Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cambodia: Phnom Penh gets heavy

Woke up a little late (intentionally). Grabbed some food with one of my new friends and put together the lost pieces of the previous night. Well, maybe not so much "put together,"... more like "whyyyyyyy"ed over a few of the previous night's choices.

My chariot driver, Mr. Happy.
I grabbed the same tuktuk driver from the previous day to take me to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and the Genocide Museum (Tuol Sleng). I got an audio guide for the killing fields, which turned out to be a great decision. I felt very moved by the history and atrocities, however it was a much more "removed" feeling-- much unlike what I felt at Hiroshima. In Hiroshima, I felt overwhelmingly guilty and ownership that it was MY country that had caused the complete annihilation of so many people and an entire city.

Choeung Ek made me feel more shocked than anything. It was difficult to believe what I was hearing in my headset and seeing along the way. I really regret not knowing a little more about it before I went. I think I would have had a much different experience if it was something I had known more about. It made me feel a little angry that I hadn't learned about it in school. It is such a huge part of world history and modern history that it seems strange to me that it didn't even blip on syllabus radar. Why is that?

The Genocide Museum was a school that had been converted into a prison, where people would be detained and tortured before being sent to Choeung Ek to be killed. It was really eerie. Something about it made me feel really uncomfortable. Thankfully, a lot of the reading materials provided were redundant to those I had read previously of learned at the the killing fields (due to the weather, my driver recommended doing the sites in reverse. It was definitely a smart call).
A few views of the Genocide Museum.

Overall, it was a very heavy day. I was really glad to get back to the hostel and see my friend was still around. After he left, I hung out in the restaurant until I was literally falling-down tired. I think I was there for maybe 4 hours! Ate some pumpkin soup, a very non-traditional caesar salad, and some lasagna.

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