Hello from the other side

By: Jason Chan

I never understood the phrase “you do not know what you have got, until it is gone” before living in a developing world. I never knew I would be living in a village by the beach. I never knew there would be occasional brownouts (blackouts). I never knew there will not be a washing machine, hot water, gas stove, proper flushing system, and most importantly convenient internet access. The list goes on and on about the list I never thought I would not have. This blog post is hence a broader reflection of living/working in developing country and how it shapes my world view.

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The first few days were difficult for me as I was getting accustomed to the absence of these luxuries. However, such absence made me appreciate the luxuries even more and realize that these are the little things that make my life comfortable. At the same time, I was truly amazed of how people here and people from other parts of the world in similar situation can call such place home. My world view at this point is to question how do they do it? If there were two words to describe the answer, it would be content and gratefulness. Being contented with what they have is the primary reason to why they do not the comfort I have. Not having warm water makes them contented with just having water. Not having wifi is alright because they are contented with just a phone. Not having a flushing toilet made them contented with just having a toilet. Under such circumstances, they often have more family time, more interaction, a more bonded community, and perhaps a more honest personality. Therefore, I realized it is a form of trade-off between technological comfort and social interactions. Living in Guimaras made me realize the importance of having meaningful social interactions among friends, families, and businesses.

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Working in a developing country is completely different than working in as developed country that I am used too. The most apparent difference is definitely the working mindset. In such a developing country, businesses here often do not have the motivation to different themselves than the others. Asking them “How is your business?” and they will answer “okay” but nothing more. Hence, they end up being a common commodity, similar and undifferentiated. That is why they stay stagnant and do not improve over time. Hence, working with the owner with such mindset is challenging alongside the limited resources in a developing country. I again start to question my world view of how problem solvers like me around the world could help businesses like this. After 2 weeks of working here, the answer lies in being resourceful and taking the initiative to show the owner that there is always room for improvement. For example, my business partner and I suggested our restaurant business get table numbers to be more organized but our owner did not seem interested. However, we took the initiative to proceed and come up with a table design and even outsourced a carpenter to make a sample for us. The moment we brought it to the owner, her mood changed drastically, she was suddenly interested in our work. She was filled with excitement and energy, the one needed to actually take her business to the next level.

All in all, living and working in a developing country makes me realize that the world is fairer than it seems. A developing country indeed lacks the technological element compared to a developed country. However, living and working here in a developing countryhas made me a more resourceful person and also realize the importance of having meaningful social interactions with friends, families, and businesses. Therefore, it might be true to some extent that “the grass is greener on the other side”.

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