Monday, 19 November 2012

...Cambodia Calling 8 - To Loose a Generation.

So this weekend was a wee bit emotional. Ronny and I popped down to Phnom Penh to drag Phavy back to Siem Reap with us and along the way we decided to pay a visit to the Killing Fields. Now I make it sound like we just popped down for a quick cup of tea and then had a jolly little nose around and then came back home but it wasn't like that. I'm not quite sure what I expected. Neat little rows of graves maybe with little white crosses to mark where the people have been buried? Or maybe just an empty field? I just know that I wasn't prepared for what I found and what I saw. I'm finding it hard to put it down properly in words so excuse me if this comes out a bit jumbled. I've been trying since Saturday to collect my thoughts but they are refusing to rest in the same place as each other.

So where to begin?

It was a lovely day, not too hot and then sun was preparing itself to set (sounds magical doesn't it?) We take a moto to get there and riding a moto in Phnom Penh is a hell of a lot scarier then riding one in Siem Reap, for one there is so much more traffic and for two the people don't really give a shit if they crash into you. This was made all too real when a truck loomed out of nowhere and all I could think of was how to protect my head if I happened to hit the ground. Thankfully it didn't happen but I now know how I will save myself giving the circumstance (dramatic aren't I? I bet most people on a moto are thinking about the breeze in their hair and how wonderfully exhilarating the whole experience is).

So we get there, pay to get in and collect our headsets. There are a few tourists still hanging about and most of them are giggling, which gives the false impression that this is going to be a lovely experience. The first thing I saw was the memorial stupa and to be honest the only reason it caught my eye was because the first two levels (which were completely glass windows) had rows and rows of human skulls, sitting there, staring back at you. It was incredibly haunting. I don't think I can really describe what it looked like and the feeling you get when once you have finished the "tour" and realise where and how the skulls came to be there.

We went on and saw a lot of excavated graves and non excavated graves and specially cordoned off ones for, well, for the truly horrific deaths. I didn't take many pictures, it didn't feel right but I did take a picture of this tree:

Beautiful isn't it? There were so many bracelets on the tree that from far away you would never have any idea about the horror that has been burned into the bark. The board reads : "Killing tree against which executioners beat children".

I think this tree sums it all up for me really. The man directing our audio tour said that the KR had a saying that I can't remember properly but it was something like "pull out the roots from the tree" meaning take care of the children so that they can never exact revenge for what we do to their parents. I can never ever in my wildest nightmares imagine something so horrifying as this. The Cambodian people have lost a whole generation, not just the younger ones that would have been in their early/mid thirties but also their elders. Everyone. Gone. Wiped out for no apparent reason. I've been trying to make sense of this, I've been trying to see if there was at least some pattern, some thought behind any of this and I haven't been able to come up with any answers. I have never felt so sad before. Maybe sad isn't a strong enough word but I really can't think of a better one right now. I have so much more respect and love for Cambodians, to come through so much atrocity and still hold so much love in their heart's for mankind is something truly remarkable. It just goes to show you never know the scares that linger underneath a society until you take a closer look.

I can't say if I am glad or not that I went. All I know is that it was an experience, one that I am still trying to wrap my mind around. I'm not sure I'll ever make sense of it.

Now that I've laid the heavy on you I should let you know that the week before this was better. I was ill, I got better and my kids made me get well cards. They are brilliant. I really adore my children. I was told that I should watch a lot of Mickey Mouse, I'm guessing he can make you better. They also asked Jen (another Thida volunteer that I work with) if I was in the hospital because I was sick. When she said no they then said why not? You should call an ambulance and she should go to the hospital. I think it just goes to show that one, they are actually paying attention in their lessons for the day before Jen taught then all about the hospital and that's where they got the idea from. Two, they do like me! Even if I'm really strict and make them do lots of work, deep down they think I'm a good teacher. It's true! I have written proof of it...

I'm gonna leave it there. My poor brain has gone into overdrive and I need to space out for a while. I have a week off next week because of the Water Festival (even though there isn't going to be a boat race because the country is still mourning the loss of the former King) so I am going to take that time to sleep, eat lots of cake, drink lots of wine and perfect my tan because frankly I'm looking a bit pale...

Big Ocean crossing love ya'll.

1 comment:

  1. What a shocking and moving place the killing fields must be. Places like these serve as a stark reminder of the terrible things that human beings can do to one another. It's important that people see the devastation so that the terrors of the past are never repeated. Unfortunately, all too often, the echoes of history reverberate through the generations.