Aperture One: Regrets

As agents of change and leaders that are currently under the guidance of Liger Leadership Academy, we ought to be able to stand up and play the part of leadership we have been inspired to be. Liger is a cultivated atmosphere of students who aspire to make an impact, a comfortable environment that encourages its students to chase their passion, and the window to look for sweet and bitter remembrances. From a Cambodian perspective, Liger is a place of miracles.  

Virak Bandeth. Virak is a common name for Cambodian, brought upon the new-born the fate of heroes. Bandeth, on the other hand, is a rarely seen name in a place that has just been healed from the history of gruesome genocide; the child will be expected to be a miracle. 

I remembered sitting at a desk, little streams of light through the small aperture of the roof, in the gloomy, cluttered corner of the tattered house of mine. It was the burning sensation of the summer of 2019, the long-awaited period of the year that was about to end as fast as it started. I was feeling dizzy from the hallucinations, which I knew that was what I believed to be, a hazy mindedness. I was minding my little dreams that dated far too long before humans existed, dreaming of how high I could have climbed the mountain, dreaming of how much I could devour, dreaming of how pleasant the reward could be. Until then, at the death of the summer, did I realize that it was all just a dream; pondering over what I have accomplished, that was nearly negligible, by contrast, I was pulled into the gratifying fantasies instead of continuing my baby steps toward success. At one moment,  I was hating my selflessness to believe in everyone’s expectations; I was even more enraged when I knew I was cluelessly taking on a journey with no destination. At the other moment, I was feeling breathless in my regrets that were brought from thinking of the time I was idly living from the past few years at Liger. But I was too embarrassed to even ask for help from anyone because of bearing the name ‘Bandeth’; a rarely seen name in a place that has just been healed from the history of gruesome genocide; the child will be expected to be a miracle. The miracle that couldn’t be irresponsible of their fault, they have the mind to solve if they have the ‘will’. 

 I needed to capture my ‘wills’. 

At that very moment, in my head, I started to visualize my goal of becoming a better human. I have the plan to cultivate my soul by completing the three main ‘wills’. 

The first will was to be more humane. The goal here is simple and clear; to be more compassionate and to empathize with the people of Cambodia and the world. As born in Cambodia, a Khmer who knew nothing about his own country is immeasurably disappointing, I admit to myself of this shameful fact. 

The second will was to write more. Writing is a relic that was invented to bridge together the ancients and the futures.  Writing in any manner is beneficial to a person’s life, it enables those individuals to define themselves of all the uncertainty in the world. Starting the year, I told myself to befriend books and pencils. I knew that I was not empowered to be achieving greatly in literature, still, expectations befitting the learned ones are the preferable lengthy, complex writings filled with massive amounts of information. 

Finally, the third will was to consistently improve; Kaizen. During the school year of 2019, among all the classes of Advanced Enrichment, there is one particular class that every student walks in feeling lost in the chaos of the world, to only later walks out arguing how short-sighted a human could be, the class of ‘Global Current Events’. On the day of 13th December, I remembered walking in with a dark shroud of gloomy shadow hung over my head. The class was filled with students who had their mouth glistening with grease after a snack break, they seemed to be stimulated from the sugar within, noises answering the whereabouts of students who were not there. Our facilitator, Teacher Bunthan Un, then proceeded to talk about our lesson of the day. ‘Today, we are looking at Japan’, or somewhere along the lines that would pique my interest. Kaizen, continuous improvement. There and then, I found out that this philosophical thinking was similar to my goals in many ways. 

Bliss, Anger, Anxiety, Excitement, Frustration can all be the root of regrets. Among all questions of the mind, the abnormal regret is a dual-sided blade. A perfect allegory to most people’s regrets is ‘the gas in a lost balloon swaying in the sky’.Regrets push you up the sky but to where? Regrets can explode the gas that has swelled up in you but are you willing to fall and let go of your life? Regrets make you restless; do you explode so you fall back to your comfort or keep levitating to nowhere? Regret is the epitome of all mortal madness.

Unexpectedly, I  was fated upon a project that best reflected the act of changing Cambodia, I was allowed to grasp on to the wondrous world of electricity.  

The Electricity of Cambodia Exploration was led by our facilitator Keith Simpson, aiming to make contributions toward the new Economic of Cambodia website; another project covers the whole scope of the economy in the Kingdom of Cambodia. As explained a few times in other articles, an Exploration is a seven weeks long project. In the span of this seven weeks, we were trying to achieve 1)Understanding electricity that includes basic information (Method to make electricity, history of electricity invention, how each method affects the environment…), as well as the network of Cambodia electricity and its economy 2)Be a part of the change toward electricity in Cambodia. 

To be a part of the change toward a country, it must start with its people. As we started to look into methods Cambodians are using to generate electricity, Keith started to introduce us to more organizations that lead toward one path, sustainable and accessible electricity. Okra Solar was one of the organizations that we were introduced to, also one of the leading organizations that provide sustainable energy to rural areas far from the electricity grid.

Guided by the said organization, we were set on to meet residents in a designated rural area of Kampong Speu province, we got to experience the hands-on assembly of the smart grid technology and its implementation for the residents through a couple of interviews.   

Being a part of this project has taken a toll on my brain, the inability to completely process and manage the information that I was being fed, it was frustrating how much time I spent reading each sentence aloud. I regretted it. I will shamefully admit that, as a change agent, I wasn’t taking the whole project as a significant change in my journey. Despite all of that, an awareness has sprouted in my mind. I noticed a smile; during the trip to Kampong Speu, we had an interview with an elderly woman of the village, her smile was genuine about the topic of her electricity usage. “I always use the electricity provided by the installed smart grids of the house on the ‘lap-top’, it’s for watching dramas’ ”, she proudly explained about her portable DVD player with a swivel monitor in the shape similar to a lap-top.  Her smile that I noticed, it told a story.

Then, we further inquired, ‘How many people are in this house? And who do you live with?’, that abruptly saddened her smile. ‘My children have all grown up, now they are working in the factory far away from home. I live alone’, she then explained. It’s a story of an old lady accompanied by her trusty ‘lap-top’ to pass the day, a story of how a problem we have overlooked by the ordinary townsfolk, a story of how technology changed lives. A story reminds me of the privilege that we all have been accustomed to, a story that has left me in regret. 

The network of electricity and its economy is surely a challenge for a fourteen-year-olds publisher who desires perfection when there are bound to be slight mistakes to be able to improve as a novice. Ultimately, it progressed, even if not directly toward Cambodia, it was a great learning experience toward my journey of changing Cambodia.  

Fear and regrets. Most prodigy never fears consequences that come with growth, yet those who choose to mindlessly advance are greatly uneasy with negligible mistakes. It is all just a matter of calculation. 

 A Child’s future is determined by their present circumstances, this next story of change is a rather heart-warming experience, unfolding a sympathy between children of the same root.

In a rural village, a group of unprivileged students who had dreams that have yet to be realized was rushing in through the cemented gate. Project Little Dream.  In the village of Thnout Takeo, laid a school founded and designed by ‘fifteen university students with a common dream.’ The foreign structure of the school facilities creates an environment for productivity, students were inspired to learn. However, as a change agent, Bong Srey Neang Oun noticed a problem that she could change, to leave a permanent impact. Our Senior, who is now an alumnus, was born and raised in Thnout village. Before continuing her next chapter in life, she was permitted to create an impact on her country. Having concluded changing the lives of those little children in her village, she explained that part of her education in her childhood has been the lack of good English language arts. As she explained, I could ‘see’ the spark within her eyes, I was reminded that I could be a part of this change. 

I remembered during our exploration, as the bus paved through the nutrient-rich soil, along the neverending field of greenery that will yet to turn to a grandiose golden army, along with sounds of steering wheel trying to evade a group of running children whose clothes were besmirched as dark as their skin; she described her home, her neighbor, her friends, her villages yet, ironically, if these stories were told to most children living in the urbanized cities, they were neglected as if their very mind is buried under hills of technology devices, a forgotten beginning. There, we were set on the journey to make changes.

“It’s our home, our siblings, our friends, our village, our land by the virtue of being a Cambodian, a descendant of the people who were once so splendid; our land stretched to the far north-east, our rice field laid between mountains of the north-west, our kingdom’s water was supplied from the countless streams of the river that run deeps in our culture. It was all lost in the river of time, gradually degrading. I deeply regret that all we have got to see are the barely surviving remnants of the kingdom.

When all is said and done to the best of my ability, I still lose in regrets. The regrets that I have felt during the same period last year, have presented themselves yet again; a puncture to the heart, now, however, it’s an aperture letting a stroke of light in.  Due to the benefits and hindrance of these uncertain times of the world cursed with COVID-19, they had me thinking. The window of opportunity to self-discoveries has appeared, the period of quarantine is a blessing in disguise.  It was just a lingering regret at first, yet as the days progressed, a turbulent strong enough to create a cycle of self-doubt. It was pitch black in here, yet I doubted it, I am a change agent after all. 

Don’t conform to darkness, create your light no matter how minuscule the aperture could be. The subsequent events, let it be determined by the mind’s eye. 

Since then, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”-Siddhartha Gautama has become my mantra for the rest of my life, it has come to be, “Doubt everything, no matter who it is, no matter what it is, or even this very quote, doubt it until it refined your reason and your own common sense,” from my perspective. 


 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *