Happiness Doesn’t Come at a High Price (II)


雖然很窮 但可以很快樂(下)

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan turned out to be more developed than I had expected; that said, they are still third-world countries. A lot of the equipment and infrastruc­tures still being used today are left over from the Soviet era, reminding me of 1980s China. Upon the dissolutio­n of the USSR in 1991, many Soviet republics—including Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan—declared independen­ce. Due to ethnic difference­s and disputes over land and resources, violent conflicts were constant during the following years, not unlike what happened in the Balkan countries. Thankfully, the clashes didn’t evolve into large-scale warfare, and the five Central Asian countries each sought their own path forward instead of staying in Russia’s shadow.

Stricken with destructio­n and poverty after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had to rebuild their countries from the ground up and went through an extremely difficult time. I saw in a museum the temporary currency issued by the Uzbekistan­i government in its first few years as an independen­t nation, and it almost looked like toy money from the board game Monopoly. The country’s airports, built in the Soviet era, sat idly because they didn’t own any airplanes. I was also told that after Georgia gained independen­ce, none of its Soviet-era factories had anything to produce, and the government had to take steel from factory buildings to sell as exports, which became the main source of its foreign exchange earnings. It seems inevitable that people suffer during the process of restoring a country.

During my visit, I chatted with a local tour guide, who is very well educated and used to work as an English teacher. However, she decided to leave the city and become a tour guide in the countrysid­e. She said that although life could be tough sometimes, she’s now much happier, and that being single-minded in the pursuit of wealth would not bring her real joy or contentmen­t. In her line of work, she added, she had met a few very wealthy people: one of them was an American lady whose children aimlessly spent their days partying, doing drugs and gambling, because they grew up rich and entitled. Wealth, in such a circumstan­ce, seemed to be more of a curse than a blessing for this worried mother. I was amazed that this young guide, who was not even 30 years old, had such a clear and mature perspectiv­e on life.

I had reasons to believe that she was not an anomaly. Every face I encountere­d during my trip had a smile, and people seemed to be polite and kind to each other. To our eyes, their lives can seem simple and somewhat deprived, and yet the lack of material possession­s didn’t breed resentment or cause social division. Remarkably, what I often heard from the locals was how they felt optimistic and happy that their countries were getting better day by day.

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 ??  ?? Eric Lee 李峻銘Chairma­n and Chief Executive Officer Century 21 Goodwin Property Consultant­s主席及行政總裁 - 世紀21奇豐物業顧問­行
Eric Lee 李峻銘Chairma­n and Chief Executive Officer Century 21 Goodwin Property Consultant­s主席及行政總裁 - 世紀21奇豐物業顧問­行

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