Family and simple pleasures lift spirits on gloomy International Day of Happiness — Radio Free Asia

A world struggling to rid itself of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed millions and clouded economies – and now scared by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine – marked the International Day of Happiness on Sunday with many people celebrating. asking what to be happy about.

To observe the now decade-old UN holiday, RFA asked city dwellers across the Asian continent, from Seoul to Yangon to the seat of the Tibetan government in exile in India, what makes them happy.

No country or territory in East Asia or Southeast Asia made it to the top 25 countries in the 2022 World Happiness Report, released on Friday and dominated by wealthy states in southern Europe. North. Pacific nations New Zealand and Australia placed 10th and 12th respectively.

In Taiwan, whose rank of 26 makes it the happiest region in East Asia, a resident of the biggest city on this democratic island has turned to his family for contentment.

Resident of Taipei.

“Happiness comes from the family. We are happy when children and parents are there. Life must continue. Happiness is very necessary,” said a resident of Taipei.

In Hong Kong, a special autonomous region of China that has seen a dramatic reduction in civil liberties since Beijing imposed a harsh national security law in mid-2020, resident Mr. Yan finds joy in filmmaking.

“I think we all live in the moment and should do our best. If I have things to do, I do them. When I’m away, I watch movies at home. I’m doing something I like to do,” he told RFA. Hong Kong is ranked 81 on the Happiness Index.

No “temporary happiness”

South Korea, who ranks 59th, Seoul resident Se-young Lee suggests the pandemic has brought families closer together.

“In the past, everyone dined at the office and had dates with friends. Now that we are together all the time, we are much closer than in the past,” he told RFA.

“Maybe it’s happiness,” Lee added.

India, which ranks 136 out of 146 countries surveyed for 2022, is home to a large community of Tibetans who fled Chinese annexation of the Himalayan region seven decades ago.

Ani Tenzin Woesar, a Buddhist monk, offered a spiritual view of the question of happiness.

Ani Tenzin Woesar, Buddhist monk.
Ani Tenzin Woesar, Buddhist monk.

“For me, ultimate happiness is when I can commit myself to helping all sentient beings in the world. That’s more important than temporary happiness,” Woesar told RFA.

“Thus, Buddha directs us to the ultimate happiness which is achieved when a person can find enlightenment, otherwise all is temporary happiness.”

Jobs are on the minds of many in Southeast Asia, which has suffered heavy economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and is still struggling to contain outbreaks.

“Before the pandemic, people had fun going out, partying or socializing with friends and others. Now I graduated and I feel a bit discouraged because there are no jobs available, no one is hiring,” said a student who is about to graduate from a college in Vientiane, the capital of Laos.

“Despite this difficult time, I still find happiness visiting nature, chatting online with friends, talking on the phone with my family at home, listening to music, doing more research, writing essays or reading books,” he told RFA of Laos, ranked 95 on the Happiness Index.

“I can’t even imagine”

A 28-year-old Laotian woman who lives with her family in Bangkok, the Thai capital, said she had been unemployed for two years.

A Lao worker.
A Lao worker.

“I am a housewife living with my husband, but I am happy to be at home; the most important happiness for me is a happy marriage and taking care of my husband, my children and my parents in Laos,” she told RFA.

Cambodia ranks 114thand and some Cambodians attribute the lack of happiness to a five-year-old political crisis that has filled prisons with activists and opposition figures.

“Even if my husband were to be released, there would still be no happiness, because Cambodia has no real pluralism or democracy,” said Prum Chantha, wife of a jailed opposition politician.

“For me, happiness will come when Cambodia has a good leader, respects democratic principles, holds free and fair elections and respects human rights,” she told RFA.

A garbage man in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, collecting rubbish for items to sell, “having a decent life, sending children to school” represents happiness.

“I don’t want my children to be scavengers,” she told RFA.

Kyi Kyi Myint, street vendor
Kyi Kyi Myint, street vendor

More than a year after Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s popularly elected government in a February 2020 coup and plunged the country into chaos and violence, happiness is hard to come by for the seller of Kyi Kyi Myint street.

“If I was well off and my family members were still around, maybe I would be happy. But now, since they are all gone, I can’t even imagine what happiness is,” a- he told RFA.

“Every day I have to figure out what to do to pay my living expenses. As I live in misery, I worry all the time about what will happen to me.

Reported and translated by the Cantonese, Khmer, Korean, Lao, Mandarin and Tibetan services of RFA. Written in English by Paul Eckert and Chris Billing.

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