On gotong royong and love


I read an article recently that changed my perception of love. It said that love is not a concept, unlike the fairy tales that Hollywood has been feeding us, it’s not one of those states that people simply get into and stay for a long time, even if it is “true love”. Rather, love is a connection, a moment between two people (or more) when you share this feeling of affinity, a spiritual bond of sorts. That’s why love does not just happen with one person, it happens over and over again, and it requires constant effort for this connection to be reinforced.
The homestay at Kampong Lukut made this perception of love very real for me. Watching the students cry when bidding farewell to their “foster parents” of one day reminded me of how I felt when I had to leave the kids at Flora Tristan and at Sao Sary. The connection at that time was so strong and I’d like to think that at that moment, I loved them with all my heart. Yet connections, as strong as they are at that moment, do fade away with time. And as sad as the students were yesterday, it’ll probably be in no time that this becomes all but a sweet memory to them.

Perhaps this is what they mean by the horrible cliché “不在乎天长地久,只在乎曾经拥有.” I’m grateful that in those moments, we owned that connection.

On a separate note, kampong life is really very refreshing. The kids grow up so much more resilient, not squirmy whenever they see an insect (#notetoself), filled with unbridled joy and excitement for a post-rain, muddy game of soccer, full of talents in music, dance and rhythm. This gotong royong spirit really keeps one alive, and in all our successes as a society, it is exactly what we lack and need at this point.


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