Prompt: Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
As I stepped into the van that was taking me to my new destination, I felt the adrenaline run through my body. The six-hour flight to Panama had tired me out, for I had not been able to sleep, but suddenly the excitement kicked back in as we left the airport. My friends and I were headed towards a local church in a small town called Genesis. Though I was 16 years old - going into my senior year - my eyes gleamed like an enthusiastic child's as I peered through the window. I remembered that Panama was a third world country as we passed by the rustic cars, outdated compared to the vehicles in America.
We entered a more rural area after we exited the highway. Emaciated stray dogs walked aimlessly through the narrow, cracked streets. During the ride, I did not see one "proper" house. All of the houses were shacks made of cheap tin and concrete. After only two hours in the country, I was already missing my house back in the states. The reason for this mission's trip was to help improve living conditions of Panamanians.
I notice the lack of electricity when arriving at the local church we were going to reside in. I did not know how I was going to withstand the heat and humidity without a fan. Standing outside, I felt a slight breeze that cooled me. After always having had technology by my side back home, I had never been so grateful for the wind.
Through the first few days of mending their small houses, my group and I were always greeted with smiles and affection from the local residents. It is an intangible feeling to sense the joy of the community for our presence. Upon noticing their reactions, I realized something amazing. How can people living with so little, compared to where I live, be so content with their lives? Someone who lives greedily will most likely never be content with their life because all they will want is more. Greed takes over their mind and body, which is shown through the obsessive nature of spoiled humans. Though it may sound crazy to some people, I believe that true happiness can be reached when humans have less than others. This allows the less fortunate to be grateful for the smaller things in life that cannot be seen through the eyes of greedy people.
Although I felt like a foreigner at first, I soon felt accustomed to this town. One evening, after a hard day of repairing a local resident's house, our group was invited to play soccer with the neighborhood's team. Playing soccer back in the states for my school, I had encountered many offensive and discriminative players. Being Korean, I was constantly attacked with vulgar and racist comments. It did not only happen on the field, but everywhere in general. Quite nervous to play with these teenagers at first, I expected some kind of racial language related to my broken knowledge of Spanish. The game was surprisingly clean - no fouls, no enmity, and no discrimination. It was as if we were one group of friends playing together. Everyone was happy and enjoyed the game.
At the end of the missions trip, I returned home as a new person. Grateful for everything I have, I took a new perspective of the world. If I were to pick a perfect place where I am perfectly content, I would have to say Genesis, Panama. The town is very poverty-stricken, but there is something about the nature of the people there that lifts up my heart. Panama showed me that one can meet the happiest people in the most unexpected places.
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