Dearest friends and family,
For team Cambodia, Yesterday was May 12th. We had a full day planned and got an early start eating breakfast across the street from our bungalow. We then piled into two tuk-tuks and headed out to visit the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum. This was an old high school that was turned into a torture chamber and place of killing for close to 6,000 victims during the Khmer Rouge. It was heart breaking to see the cells and tools of torture used on these people. The officers in S.21 (Toul Sleng) did an excellent job photographing their work. Unfortunately, these heartbreaking pictures are evidence of the horrors that were inflicted withing these walls.
These are just a few pictures that I snuck of the pictures that were on display at the museum. While being here gave us a better understanding of what happened in this country just 40 years ago, it was heartbreaking to see the faces of the people that died here. Thousands apon thousands entered the gate and only 6 walked out alive.
The next place we visited was the Killing Fields Memorial. This too was a heart wrenching experience. We were walking on the ground that people died on, standing in front of the mass graves that people were buried in. The ground continues to spit out the bones of the people who died here, expecially during the rainy season. We were walking along and there were still bones in the pathway and remaiins of clothing in the bushes. Some of these were left intentionally as evidence for prosecution during the trials of those who commited these heinous crimes. There was a tall memorial building in the center filled with 17 layers of skulls and bones of the people who died at this place. There are also several undisterbed graves left, some underwater and some in the jungle.
Seeing these places and getting a glimpse of the horrors that became reality for the majority of this country has helped give us, or me at least, a better understanding of who these people are and how they view the world. Walking in these places has made what I read and researched come to life in scary and very real ways.
We experienced all of that before lunch. In the afternoon we got to join another group from Oregon and go to the Learning Village. They took our cameras so we dont have any pictures from there but I can say that it was such a valuable experience. We learned about Cambodian dress, do’s and dont’s, games, dances, language and religion. It was very helpful, we even realized some things that we had been doing wrong.
In short, the whole day was filled with experiences that gave us a whole new insight to the Cambodian people and culture. We had a sobering morning and a fun afternoon and evening, but the whole day was good. I have been so blessed to be able to experience all of this and more. The Cambodian people are such a lovely people who have experienced too much tragedy but they are a strong people and I am filled with so much respect for them.