A Thousand Different Shades of Grey

By Ong Ling Na, Scarlet

When my roommate Carlie and I dropped off the jeepney, a double-storey house appeared in front of us. As we learnt from Beau earlier, the house belonged to the one of the wealthiest families in Tubod Mar. Our host, Mynra Galaura welcomed us warmly with banana cues. She has four children who seemed to be more comfortable than we had expected with the idea of having strangers staying in their house for nearly a month. They were extremely curious about people coming from a distant nation with different skin colours and facial features that in some ways resembled Korean drama idols to them.

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My time in Myrna’s house has been mostly relaxed and fun. We celebrated her birthday by singing and dancing along Philipino Jazz together before dinner; we followed her to a marvelous private resort in Anda and took selfies by the swimming pool after the family re-union party. Her husband who we met in video conferences called Carlie and me the “instant” daughters of Myrna. During these times language was hardly a barrier between us, and I would be under the illusion that people in Hong Kong and Philippines live alike.

But there were some other times when I truly sense our differences and tried to make some inner and deeper reflections. Both of Myrna’s daughters finished their homework in the living room while watching television at night. Sometimes they would squat on the floor to write their homework placed on chairs. Angel, Myrna’s younger daughter, loved to read by holding her daily exercises up high in mid-air which was blocking most of the light, so that she could lie flat on the couch to read. She would get up every now and then and write on her knees. The first night I saw it I felt obliged to tell Myrna how her daughters’ studying habits could be detrimental to their health in future, but I hesitated. Yet by the second day, I felt that I probably didn’t have a good piece of advice: a “proper” and still sitting pose with back straight throughout my school years has given me nothing more than neck and back pain. I was then convinced to use a “posture corrector”, or Backjoy sold at HK$600. Nevertheless, my spine would never recover to its state again. Astigmatism and myopia has also been my company since thirteen, so do I really know what is good for the kids?

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The education we have received moudled us into individuals with similar modernized values. But it can be hard to determine if these humanitarian values serve us good entirely in the practical sense. For example, to protect the endangered species of birds and botany, the use of DEET was forbidden in all repellents world-wide, despite the fact that DEET contains ingredients which is capable of  reducing the chance of malaria infection. Millions of Africans were killed by malaria primarily due to the good deeds of Americans trying to conserve our mother planet. If well-intended actions don’t necessarily lead to desirable outcomes, maybe we should pay more respect to individual cultures and stress less on universal values, as one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

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