Two continents… three countries… one day each.
Chris Hayashi, Southwestern College’s peripatetic professor of psychology, spent his sabbatical last semester traveling the world and volunteering to better the lives of total strangers.
Hayashi, 39, volunteered abroad through Give a Day Global, a nonprofit organization that facilitates volunteer opportunities throughout the world.
“There is so much we can do to make a difference and make the lives of those around us better,” he said. “This organization is trying to evaluate some existing sites and also perhaps establish new partnerships in specific countries. One of the places where they wanted to do that was Bali (Indonesia) and I always wanted to go there.”
Hayashi said he had to adjust to geckos keeping him up at night, driving a scooter in a city with few traffic laws and not drinking the water to avoid what the locals call “Bali Belly.”
“It’s very eye opening and humbling to be in a culture for an extended period of time and see how people truly live their daily lives,” he said.
Hayashi said he noticed vast differences between Bali and the United States, but also some similarities.
“It’s very interesting to see how the media, society and cultures dealt with things like terrorist attacks in Paris and then there was a terrorist attack in Jakarta a couple days after,” he said. “It was just interesting to see the cultural response. It was, of course, mentioned in the news, but life goes on.”
Despite the dangerous conditions, he said Bali retains its beauty.
“It’s the simplicity of the lifestyle especially in Bali,” he said, “but it’s also the focus on family and friends and spirituality.”
Hayashi also traveled to the Caribbean.
“I visited Cuba and also did some work there in Cuba Libro, a book exchange program helping some of the Cuban people learn English.”
Even though it was his second trip to Cuba he said the country still charms him.
“It was fascinating to see how well educated the citizens were in terms of literacy rates and even American politics.”
After Cuba and Indonesia, Hayashi traveled on.
“I also flew to Thailand and met up with one of the founders of Give a Day Global,” he said.
In Thailand he helped recovering elephants.
“It was an elephant sanctuary that served as a place for elephants that had been abused or were involved in labor camps,” he said.
He also worked with an orphanage that focused on HIV-impacted children.
“Either their parents had given them up or abandoned them because they were HIV positive or their mothers had died of (AIDS-related illnesses) and so they no longer had someone to take care of them,” he said. “That was very powerful and moving.”
Hayashi said he tries to travel as much as he can and recommends the experience to others.
“When I’m traveling I see so many people from so many different parts of the world taking time to travel and see the world,” he said. “When they meet me and I tell them that I’m from the United States they’re surprised because they say ‘So many people from the United States we don’t meet,’ because (Americans) don’t ever travel.”
Hayashi encouraged students to travel.
“I’m a big believer that life begins at the very edge of your comfort zone,” he said. “Often times travel is hard and it’s lonely, and sometimes ugly and you see things in the world that you don’t want to see. I think it’s important if you want to grow and develop as an individual to put yourself in positions where you have new experiences and can see things in a different way.”