“I Learned How to Fire Guns and Make Bombs in School” — A Reflection on Growing Up in Peace Times

Ho Su Wei
3 min readMay 31, 2024

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We sat down quietly in the back seat, listening to our taxi driver. “Yes, Killing Fields. My uncle and auntie’s families were killed.”

“We all had to fight a civil war for 4 to 5 years. Officers came every day to my school, and we all had to learn how to assemble and fire guns. And bombs. We had to learn how to make them too.”

If you didn’t know, Cambodia went through a terrible regime under Pol Pot in the 1970s, where an estimated 1 million people were murdered.

As the taxi driver continues his story, I can’t fathom the conditions which most of Southeast Asia had to undergo just a generation ago.

Even now, in Myanmar, school kids, and teenagers are probably going through the same things as the taxi driver in front of me.

It is 2024 now, and certain parts of the world are still fighting wars.

We Don’t Choose Where We Are Born

This was the first thought that came to mind.

Where we are born is out of our control. The taxi driver didn’t choose to be born in a war-torn country such as Cambodia. I didn’t choose to be born in a relatively peaceful Malaysia.

If I imagine myself being in Cambodia during that time, I will probably fall into a deep depression. But what astounds me the most is the mindset the taxi driver had.

It didn’t seem like he was depressed or sad about what happened. But rather, he was looking forward to the future. He talks about his children, how lucky he is now to have a job to support his family, and that there are no wars or killings.

“I came from a time where I had to watch my every step when I was at home or walking around. There were landmines, soldiers, and government officials all out to kill me and my family. Now, I wake up in the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee while my wife wakes my children up from bed. My mother is tending to the garden, while my father reads the newspaper, smoking a cigarette. If I earn more than what I usually do a day, I will be more than happy to bring my family out for a nice meal. If not, my wife will whip up whatever we have from the garden.”

Perspectives are important indeed. And I and everyone can learn a thing or two.

We Have Stopped Appreciating the Things We Have

I stopped thinking about the little things.

And I think most of us in relatively comfortable situations did too. We wake up, we complain about the need to go to work. To listen to horrible bosses and clients.

We complain about the buses, trains and the jams. Everything under the sun, we think they are not enough.

We didn’t stop and think someplace elsewhere, someone is stepping out of his or her home, holding an automatic rifle and watching for where to step.

That feeling of waking up in your bed and not having to worry about your life. We have underestimated that. That small cup of coffee or tea? Nope, we just gulp them all down.

Now, I am not saying we should put our lives into situations such as those in Cambodia. I am saying we have taken many things for granted.

And we have forgotten to appreciate whatever we have at the moment.

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Ho Su Wei

Founder of Slice of P.I.E and hopes to provide simple investment, economics and personal development insights to ordinary people.