Blue Hot Air Balloons

If there is one thing, I wish from this moment we will try to spend every single minute with each other. Talk, play, do things, or whatsoever. Just be together. Time flies like an arrow, and two weeks will pass in the blink of an eye. It is too short to completely know each other, but still, it is long enough for us to create truly memorable moments, to remember our time. I am sure we will miss this so much, and I don’t want us to look back and regret the things we didn't do.”

I still remember those words I said on our first night of the work camp, and I am happy that we did it. Within two weeks, we built the best team, and made unforgettable, lasting memories. I feel myself light up every time I think of all the fun times we had, as if my summer sun suddenly appears again to shine its warmth upon me. Yes, Summer, you did a very good job! You were gone, gone but never forgotten.

I love the blue hot air balloon printed on our group T-shirts. It is like a lovely symbol of hope that lifts us up above all our fears and shadows, a dream balloon which is flying so high as a little bird in the blue sky. It brings to mind a sense of youthful joy and freedom.

Once in the street, a strange girl unexpectedly came to me. She looked curiously at the T shirt and said cheerfully: “This summer is ours…That is very nice. I like those words.” And she wrote down something in her notebook.

How sweet! It is just amazing how little things in life can make this world a better place in my eyes. Simply by the small things we do, the kind words we say, the values we hold… thousands of lives can be changed. I remember Neil Armstrong’s immortal words when he first stepped onto the moon: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Yes, all great things start from small beginnings. Who knows how a simple act of kindness on our part may bless the lives of others.

And thank God, the days I was with the disabled children in ELIX really changed my perspective on what is important in life.

It reminded me that the real world is much bigger than me. Before I always immersed myself in wonderful fantasies, big ideas about life and forgot the little details that are vital. Now I realized, to be able to make my life a dream, I need to step closer to reality first. What is real in this world? Those children who have suffered from autism, mental physical and intellectual disabilities, have difficulty with cognitive ability and social behaviour. To help those complete strangers who need you most, it gave me the best feeling of being alive and the thankfulness for what I have. That is simply one of the real things in life.

Every day at the school we did creative activities and played games with the children to give them a comfortable sense of living and belonging. They are like pure pearls, innocent and true to the heart. Their happiness is simple like a glass of chocolate, to hear someone say “Bravo” when they win an easy ball game or colour perfectly a pretty tree.

During our work camp, there was a boy I called Super Mario who came to the school not only in the morning like other children, but every night, seven days a week. I never saw his family. He was always sitting in the schoolyard with his little phone which he sees as his precious friend. Even if there is nobody around, he still kept sitting there. Sometimes he ate dinner with us, sometimes he wanted big, tight hugs from us, or sometimes he asked our leaders to translate what he wanted to say into English, put those words down on a small piece of paper, and gave us as a romantic friendship letter!

I love him very much. He is a giant lovely boy. He likes playing arm wrestling and he is very proud of his physical strength. But don’t you feel his extreme loneliness and isolation? It is even bigger than his Greek warrior body. I saw it grew day by day and covered up all the things around me an unknown sadness.

But not like us, they never fake their smiles and laughters. When they look happy, they are happy. I remember that lovely girl with her perfectly curly hair always said loudly and joyfully “I love you” every time she met us. And this is how our conversation went every day for two weeks:

Later, Curly Hair got bored and she decided to teach me another word in Greek: “S’AGAPO”, which means…, yes…, which also means…“I LOVE YOU”!
It didn’t sound cheesy. It didn’t sound just like a joke. It might be funny, but her happiness was very, very real. She even drew beautiful pictures and gave it to each of us to show her love.

Now I really want to see them again, my awesome team and all the children, to give them a long, big, tight hug and show how much I love them, to say sorry if I wasn’t doing good enough. Some friendships are forever, and some are just for a season. But I truly believe people are meant to cross our path for a reason, each person always has a direct impact on us. Because of them, I see life in a completely different light. How amazing it is, right? We met, we introduced our names, we talked, we played games, we helped the children, we cooked food, we went to the beach, we hugged, we cried, we said “S’agapo”, we said goodbye, and we didn’t want to let it go. Happiness is just as simple as that. Life is just as simple as that. This summer is ours was one of the brightest lights of my youth.

Like those colorful hot air balloons, we fly. We will reach the blue sky and watch our beautiful world below us. We dream, we make wonderful journeys, and those momentary experiences will stay in our hearts forever.

I have my dream. What is yours?


by AI NHU HUYNH THI from Vietnam, volunteer at ELIX 01 "This summer is ours" - 2014

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