Lessons Learned From Chinese Children

Lessons Learned From Chinese Children

Lessons Learned From Chinese Children

Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen

Howww!” Two Kirghiz Chinese children howled in approval as they raced each other on their three wheeled bicycles. One smacked the other on the back and took off running while panting for breath.  I observed the children for a few minutes more and then made my way back to the yurt, where I would spend the night with the two children and their mother. As I scanned their residence I noticed that the only toys they owned were the bicycles they were riding on. They were all smiles and laughs as they chased each other along the grassy terrain as a 7,500 meter high glacier loomed in the background. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity,” suddenly North American author Thoreau’s quote entered my mind. Keep your life simple and happiness will find its way to you. These children were a prime example.

As I fixated myself on the children playing in rural China, I had a flashback that transported me back to Children’s Day in South Korea. The sun was shining bright and the cool, refreshing breeze that was blowing against the leaves was musical. It was hard to believe that I was in the middle of a city of 12 million people. I saw vivid images of a South Korean family I saw at the park in my neighborhood in Seoul. The mother and father distracted not by their child’s naughty behavior, but by the smart phone in their palms. “Minsoo! Come over here quickly,” they yelled halfheartedly while keeping their eyes locked on the electronic device as their thumbs kept tapping on the screen. A young boy about age 8-10, Minsoo kept walking in the opposite direction, a defiant attitude at such a young age which reminded me of myself. Minsoo also had a smart phone in his hands and didn’t pay his parents any mind. Next to Minsoo’s parents was another family of four. Two parents in their early to mid forties and two children between ages 8-12 years old. This time all four were fixated on their smart phones sitting on a bench distracted from the most important thing in their lives- quality time together. As advertised by the major electronic companies, they were playing with a device developed to help modernize society and bring people together. Unfortunately, it is being abused by many to the point where people are now separated by their electronic devices and do not focus on the present moment. The dopamine spike that computer scientists work so hard to maximize in their smart phone applications was simply too much for them to resist. Even while at the park with their family, the need to be entertained by social media and the Internet was too powerful to be overcome.

Even though I had a very privileged upbringing, I could relate with the Chinese children better than I ever expected. A ball and a group of friends created hours upon hours of free entertainment, exercise, bloody noses, skinned knees and even two broken bones which proved invaluable for character building while growing up. Team building, leadership and the ability to persevere when my body refused to go any further would foster essential life skills. All I needed was a ball and friends and I was happy. This was all before the information revolution took over modern society. Now our ball has become the computer we hold in the palm or our hands while friends exist only through text, pictures and videos.

Minimalism is a way of life that everyone should adopt as responsible global citizens. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements that promise happiness through our consumption of junk. As we continue to be good consumers, our world economy thrives. We work hard to look good in the car we drive to work and show off the new clothes on our back. However, we fail to think about where the items we purchase come from and what effect our excessive greed will have on the environment. “I am just one person. This will make no difference,” we repeat to ourselves to justify our irresponsible behavior. We spend less time with others and our relationships become more and more shallow. As a result, our mental health is being depleted.  The pharmaceutical companies and psychologists in the West are making a fortune from the great paradox of our era.  My 97 year old grandfather lived through the Great Depression that resulted from the stock market crash in 1929 in the United States and claims that no one suffered from psychological depression during that era.  Perhaps this is because people back then focused on the most important thing in their lives- their relationships with others. The happiest moments in my life are when I leave behind all of the items I have accumulated in South Korea and hit the road for two months out of the year. All I need is my tent, bike, warm clothes and company of my fellow global citizens and I am happy.

Yellow dust has become an everyday part of life here in Seoul, South Korea. Eight years ago when I arrived at my new home on the other side of the world, it would make an appearance once a year for one week. Times have changed. Yellow dust forecasts accompany weather forecasts on the news everyday. Nowadays I wake up in the mornings with a sore throat and eye irritation more than three days per week.  The vigorous exercise routine that I has become an essential part of my life has been altered as a result of potential lung damage due to inhaling toxic air particles.  As I write this blog entry, I have finally been relieved of yellow dust due to a cool rainfall in Seoul which provides a brief escape. People in my neighborhood today told me there is nothing they can do about the present situation and blame the poor air quality on neighboring China. It is time we stop blaming others for the present state of the world and take a serious look at our own personal actions as mature global citizens. There is something you can do about it- all it takes is the courage to act appropriately and speak the truth as you know it.  We all have something to learn from the Chinese children in Xinjang- how to enjoy a life of simplicity as responsible citizens of the world.

This Post Has 98 Comments

  1. The irony is not lost as I read this on my smartphone.

    1. I am sure you were not on a date while reading this! jaja!

  2. Great story George! I agree completely, less is more and paying attention to the people in our lives is the best use of our limited time. Keep on going!

    1. Thanks Ryan and all the best with your travels!

  3. Chunsam!! I read your great article. I agree with your thinking but I have never gone like where you went so I can’t totally understand. I have lived in only Korea I feel very comfortable in smart life …haha

    1. Yes. I understand your thinking. I still am happy writing letters and using a 2G phone. haha

  4. I read this article well. It’s very interesting and I agree this contents. We need to look back on our actions.

  5. After I read Geroge’s article, I felt also as I went on there. And I agree your point that minimalizm is very important for our life, too. I remind my life comparing these chinese children. Although I have many goods, I cannot tell that I’ve lived happier than that chlidren. Just my opinion! 🙂 Quick aside, I’m very surprised at Geroge’s traveling site. I think traveling is just going to the city, before. I’m very impressive and respect of your challenging! And also I think I will try to write some article after my traveling! That is nice thing I think.

    1. Thank you for your kind words Ms. Lim! I look forward to reading your travel writing soon!

  6. It was interested. Especially, i was surprised that chinese children play with bicycle without any toy.

    1. I enjoyed reading the article!! It was like the college entrance exam’s English context:))) Thank you for sharing your precious exprience and thingking

      1. I am glad you enjoyed reading the article!

    2. Yes! They had so much fun with no toys!

  7. I think I need a time to keep away from my electronic things because these days, I spent too much time using my cellphone and there is a less talk with my family on face to face. I’m too stucked with electronics. I should be refreshed.

    1. I hope you can do things to refresh your battery Ms. Kim! Be happy!

  8. To be honest, I didn’t know the meaning of the ‘minimalism’, so I searched on internet, and I think it is the important to word that people who live now have to know. I agree with your opinion. People put emphasis on ‘how they will be looked by others’, not on the essence of thing (or behavior). And I think it is not correct

    1. Minimalism is an interesting topic also! Less is more sometimes! My life is confusing and stressful with too many material objects.

  9. I think this story is so true. I agree with your opinion. Last week’s assignment was talking about that technology made us more separate. This story is one of the episodes of that issue. I truly agree this issue. I also sometimes experience this kind of problems in my life. I use smartphone more than 3 hours a day. Also sometimes I can’t listen to others saying when I’m using smartphone.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ms. Jang!

  10. i like this story! When i read it, i really want to go travel~ l like this part “Keep your life simple and happiness will find its way to you.”

    1. Thanks Ms. Kim! I hope you go and travel someday!

  11. I miss my childhood. Everyday I played with my friends at playground. It is the only way to have fun, but nowadays most of children just need a smartphone to spent time. I’m so sad that children doesn’t know real fun from playing at the playground.

  12. I’m sorry for leaving a comment late! I read it but I forgot to leave a comment. Reading the story of the chinese children who played joyfully with bicycles only and your thought about it, I reflected on myself always try to make more results. I thought it would make me more happy, but actually it was exhausting. I’ll try to find happiness from small, simple things from now on.

    1. Ms. Kim whose favorite animal is a bird! I hope you find happiness from small things! Life is too short to be exhausted all the time. Enjoy yourself!

  13. I agree with your opinion because I think the most important thing in our lives is relationship. But only meeting in Internet or SNS by smartphone can not make real relationship.

  14. I think travel teaches many thing to me. Going travel is very precious experience. I envy you that went many country and learned many thing. I will go travel this winter vacation!!!!

    1. Ms. Kim! I hope you can travel and learn many things this winter vacation!

  15. I think minimalism is good way of lifestyle.
    It’s good for Chinese children that they have bicycles to play.

    1. Minimalism is a good way of life! I hope you stay happy too!

  16. I am interested in your topic. When I was young, I went outside and played with my friends on play ground. But nowadays, technologys are developed , so I think playing with smart phone is very natural phenomenon.. The story makes me think more about our life:) thank you.

    1. I am glad you enjoyed the topic!

  17. That’s a funny piece of writing. Seeing this article, I learned about the lives of Chinese people I didn’t know, and I wanted to travel to China.

    1. I hope you can visit China someday also!

  18. I think i can learn many things through traveling. And I want to travel a lot of countries like George professor!

    1. I hope you can travel in other countries too!

  19. I’m Woo Suk Kim. 반장님!!!!!
    This topic was so good to see the other country’s landscape and someday I will go there!!!!

    1. Hello Banjangneem! I hope you can go there one day!

  20. I think the sight of Kirghiz trip and similarity to South Korea.
    Children who ride a bike have nice,fair,peaceful smile! I want to have that smiles♥

    1. Ms. Kim. You also have a peaceful smile!

  21. Hi!!chunsam!!you are very enjoy your life! Someday i will travel alone like you. And there i will
    communicate local people

    1. Thank you! I hope you can travel too someday!

  22. Agree 100percent. I’m really sad to see my cousins playing with their smartphone all the time. It’ll be much better for them to play outside.

    1. I am sure they will be happy if you play outside with them!

  23. I agree that if I live in simple life, I find happiness. I didn’t have smartphone in elementary school, but I really enjoyed having fun time with my friends without any appointment. I usually miss that time.

    1. Hello Yoobin! I hope you enjoy your time in university also!

  24. oh george very interesting story. i want to travel many country and meet other country people like you. i wish i could travel.

    1. Hello Cheongbee! Thank you for your comment. I hope you can travel too someday!

  25. I think it is very interesting story. I want to travel many countries like you. I think travel makes me happy and relax.

  26. It’s Sooooo interesting!!!!
    I want to go there too!

  27. I’m so impressed about that their lives. In korea, I always concern others’ view. But after reading this text, I acknowledge that’s not important. My appearance is not matter. Just being my self is best way to live

    1. There is only one Mr. Won! Thanks for your comment!

  28. George! It was a very impressive story! You have gained great enlightenment in the small rural villages! I was able to think about the minimalism amount of time.

    1. Thanks Mr. Moon!

  29. I was hard to understand this article. But I catched your opinion. STAY SIMPLE!! I’ll live simply from now on!! It was good article George 🙂

    1. Thanks Mr. Lee!

  30. Living in very complex ages, I forgot the basic things. After reading this article, we have more than these chinese children, but I can know happy is coming from simplicity.

    1. Thanks for your comment Mr. Jang!

  31. hellow~woo~ chunsam!
    After read this article, I think about my life style. In my life, I always want to fill anything to my place. This action made me demand other things that I don’t have. now I think this action made me unhappy:( So I have to live in simplicity like you say.

    1. Thanks Mr. Lee!

  32. This is very interesting article. And I completely agree with your opinion. Obviously relationships with others are the most important thing in our life. I think I need to take some time without smartphone.

    1. Thanks for your reply Ms. Kim!

  33. I agree with that overconsuming is a problem, but it is not the main cause of the yellow dust. This is a nice article anyway.

    1. Thanks Ms. Hong! Lets take the responsibility together for the future of our world!

  34. I also love to travel around the world but I only traveled in more economically developed countries. Which means that it was extremely interesting to read your article how you compared between nowadays and past times.

    1. Thanks Mr. White! I hope you get to travel to many places also!

  35. I acknowledge you very much. After development of technology, the time of talking with my family each other is less than past. So I think we have to reduce the use of technology or another things and pursue the minimalism.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ms. Kim!

  36. In the old days, people are happy to small things. But nowaday people don’t satisfy. But overturning thought overconsuming isn’t not that bad. Because technology develops so much.

  37. we want to be happy. but we can` to be full. so we need to abandon our greed. thank you for your writing

    1. Thanks for your comment. Yes it is important to abandon our greed.

  38. This article make me to think about the attitude I have now. I’m also the one who always looking internet even if I meet my friends. I think I have to concentrate more toward family, friends, amd others who sitting next to me.

    1. I am glad this article made you think more deeply. I hope you can enjoy your time with your friends and family Mr. Jeong.

  39. Truly agree to the thought that staying away from smartphones and for me that is where pure happiness is. However, more and more peolpe around take smartphones as happiness that they consider that it is the way to the world. Hence, sometimes, the issue is really confusing.

    1. Thanks for your comment! I hope you can experience true happiness too!

  40. I am sad thatI have never been there though I am a Chinese . It’s my dream to stay in this kind of pure and peaceful place and live a simple life.The quickly development of modern society makes my stressed and anxious.I have no time to think deeply alone. I wish I could live quietly without phones !

    1. Banjangneem! Thank you for your comment. I hope you can also live a happy peaceful life!

  41. I like your article and pictures! I’m surprised of you finding the relationship between the chidren and enjoying the environment and comparing that with Koreans these days watching the smart phone screen. I’m very impressed and having reflection of myself. Thank you for your great article. Hope to see more!

    1. Thank you! More coming soon!

  42. I deeply sympathize your opinion. Most people of South Korea are too absorbed in consuming something, and this makes their life desperate.
    When I was young, I was really happy just playing with friends in playground. I hope that children get along with their ‘real friend’, not a device.

    1. Thanks for your comment banjangneem!

  43. After reading this article, I was able to look back on my life! Espically I could think a lot when I saw this sentence..”Keep your life simple and happiness will find its way to you.” With this, I want to be a person who can feel happy about simple things like having friends and family.

    1. Yes! I hope you always have great friends and family in your life!

  44. chunsam! i read your posting very interesingly . After reading this article, I think about my life, I need to be humble like them and abandon my greed.

  45. I agree that we should enjoy a life of simplicity as responsible citizens of the world. But i think it is hard to action like that. So i decide to practice from small things! Thank you for your writings.

    1. Small changes everyday will be just fine!

  46. It was an article that makes me reflect myself. Even though I’m living my life with lots of comfortable and useful things, I wonder they really make me happy. Thank you for giving opportunity to think about fresh topics

    1. I hope you have time to reflect about the things that are really important to you in life. This can be a great education for anyone!

  47. wow, Your article is good to know your thoughts.
    “It is time we stop blaming others for the present state of the world and take a serious look at our own personal actions as mature global citizens.” This sentence has reached me. I agree with this opinion and I should reflect on myself.

  48. Most modern people get addicted to use smatphones and do not communicate each ither. It is time to stop using smartphones and communicate with family.

  49. As a Korean citizen myself, and a smartphone addict, I could not but relate to this entry heartfully. I myself have also been blaming the air quality of China for ruining ours, and I have also been too involved with friends on my phones, rather than my own family. I’ve been blaming that on my family as well, for not paying enough attention to me when I used to be so focused on them. Nowadays I am starting to feel these stuff you have analyzed so well here. I’m the one to be responsible for the air I’m breathing, and I’m the one who should be trying to use my phone less.

  50. As ‘Happiness’ is one of things that I thought about these days, this article is interesting. After reading this article, I came up with the article that young kids can spend their time happily even the only toy they owned was a ball. I think this shows that kids are more easy to live their lives happier than adults. Although we know the advantages of Minimalism, it is hard to live that way. I hope to try minimalism someday in my life.

  51. I was impressed by the writing.
    Your writing served as an occasion for me to reflect on the daily routine I took for granted.

  52. i agree with your opinion wholeheartedly. These days, most people spend a lot of time with their phones, so time for communication decreased compared to the past. I hope many people to realize the value of face to face communication.

  53. Wow~ Your writing is pretty impressive! Especially, “The sun was shining bright and the cool, refreshing breeze that was blowing against the leaves was musical” is a very beautiful expression. As you say, we are forgetting the beauty of human and nature because of civilization. Also, a smartphone reduces my own time and time to see the beauty outside the screen. After reading this article, I reflect on myself. Let me think again about what is really precious. Thank you 🙂

  54. I was so impressed by your writing and learned a lot from it. Actually, even before I read this, I was laying in my bed and kept looking at my smartphone. Still, I was not feeling happiness even though I was holding this high-tech thing. However, these Chinese children could be happy with a bicycle such a simple thing. It made me reflect on myself a lot. I really learned a lot from your writing. Thanks for your writing!

    1. Glad you enjoyed the article Ms. Kim and I hope you get time to think about yourself too!

  55. After i read this article, I could consider about true relationship between people..

  56. We are use smart phone anywhere, anytime. Smartphone is definitely necessary thing, but it take away many humane factors.
    I realize that because of your opinion.

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