travel to America to study he falls in love and sees for himself that the west offers opportunities not available in China and decides to stay.

In making this decision he sacrifices the opportunity to ever return home to his family or country of birth. One can only imagine being in the position of having to make that decision and sacrifice.

Over the years I have hosted foreign exchange students from Japan and Vietnam. At the end of this year I will have the honour of hosting my first Chinese student for a 10 week stay.

The cultural exchange that Dylan and I get from the exchange students is priceless and it is always very sobering when you compare the life styles of these Asian countries with that of our own here in Australia. We are indeed a very lucky country, how unfortunate it is that more times than not we ignore or forget this fact.

Even the simple aspects of the daily lives of these students makes my life's sacrifices pale into insignificance.

One student by the name of Hien from Vietnam is the eldest son of his family and his father was the oldest son of his family. As such the eldest son is the matriarch of the extended family and is responsible for the health and well being of the full extended family .. for life !

I remember one day I was asking Hien what he wanted to do once he left school, he told me that he wanted to be a Structural Engineer. Quite casually I told him that I thought that was an excellent choice and then asked him if his goal was to then go back to Vietnam and rebuild his country.

Hien looked at me as if I was the thickest person on the earth and clearly stated that he could NEVER go home !

What I asked, why ?

Hien then explained that too many people has sacrificed their money and resources to bring him out from Vietnam to have the opportunity of an education and better life. He could never earn enough back in Vietnam to repay this debt so would have to stay abroad his whole life to fulfill this sacrifice of others and to also sacrifice further himself to allow other Vietnamese students to have the same opportunity as he did.

Now Hien was a young man of 17 having to make and accept a life sacrifice of never being able to return home to live, all in the name of a better western life.

This is only one of dozens of sacrifices these kids are making, every Japanese student I have hosted describes a average day back home as getting up at 6am, on a train by 6:30am, at school by 7:30am finish school at 4pm but remain at school for sports or extra curricular activities until 8pm, back on a train to get home around 9pm, shower feed homework and in bed by midnight.

And the thing is neither Hien or any of the Japanese students EVER considered that they were making a sacrifice !

I always walk away from these students feeling very humble and ashamed of my self pity !

I could write about these students for the next month and still not explain just how much Dylan and I get out of there visits. If you ever get the opportunity I strongly recommend you do it ! Nothing like having to scrutinise yourself under a microscope for honesty.

Now go have a read of your notes you made at the beginning of this Blog and quietly reflect on whether you still feel they are as big as you though when you wrote them down !

Dohi & thank you for reading my Blog !

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bro - I enjoyed your post and would like to say that if you have the inclination READ THE ACTUAL BOOK - the movie is great but the book tells you soooo much more.It is funny but yesterday I was trying to say this same thing to a group of friends sitting around and chatting over nibbles and beer and wine. You would have thought that their lives are so hard and that our living standards are just so below par. I tried to get them to see things through different glasses and maybe I left them with something to think about. It was very timely again that you write this and you write it so well. Love and Peace to you - Wendy