Monday, January 21, 2013

The Hard Day

I woke up this morning at 6:30 with a sense that something wasn't quite right. I couldn't figure it out so I got back into bed. Then I just had to make sure that the passports were in my purse. Except that I couldn't find my purse. I started throwing clothes into one corner in case it was there somewhere. It wasn't. I slowly had a panic attack, leaning against the wall while the Gentleman Caller ran downstairs to see if I left it where we were drinking more than enough pitchers of beer last night. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. All I could do was make a high pitched moaning noise out of my nose and look around wildly. All my money. All my cards. Passports. Camera.
Thankfully, wonderfully, it was at the reception desk with everything still in it. It took over an hour for my heartbeat to return to normal.


We hired a tuk-tuk for the day and after the first one broke down and we got another, we headed to Choeung Ek, the killing fields. This is one of the places that the Khmer Rouge took people who might have been associated with Cambodia's former government, detractors, professionals, intellectuals, even those who wore glasses (association with the educated) to execute them. 



It was hard. There was an audio guide and I was crying before the first entry had finished. Tens of thousands of people are buried there in mass graves. Men, women, children, elderly, babies. Bullets were expensive and precious so most were killed using the farming tools located nearby. I just... I just don't know. How can people do this to other people? To their own people? I know it keeps happening throughout history, again and again, and each time we never learn.



 As the rains fall and the ground settles bones, teeth and bits of clothing work their way to the surface. And we step over them.



The tuk-tuk took a shortcut back to Phnom Penh through an area I never thought I'd see. The road wasn't paved. We bounced along and into oncoming traffic. I saw a little girl playing on a huge pile of garbage. It was also her front yard.



We got to Tuol Sleng, S-21, the high school that was turned into a prison/torture camp. The school rooms had been divided into tiny brick or wooden cells. With leg irons and graffiti. Other rooms with photo after photo of the people who were tortured and killed. Rooms of photos. Some of them children. Many women with babies. 17,000 people (or maybe more) people were held there. 


When Phnom Penh was liberated only 7 were still alive. Seven. Two of the survivors were there sitting under a cheap umbrella to shade them from the sun, trying to sell their books. I couldn't buy it. And now all I feel is guilty. How could you come back to this place? Everyday? I burst into tears and hurried out of there.


The tuk-tuk took us home. I'm sure we didn't tip enough. I feel guilty about that. And almost want to go out and try to find him on the street. I feel like I've been fighting back tears this whole day.

Oh and also my shoes were stolen. Or I guess, swapped is a better way of putting it. I came out of an area to find that my neatly placed shoes were askew. And that when I put them on my feet they were definitely not my shoes. In fact, they were 2 sizes too small. And I know in the grand scheme of things, especially considering what I saw today, it doesn't matter. It really doesn't. But at the same time I'm so upset about it. I'd worn those sandals everyday for the last year. They were perfectly suited to my feet and comfy beyond all sense. I only have one other pair of shoes that broke in New Zealand and are held together with glue. And these are really uncomfortable. So now I have to go find another pair of shoes. I think I may need to have a small cry as the thunder rolls in for the nightly downpour.

Today I am thankful for peace.
Share/Bookmark

3 comments:

Megan said...

Oh my gosh, I would have gone into total panic mode if my purse was missing. You got so lucky that it was waiting for you!! Phew!

Shybiker said...

What a fascinating blog you have! Literate, interesting and full of visual treats.

This post is touching. When I read about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge, it blew my mind. Like you, I wondered how people could do this to other people. Where is their humanity? It's good that you address this; too many people are unaware of this history.

Tinfoil Tiaras said...

Wow this was very hard to read so I can't imagine how hard it was to see in person. Killed with farm tools, that's just so barbaric. Really puts things into perspective.