I came to know a lot of KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) volunteers in East Africa, but Sang was the first one who registered on Couchsurfing. She was new in CS and I became her very first CS guest in Uganda.
Sang was a small size girl with pretty and sweet smile, she was generally quiet but always tried her best to take care of me and made sure I was doing fine. She even introduced me to her other KOICA friends in Mbarara. After spending time together for several days, I realized we actually had quite a few common values. I just decided to be a semi-vegetarian at the beginning of 2015, while she has adopted the same decision for 3 years already.
Boarding, to Learn about Oneself
After graduating from the Middle School, Sang didn’t want to stay at home during her High School period. Her elder brother went to a normal high school, while he studied hard for the High School exam he always stressed out to the family members. She didn’t want to repeat that so she decided to go to a boarding High School.
Living in a boarding School, she became independent and learned more about herself. She didn’t have a lot of friends in school because she was neither a social nor talkative person. That was when she realized she wouldn’t want to work with many people in the future. She was interested in animals and wanted to work at the zoo. She searched for the information and found out about Veterinarian who treats animals. It seemed to be a tangible dream because she liked studying. She decided she wanted to be a Vet one day.
Path to become a Vet
After high school graduation, Sang didn’t do too well in her Exam and failed to get into the Veterinarian Medical School, but into Mechanical Engineering School instead. After studying for one year, she didn’t like mechanics and decided to quit. She repeated the Entry Exam for the University, and finally, she got into the Vet School.
There were three main categories of animals in the Vet School, pet animals, zoo animals and wildlife animals. Vet students studied about all kinds of animals to prepare for different job opportunities. In her final year, a Wildlife Rescue Centre belonged to her University opened. The Chairperson of the Centre was her professor, asked her if she wanted to work there after graduation.
Realizing the Bitter Situation of Nature
In 2011 Sang started to work at the Wildlife Rescue Centre. It was a totally new Centre with no seniors for her to learn from and she really struggled a lot. Her main duties were to rescue the sea birds, victims of pollution and contamination from human activities. The birds got oil in the feathers and couldn’t fly or swim. They needed to be washed with detergent and dried in the process.
She liked the animals very much but decided to quit after working for 2.5 years as she felt the limitations of the job. Wildlife animals fear human, if they were caught and sent to the Centre meant they were in severe situation. More than 70% of the animals rescued died at the end. She felt it is more important to prevent the cause than just treating the animals. If the environment is not clean, the birds treated would go back to the sea and get contaminated with oil again. It is a vicious cycle. It is more important to focus on education and implement change in policy regarding the protection of environment.
Living Harmony with the Nature
During her time at the Wildlife Centre, Sang made an important decision in her life.
She decided to be a semi-vegetarian. She read a book regarding the Carbon Dioxide emission from different human activities, like riding a bike or driving a car, eating meat or maize. The book also illustrated the processes required to produce different types of meat, beef being the highest, pork the second then chicken the third in terms of CO2 emission. She also learnt that factory scale animal farming is cruel to animal welfare. She was a Vet so she should not harm the nature and animals. She decided to reduce her meat consumption but realized it was more difficult to eat just little than none. She decided to become a vegetarian.
Paving the Path of Dreams
KOICA is a national overseas volunteer project in Korea. Sang wanted to try living and working in Africa because there are many wildlife animals here. She also wanted to practice her English. However, environmental conservation is not a high priority in the developing countries. The works here focus more on agriculture and livestock.
She came to Uganda in 2013 June. At first she couldn’t speak English well and had trouble communicating with other people. She also spent a lot of time to study more about agriculture and livestock.
Last year she started an organic pig farming project at her agency, an eco-friendly technology from Korea. Pig waste is degraded by micro-organisms so the farm has no bad smell. The local farmers acknowledged her project very much and she felt really satisfied.
In June her 2 years KOICA contract will be up. Now she is dealing with livestock, and she had experience with wildlife, her next plan is to get trained in private pet clinic about pet animals. She hope one day she can reside in a small village in Korea and open a private hospital to do consultancy for all types of animals. She prefers to be a general Vet because there are already many specialized hospitals in the big cities. People mainly deal with pet and livestock in the small villages.
Living Happily in the Present
Sang is a very positive person, she likes to focus on living in the present. Working in the Wildlife Rescue Centre and KOICA were on her dream list, she didn’t spend extra efforts chances just came. She tries to live happily and enjoy life.
She rated 8 out of 10 in her happiness scale. She has support from KOICA, and local people are nice to her. In Korea people are busy working early morning till late evening. In comparison she has free time to study and work on her hobbies. The little upset was the village life in Uganda made her feel bored sometimes. She has no closed friends or families here to share feelings, and she is alone most of the time after work.
“How I live is more important than what I become. Happiness is our habit, it comes from inside not outside. Whatever job I do is not important, the most important is to live harmony with the nature.” Sang shared with me her life moral. She hopes people can always be happy.
She gave me a pack of Korea postcards and a handkerchief as the presents for exchange. She realized many Africans don’t know about Korea, they always called her Chinese.
Written in Ndama Paresh, Uganda