Music Video Production | PHARE Battambong

When an opportunity arises, you need to take your time and analyze your response: Go For It or Not Worth It. In the middle of March, 2018 I was given this amazing opportunity to work on a project with professional filmmakers and producers from a company called Human Agency. The project was to make a music video and a creative documentary in partnership with Phare Ponleu Selpak, The Cambodian Circus school that is located in Battambong province. Ryan Barton, the founder of Human Agency, came to The Liger Leadership Academy to pitch his project idea and vision and for us to determine if we could join the team for this two-week project. What caught my attention the most is how he emphasized “creativity” in this project and I was really fascinated to explore the idea. He also spoke about what his company does and his personal passion in video making, and it was certainly interesting and inspiring to listen to his informal speech. Yet, I’ve come to learned that Ryan is definitely an inspirational hero and is very passionate in what he is doing. After hearing him speak, my response was an enthusiastic  “Go For It” and I’ve never been this certain in my life because my instinct immediately told me that this was meant for me.

 

The project was scheduled for two weeks and there were eight of us students selected; surely we couldn’t miss two weeks of school, so we divided into two groups, a group of four students went for the first week and the others went for the second week. The two separated week had different objectives and plans, so as individuals, we had to decide which is best for our learning experience. The first week focused on creative ideas or I would like to call it “the imagination process”, and that team had to develop the core concept or the big picture of the video itself. The second week focused on the production side, which is the fun part for me, but also the most hard-working part too. At first, I was interested in going for the first week since I like to come up with ideas, expressing my originality and creativity but at the same time I knew I had to go to the production side since I want to learn the process and participate in a big production, while, observing how to be a great director and a videographer. I have to admit that going to the second week was way more than I expected. I will never seem to regret that decision.

 

Before I went down to Battambang I had a question in mind, “Why Phare Ponleu Selpak? Why make a music video about a circus organization?” I have seen their performances before in Siem Reap province and they are clearly a group of talented people but I was uncertain to how we could show Cambodian people about it and make it captivating. After spending the first day there working with the people from Phare and the professionals, I had the answer to all my questions. Phare Ponleu Selpak means, “The Brightness of the Arts”. Throughout this experience, I think Phare is more than just a circus; this organization helps people to find their own talents through different means, like arts, education, social working and most importantly community living.. The longer I spent there, the more I learned about those people and how emotional it was to be working with them. For instance, when they performed on stage or when they acted in front of the camera, I was mesmerized how the lights that shine in each individual brought them to life. It was so surreal, so incredible and such an honor to witness that. This concept changed the way I see the world in ways that every action we take are meaningful and different things we do everyday is what makes us unique. And that was the purpose of the film; to show how Phare’s innovative, artistically driven and educational approach.

 

The production week went really great in my opinion. The first night we arrived, we were told that the rest of the week will be a 14 hours of work and shooting and I was more than ready to get started. The shooting schedule was very tight, so one of the main focused we had to pay attention to is time management. It’s already difficult to control a group Cambodian circus people, and to manipulate their mindset about times is added struggle. As I’ve learned from Ryan, “being a director you have to have an open mind and an open heart, but it is the essential to be the boss and to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do. If they can’t meet your expectations, it is not their fault but it is your fault as a director for not explaining to them well enough.” Sometimes, when a single person didn’t show up to the shoot on time, the whole scheduled had to be delayed and or even canceled. Time management is a very serious factor to consider in film production but it’s also one area that can easily be forgotten.

 

Throughout the process, I have been working very closely with Ryan as an interpreter and as a director’s assistant. It was very difficult on my part to translate for people and tell them what to do because at first I was mostly afraid since I was younger and  it felt like I was lacking respect for those people. I’ve come to understand that this is my role and this is what I have to do so I just need to have confidence and trust myself.

 

Our production crew was a total of 11 people. It seemed a lot at first but not enough in the end because we had become such a great team. We had a communication solution that was very consistent so everyone was always updated. I personally learned a lot from the professionals, sometimes I felt like I was a part of their “serious” world and other times it was really just fun and happy moments. Working with the people from Phare has taken the fun in work to the next level. The designing students from Phare are very talented. They turned the actors and actresses into new characters by painting and drawing them with a different style every time. The circus performers are full of joy and entertainment that can keep you laughing all days, but there are times when we needed them to work really hard, however, we always make sure that we keep motivating and cheering them. I was mostly participating on the production side, but I had an afternoon where I spent my time helping the music composition team. It definitely was very professional with the whole studio being set up and working with the music students was incredibly exciting too. Everything was very original and the first time I heard the beat, I was really proud of the team that had been working effortlessly on it. That is why there is a saying that, “without a teamwork, nothing can succeed”.

 

At the end of the project when we came to see our final product, no one realized the amount of effort and determination that had been put in to this project. It was a huge amount of work even though I was there only a week. Personally, I think everyone felt really proud and was actually sad that the project was over because we so learned so much from each other. That was the production experience that I’ve always wanted to engaged.

 

At the end of the production scheduled, we still had another process to go through which was editing and to premiere our final product at the end of the week. My role was to edit a short behind the scenes video, and work with my Liger team to write a director’s statement for our premiere show. The premiere day went really well. I was super honored to be selected on the team. I hope the video will be seen all over Cambodia and hopefully worldwide.

 

The way I feel about this whole experience is completely positive. It’s yet one of my best films experience and I’m really grateful for this amazing opportunity that I’ve been given. Throughout the whole week I have learned something new every second I was there. Even though it was very tiring and exhausted, I had so much fun being with the crew and help with the project in every ways possible. We all were inspired everyday from our director Ryan, who kept motivating and pushing the team to the end. My expectations for this project before I went down there were less than what I actually got out of it. In fact, I have received way more than I expected. Even though it wasn’t Hollywood, it was still a step forward for me. I think the final product was unbelievably awesome, especially considering it was done in only two weeks.

 

As a young filmmaker, this experience has changed the way I look at films because there is not just one way or one beginning to create a brilliant video; there are certainly different paths that we can take. This has shaped my mind into a whole new creative way of looking at the world of movie making and I can’t wait for the next project.

 

“I will continue to make films until my lips are tired of telling stories and my hands can’t hold up the camera anymore.” – Soliday

*The music video will be uploaded here once released*

 

 

Painting more than 20 kids for a scene.
 

Directing!!
 

Opening speech before the showcase!
 

Shooting a scene in the middle of a hot day.
 

Practicing the speech for the premier day!

Working with more than 20 kids.

LMRT – And Unexpected Trip

On the 1st of February, 2018, we went to Koh Seh for our 5th trip with the LMRT crew. We were hoping that the weather was okay because our last trip was cancel but the weather was still a little bit harsh on us. Usually we do four dives per trip but this time, each of us only get to do a dive because the visibility of the water was really bad. The cause of it was because there were trashes and water hyacinth flowing the river from Vietnam and it floated around the Kep ocean. As I ride the boat to the island, I could see it almost everywhere and it was pretty disgusting and upset to see it float on the ocean floor where animals could very easily died from eating those stuff. As we get to the island, we saw, even more, trashes and dead water hyacinth along the shore, now that was even more disgusting. So this trip, we basically just helped the island people to clean those stuff and it was very dangerous because there were all kind of stuff like medical materials, needles, fishing materials, and TRASHES.

 

For my reflection, I really thought out that this was a very humble and powerful trip. Though, we learn to dives and do survey and try to protect our ocean but there’s always other issue that we hadn’t look ahead for and to protect the ocean is a big challenge. We didn’t realize that there would be a huge amount of trash that could literally destroy all the lives in the ocean and it’s really sad to see that. 

Artificial Reef – Year Long Project

Last year, my partner, Venghour and I worked on a project together on an artificial reef designing. What inspired us to choose artificial reef as our project is that we want to protect our Cambodia ocean and involve in action that could possibly bring back the existence of marine life. And we did it! In this project, we have designed two type of artificial reef, one of them has been deployed in Koh Seh, Kep for a year now, and the other one is going to get deployed very soon. We have been monitoring our small reef and we see that it has created some impacts that we’re really proud of. Even though it’s not as big of an impact, but we’re starting from small and slowly growing into reaching our goals. We’ve worked really hard to research, design, deployed, monitored and finally we have written a report on this project.

Click here to read our report on Artificial Reef in Cambodia Project 

Despite the fact that it was a year-long project from last year, we’re not going to stop in the middle of the journey. We’re both going to continue this project with the benefits of being in the Liger Marine Research Team so we could do a deeper scientific monitoring by collecting data and possibly, those data will encourage us to do more studies out of it. 

An updated picture of my artificial reef!

The director of Marine Conservation Cambodia (MCC) posted this video on our artificial reef that was deployed at their site

“So we have a total of 6 structures, placed in different test locations within our 150mx300m area, Under the Pier, close to the reef, and further out. This is a small structure created by the Art Team and deployed together with the Liger Learning Students around 2 months ago. As you can see it is already providing shelter and these artificial habitats give a place for fish to lay their eggs and a place were very small fish fry can develop safely into juveniles and in turn to large adult fish. Creating Habitats and Restoring Keps Ocean. One Step at a time.”

Posted by Paul Ferber on 17 មីនា 2017

LMRT – Our Third Adventure

On the 16th of November 2017, My LMRT has once again went off on our third adventure to Koh Seh to do more scuba diving and training to do survey. As always, this trip was incredibly fun and challenging but everyone always smile.

 

This time we finally learned and practiced how to do survey underwater by laying transect line. For this weekend trip, we did two dives a day for two day. Our first dive of practicing survey was super confusing and messing and unorganized. I was out of my mind to see the loads of responsibility we have when we do survey. But in general I think these dives were very funny.

Guess what, this is why people say divers are lazy.

 

So the transects line is 100 meters. We divided 100 meters into four section, 0 to 20 meters, 25 to 45 meters, 50 to 70 meters, 75 to 95 meters. There are gaps for five meter every 20 meters because in the gap, we don’t recorded the data. Before we start to survey, we have to wait behind the line for five minutes until we can start. This survey is super SLOW! Our speed for this survey has to be two meters per minute and we stopped for one minute every five meters. That is SLOW! It is harder than you could imagine to be this slow underwater. For the first dives, I was going so fast but for the rest of the three dives, my speed was getting better and better because sometimes when I have the dive computer, I can look at the time and sometimes when I don’t have, I can just try to keep track of the time in my head.

 

Talking about the responsibilities, it was more than we could asked for. Besides controlling and focusing on our neutral buoyancy, we had all these stuffs that we have to look after such as, slates + pencil (to track data), tank banger, buoy, dive computer, compass, our buddy. Sadly, I lost my pencil in my first dive because I didn’t pay attention to it because there were so many stuffs tangling on my body.

 

I am still very proud of myself because I can keep myself on track. My buoyancy was alright, my speed was OK and I’m getting way more comfortable underwater. Personally, the most challenging part for these dives is to cooperate with my buddy team. It’s hard for me to tell my buddy to slow down underwater when she’s going too fast.

 

By the way, we also took substrates ID test and I passed! Huray!

Another successful adventure!!

 

Some cool underwater picture I took!

An update picture on my artificial reef!
See the seahorse?

A Page of Significance Short Story

This short story is inspired by women I met at an event in Siem Reap on the Khmer Literature Festival.

This is a story about a girl who lived in a society where most families don’t support education and since she’s a girl, it’s much harder for people to believe the importance of books and the entertainment of it. Why is being a girl or woman matters in that period of time? Nevertheless, she has never given up on the persuasions of people’s words. What can this lead to? 

Read the PDF here!

A Page of Significance

21st September 1960

 

Walking on a side street on a busy day with cars and cyclos passing by, holding my mom’s hand, heading to the central market. As I walked by, a woman winked and smiled at me and went inside the door of the local library. She must be a librarian. I shook my mom’s hand and asked her in my sweet voice.

“Mommy, can we go inside the library? I want to read a book.”

She looked at me surprised and said “No Nita, I’m not letting you read books. It’s not good for you, especially when because you are a girl.”

“What’s wrong with me being a girl and reading books?” I queried in curiosity.

She put her hands on my cheek and replied, “Reading books is no use, it’s a waste of time. You’re just seven years old and you won’t be able to understand anything in those books. They’re only for adults, not for you my lovely daughter.”

I protested without hesitation, “but I can understand the newspapers that Papa reads every day before he goes to work.”

To my response, her eyes opened wide. “Now that you mention it, you’re not going to read those anymore.  You’re not the right age to know what’s going on in our society and country, especially for a girl. When you grow up, you will be a lady and your job is to take care of your husband, your family, your house, and your beauty. So listen to what I say, because I’m always right. Just for you to start school, I’m already not happy because it’s a waste of my money. And busying books for you? It’s not going to happen.”

I was shocked at what she said and no words could escape my lips. Why is this world so unfair to girls? I asked myself. Half of me wanted to believe what she said, but the other half just doesn’t agree and I haven’t given up yet.

 

The next day, I went to my first-grade class in a government school as usual for this past two months. As I arrived my classroom, I quickly searched for my teacher, Rathana because I wanted to ask her if I could read books at this age. When I saw her, I swiftly ran up and gave her a hug.

“Good morning Nita!”

“Good morning teacher!” I replied with a beam. “Teacher, I want to ask you something.”

“Okay, what do you want to know?”

“I wonder… If I could read books, and…and before you say anything, I just wanted to tell you that I can read. I read newspapers and magazines and I understand most of it. My mom said I can’t because I don’t have the ability and because I’m a girl? Is there such a rule that you can’t read if you’re a girl. That’s not fair, I want to read. I love reading.”

“Okay Nita, please relax. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know, especially why you SHOULD read books.”

I interrupted her, “I should? Really?”

She put her hands on my shoulders. “Sweetie, calm down. I’m going to tell you why and you better listen carefully to me.” She took a breath. “First of all, what your mom said isn’t correct. I’m not telling you to not believe her, but part of what she said is wrong. At least that’s what society thinks and what most of the elders believe. The elders perspective is that girls or women shouldn’t be getting more education than boys or men. When girls become a lady, they are supposed to stay home, doing all the housework, taking good care of their husband and family and the men go to work, earning money to support their family. Nita, you have the ability to ask for your own rights, to do things you want to do and to live your life as you want. Not everyone follows society. Okay… way too far. Back to whether you should read books or not, the answer is, you absolutely can. If it’s really something you want to do, go for it. I think you’re a very talented young girl and you deserve to be educated.”

I was so happy to hear that, but at the same time, I was worried. “What about my mom?”

“Well, if you don’t want to let your mom know, try to find a peaceful place for your own enjoyment. But at some point in the future, you have to explain to her what’s right about being smart and educated. You can’t avoid it and hide it forever. Personally, I think there is no reason why you shouldn’t be reading, but just make sure that you only read things that are appropriate for your age.”

I nodded, letting out a hopeful smile. I wanted to read all the books that have ever existed in this world. I thought to myself. “But I don’t have any books to read currently.”

Teacher Rathana searched into her cupboard and took a book out, handed it to me. “This is my personal favorite fairytale book as a child. I think you’ll love it, and I’ll take you to the local library today to borrow more books if you want.”

“For sure!” I said in excitement.

 

Day by day, I read more books and hid more books under my bed. It’s the only place where my mom can’t find me because her back is bad and she doesn’t has the ability to bend down. I’m very careful to not get caught. Sometimes it feels like under my bed is another whole universe, with countless places to explore. Somedays, I was so obsessed and addicted to the story I was reading that I didn’t even realize how long I had been under my bed. My mom would panic trying to find me and I felt bad for her sometimes.

 

Whenever I read a book, I feel like I’m a character of the story, like I’m on an adventure or floating through the clouds. I feel like an imagination nerd where everything seems real to me. I feel like I’m the happiest human being in the world. I feel all the emotions that the character goes through. I get swept up into a whole other universe expressing the character’s feelings, memories, the pain or anger, confusion, sadness, and happiness. I feel like I am in my own world, a world where I can just forget everything that’s going on around me. That sad feeling I get when I finish a great book or when my favorite character dies. I just feel like I lost a little piece of myself, but I know I can always go back.

 

Today I’m reading a book called, The Love Story of Vithivy. I imagine myself being loved and cared for by the gentlemen. I was there in the story, looking into his eyes and his sweet soul. Their love story was just perfect until…

“Nita, what are you doing?” My mom burst in my room anger as she slams the door, making me extremely afraid. Today I’m not reading under my bed, but ON my bed and I was so caught up in the story that I totally forget about it and now I’m caught.

“Nothing Mommy.” I tucked my book behind my back, knowing that she already saw it. “I was just doing some reading.”

“I thought you were doing your homework.”

“I did, I already finished it.”

“Then why wouldn’t you come down and help me with the housework.”

“Because I don’t want to. That’s not what I want to do.” I reacted without any thought, just blurting out what I felt.

“Is this what you do then?” She said, forcefully grabbing the book I was holding and throwing it to the ground. She took other books from my table and ripped them apart. I was shocked, afraid, angry, depressed and I wanted to vanish from this world.

Not for long, I found myself sobbing harder and harder, I was choking on my own tears. My breaths came in sharp pants and I tried to gain control, but nothing was working. It hurt. My heart twisted and sunk with nerves. It just felt like my dream faded and not having books or being able to read made nothing in this world worth living.

 

20th October 2017

 

The smell of my hometown, the heat of happiness and the joy of my blood is the place I wanted to be the most in life. It has been more than 30 years, that I have been away living my happy and successful life. Where I lived isn’t where I’m from. Sometimes I felt like I betrayed my own nation, my own country, but knowing to myself that my heart will never do that. I will never forget where I come from and I will stay loyal and respectful. Even though I have been living in America, but I still know how to speak and write my own language. I even taught my children Khmer because I wanted them to understand their core language because they’re Cambodian too. I make them read Khmer books or I even write my own story for them to enjoy reading it as much as I do when I was a child.

Currently, I’m in Phnom Penh with my husband and my family of two sons and a daughter that were all born in America.

“Mother, I love it here! I can’t believe this is where I’m from.” My 20 years old daughter, Leza said with total excitement.

“I know, right! You can even communicate with everyone here even though you weren’t born here.” I replied back with hope.

“Thanks to you for having taught us how to speak and write our Khmer and we’re here to publish your books and share them with all of Cambodian. I love your books and everyone here will too. I’m so proud to be your daughter.” I’m so proud to have a daughter like you. I thought to myself.

This is what I have been dreaming about. It has been my passion for my whole life and I could never forget or give it up. It was never the right time to start doing what I want because I was selfish and never had the courage to come back to help my country. But it is time, a successful  Khmer author, to bring back Khmer literature so that the new generations will still be able to learn and read Khmer books. Based on my knowledge, most of the Khmer books that I’ve read when I was a child were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge genocide and it is my job as a citizen to raise awareness. I always have had hope and courage to me that it will never be too late to do this despite the fact that I’m now an old lady.

“Johnson, come here love,” I call to my 25-year-old son, who has been helping me with the publishing. “Thank you son… for everything.”

“Don’t thank me, mother. It is my pleasure to be a part of this. I’m very happy for you and I think you’re the most determined and devoted person I’ve ever met in my life. One day, this country will realize how dedicated you are.” He solemnly bowed to me in the proper traditional Cambodian style.

These books that I published are dedicated to those who have a dream or goals but does not have the intrepidity to achieve it. Nothing is too late to start because our life doesn’t need a period to end. 

Kampot Writers and Readers Festival 2017

On the 2nd of November, I have participated in an event that took place in Kampot called the Kampot Writers and Readers’ Festival. I have attended this event last year in 2016 but this year main theme of the event was “courage”. There was a writing competition in this event in the same theme and I have entered a short story that I wrote, inspired by a woman story. Visit my Short Story here.

A lot of students have bravely gone on stage and perform their slam poetry to a whole audience at KARMA. Unfortunately, I didn’t do it because I was afraid I’m going to cry after I read my slam poetry since my poem is very emotional.

We also did a poetry workshop with a poet name Andy. It was a three hours workshop and he teaches us about using metaphor in a poem. He as well also gave us another workshop on drama, where we learned how to read with emotions, fluences and every other skill that used to perform well.

Overall, I think this a very fun and experiential event but I would also think that it would have been a lot more exciting and fun if the event was more organized than this year.

I made a short video about this trip: Watch is Here!

Visit the Kampot Readers and Writers Site 

Painting a big mural.
The poetry workshop!
Street Art!

When We Collided Book Snapshot Summary

Even the constellations can see us now: we are seventeen and shattered and still dancing. We have messy, throbbing hearts, and we are stronger than anyone could ever know. I’m Vivi, just a girl who’s trying to enjoy her life as much as possible. My family just moved to Verona Cove, California and I already fell in love with it the first day I’m here, but I waited until the seventh day to commit. I imagined the California coast with surfers running headlong into the waves and with pops of colorful umbrellas along the beach. But it’s quieter, just the sounds of the water crushing to the shore with call of birds. It reminds me of Hawaii and how much I’ve missed it. But I never thought I could have such strong feeling for someone until I met this guy, Jonah. Jonah Daniels,  seventeen-year-old a Townie here. His father has just died and he’s dealing with the fall of that with his family. He has five siblings and three of them are younger than him, plus a depressing mother. Because of this tragedy his world has been turn upside down and he has to step in to take care of his family. Now that I could feel, there was a magical shift in my summer. I can feel, a vital mission pulsing in my bones. Here I met  a boy who needs me. It was love at first sight. Like if I could ever lie myself that I have not think about Jonah for one seconds since I met him. I always went to his house to play with his little sibling and I suppose they like me a lot. Here is something I never expected to feel: love at first sight for the entire family. But life surprises you. Sometimes, every once in a while you get your wish in. You wish for a boy to spend the summer with, and instead, life gives you his whole beautiful family to be a part of. And I think what life wants me to do is to heal this family back, to bring the joy and smiles back, pretending like I’m their loving father. It’s not all about Jonah himself, but all about his life. But I’m also going to spend my whole summer changing the expressions on Jonah Daniels’s face. I want to see the perfect Jonah and who he really is. I wanted him for myself, but I want adventure for him, too—and for me and I think we’re going to make the best typical summer love story. Yes.. I know a lot about Jonah because he’s been telling me about his struggle and everything he’s been through. But do he know what I’ve been through. Do he know me well enough? Besides, the loving life girl, confidence, interactive, creative-soul and all those positive things about me. A good-old love story will only be perfect in the beginning, but it will become terrible and misunderstanding at some point in the scene. When both of us discover the darkness about each other, everything was just seems to be a struggle. After the accident that Jonah and I have he started to come across my problem. I have mental illness dealing with bipolar disorder which means that I could have sudden mood changes and depressive episode, or thoughts of suicide. Ever heard of Bipolar? Ever wanted to know how people deal with it? Well, I’ve been dealing with it my whole life and I’m not mad anymore that I have it with me. Anyway, since I was with Jonah, I didn’t take my pills for my sickness and I knew that my mom knew and was angry at me but she didn’t want to say anything. She thought I was ok and I surely thought I was ok. But I was not. I have to admit, it was all my fault. Now, since that Jonah knew everything, I should be doing something. Which comes to real life world, where I need to be making decision. I hate it. But I don’t want my decision to make anyone affected by it, but at least there is a happy ending for a character and it shouldn’t me. So it’s better for me to leave now since I already accomplish my wish. And it’s all for and about Jonah. That’s the thing they never tell you about love stories: just because one ends, that doesn’t mean the other ends. Sometimes you just have to step out and accept the changes, move on and enjoy your life. And exchanging the truest parts of yourself–all the things you are–with someone? Still lovely. “Bipolar disorder can be a crushing diagnosis at any age, but this holds especially true for teenagers. At a point in your life when you’re supposed to be figuring out your basic identity, an illness that changes your very sense of self can be earth-shattering.”

This was my summer holiday. Vivi was here.

Hip Hop

For the last seven weeks, I have been learning Hip Hop with my teacher Sam. Hip Hop has always been my favorite dance because last year, my best friend and I have been learning Hip Hop by our own and learn dance styles from Youtube. This year, I’m very happy that we can have an actual professional dance teacher to train us. So far, we have learned some short dances from many songs.

  • Crying in the club
  • I wanna dance with somebody
  • Despacito

Videos of the dances are coming soon.. Stay tuned!

This is a video of a dance with my best friend last year! 

 

edX Courses – Initiative

Recently, I’ve been thinking of a project that I could start to do researching and investigating on it. Since I’m very passionate in environmental studies, I decided to take an opportunity and learned on the topic of Land Management. So I started asking questions about what I’m going to do in this project and my questions is: How can population growth effect land management in an urban area? But I never learned the topic of land management nor human geography. So I had to go study online courses on these two topics on EdX free online courses website. The courses started on the 1st of September and so far, I really enjoy studying it because I learned something new every day. I took AP Human Geography instead because if this course can help me with the knowledge to do my project, I can also take the exam for the AP in the future if I try hard to understand the concept.

Visit edX website
The courses I took:
AP Human Geography
Land Mangement

Bare – Short Story

This is a story about how people in Cambodia seen women as a stigma and judgemental on women’s appearance. 

Read the PDF here!

Bare

Driving out on a stretched, long street as it had been in the daylight but instead, it’s dark and the street lights brighten up the road on both sides. I am comfortably sitting in my car driving straight ahead, passing Preah Norodom, on to BBK road. I’m heading out to dinner alone as always and it’s Friday night so I’m going out late because that’s how it goes for me. Every day after work, I have no communication with friends or others because I find myself as a different person when I’m alone. I live in an apartment by myself and I have no family near me as they’re all living in my hometown province of Takeo. As I arrive in front of the restaurant, I quickly search for a spot to park my car and I find one right on the side. Here I am at Dominos having pizza all alone. I get my purse and wallet from the passenger seat and get out of the car immediately, heading straight into the restaurant. As I am about to enter through the door, the woman who is sitting outside with her other friends observes me with the gaze of a stranger. From the look in her eyes, she has formed some opinions and judgments of me. I do not know what those thoughts and points are but I’m sure they’re not good and as I look around the outside seats, I see everyone suddenly staring at me like I’m a total stranger and disgusting person. I do not care to even bother so I just enter the restaurant straight to the counter. I obviously know what I want to order so I don’t even care to look at the menu.

I look at the busy cashier and  she smiles at me for a second and then her grin slowly fades away the longer she sees me.

“Can I have medium size BBQ chicken without mayo swirl?” She enters the orders into the computer. “And can I also have small spicy chicken wings?”

“Anything else?” She asks without making eye contact.

“And a coke please.”

“16.99$.”

I search my wallet for the money and then I hand her 20 bucks and she returns back with the leftover money. She then hands my waiting number “26”.

I look around, trying to find a comfortable place to sit and there I found one further away in the corner. As I walk toward the table, I hear a lot of whispering and mumbling from each table I pass. What’s going on? I question myself.

“Why does this girl wear such short shorts? Isn’t she embarrassed?” A woman mumbles.

“This isn’t a proper Cambodian woman.”

“Is she even looking at herself?”

“Jesus, this is just too embarrassing!”

“Why doesn’t she just go naked because she’s practically there already?”

“Who’s daughter is this and why do they let her do what she wants so easily?”

That’s all the whispering I heard. They’re judging me by my looks. Because I wear short shorts? Is this a problem? Is it the shorts? Is my shirt that reveals my boobs that causes this too? Why do they need to care about this?

I know everyone is looking at me but I don’t even care to look back at them. Let them think whatever they want but to be honest I don’t want to care. I take a seat on the chair and then I spend the rest of my waiting time on my phone checking Facebook.   

All of the sudden, there’s a guy who sits next to me.

. “I can sit here right?”

“I guess so. I don’t mind.” I reply back without hesitation. The longer I look at this guy, the more handsome he is.

“So my name is Rathanak. And you are?”

“Viriya,” I said. I feel his shoulder brush against mine and it feels a little weird.

“What are you going to do after this?” he continues asking.

“I’m heading to a bar near here.”

“Would you mind if I join?”

“I don’t mind because I don’t really have any friends to go with. I’m just alone all the time.”

I have a feeling that he’s starting to get close to me. And then I feel his hand on my lap, making my nerves jump. He’s smiles at me innocently. He then slowly moves his hand to the upper thigh making me really nervous. Why don’t I just stop him? What are you doing? Why are you letting him?

I take my hand out and stop him before he does anything else. I grab his wrist and remove it from my lap.

“I’m sorry.” He apologizes.

I shake my head and don’t say a word. That was totally the most awkward thing I’ve ever experienced.

 

After having dinner with this guy, I’m pretty much interested in him. I mean he’s not that bad. He’s friendly, talkative and funny besides that weird moment in the beginning. But hey, there’s at least a person who can spend time with me. After the dinner, we promise that we’re going to the bar together. At dinner, there were people taking out their phone as I walked passed them with Rathanak beside me. I didn’t care to look back to see if they took a picture of me. I let Rathanak drive my car because he said he knows a better place for a bar.

“So what do you do for work?” he questioned.

“I work at the Phnom Penh tower.”

“That’s cool.”

After five minutes of silence, he suddenly pulls the car to a very quiet road. Why are we here?

“Is this the place you recommend?” I ask.

He gets out of the car and runs to my door to open it for me. This place is dark and very quiet. I get out of the car with millions of questions in my head.

“Why are you bringing me here?”

He fiercely grabs me out of the car and then pinches both of my hands to the car so my back is against the car and his body is against me. I think I know what he’s trying to do.

“Let me go, what are you doing?!” I try to pull my hands off but he’s too strong and too aggressive to let go of my hand.

“You wear clothes like that, who wouldn’t want to taste you?”

“What?”

“Next time, you don’t need to wear anything!”

He starts to kiss around my neck but I try to avoid his position so he struggles to kiss me. “Stop!” I yell. “Help! Help!”

He puts his left hand on my mouth to stop me from screaming. And he digs his right hand straight into my pants from beneath because my pants were too short and too easy for him to get through. “Next time, wear something shorter!” He talks between moaning. With my free hand, I try to stop him and it works. I pull my knee up hard right into his member. He lets go of me and I quickly get back in the car and drive off at the speed of light, which left him alone stranded in the dark and quiet street.

While I’m driving back to my apartment, the tears came streaming down like crazy. I can’t believe what just happened. Why is this happening to me? The guilt sat not on my chest but inside my brain. My chest feels like its floating from my heart. My heart beats harder trying to keep it together. I can’t think straight. I think too much, I think ahead, I think behind, I think sideways and if it exists I just thought of it. It feels like every cell in my body is moving too fast It almost makes my veins explode. It keeps repeating the moment of regret in my brain and I can’t find a way to stop it.

My phone rings and it’s a call from my friend in the office, Nika. “Hello Nika!” I try to calm down and pretend that I’m casual.

“What is wrong with you?” she yelps at me. “I never knew you could be like that!”

“Like what?” I ask, surprised.

“That kind of girl who dressed half naked in public! You embarrassed yourself!”

“I didn’t know, it’s just…I-I don’t care much. And how do you know?”

“Because.. there are posts about you on Facebook, VIRAL!”

I immediately stop the car. I couldn’t say a word because I’m frozen. I could not think or feel anything besides shame and regret.

What just happened I can’t un-do. A fire burned in my mind and throat. I could feel daggers aiming at me from my screen. This is my punishment for not loving myself.