Day Twenty-Seven – Genocide and other thoughts

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My first view of the last sunrise I had in Thailand.

New day, new country! I got, well actually stayed, up at 4 o’clock in the morning to take a shower and head to the airport. I will sorely miss that micro-room of mine in DMK Hostel. I slept so well there!

Going to the Don Mueang airport as early as 5:15AM, I expected it to be a deserted ghost town. I was wrong. SO WRONG! It was packed almost to the brim with flights leaving earlier than my (relatively late) 7AM trip. The line was so long, I don’t know why. So AirAsia had to adjust and make special counters for those whose flights are close to boarding.

I arrived safe and sound in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I had set aside USD 160 as pocket money and I was optimistic that it would tide me over until I leave the country on the 15th. After all, only four days, right?

For the first time in this trip, I took a cab by myself. I paid the standard rate of USD 12 to get to the bus station. It was pretty close to the riverside which meant that I didn’t have to walk far in order to find something amusing. Moreover, the company seems to be used to keeping passenger luggage while waiting for the bus schedule.

I had booked a tour in the afternoon so I still had about four to five hours to kill all by myself. Well, I managed to spend USD 30 (almost one-third of my pocket money) before I even got on the tour bus! Hay, let’s shove money matters aside for now. Consciously, I walked around to get a feel of the city, taking shots here and there.

Then, something interesting happened as I entered Wat Ounalom and I greeted one of the older folks there. He asked me to follow him into one of the temples. He held the key and told me I should go inside. Then he proceeded to bless me. First I was to bow to Buddha, then took the incense and waved it, then he took a steel brush and bowl with water then proceeded to bless me with the water, then he asked me to open my palms and put water that I should rub all over my face. All this was happening in gestures, even as we said our pieces, we just could not understand one another. I was so overwhelmed with his exuberance to bless me, something that has never happened in the odd number of temples I’ve visited, I gave him USD 10 as my version of thanks for his kindness.

Do I have any Buddhist readers? I will have to ask what the entire ritual meant.

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After that, I decided to eat lunch by the riverside at some of the swankier restaurants. I paid USD 12 for the entire meal. The small bottle of water was more expensive than the soda. Hay.

After a while, I was already too tired of walking around and I was already very sweaty. I won’t be able to take a shower until I get to Siem Reap the next day (oops, TMI?) so I decided to sit inside one of the bars and had a coffee smoothie (USD 3.25). Then, as soon as I finished my drink, I stepped outside thinking to wait for the bus only to find out that they were already waiting for me. I stepped inside and started what they call the “Killing Fields Tour”.

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Within the museum, there are several galleries covering different themes. The photos below show how they presented the narratives of women who had to undergo forced marriages under the Khmer Rouge, and how they continue to live in those marriages. Other displays also showed the other side of the coin: the voices of the men who were victims as well.

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The story was so gruesome. I cried several times. I think people should go there and be confronted by what we can do as human beings. We can be capable of the greatest marvels, but also the most gruesome brutality. I really broke down when I saw that two of the survivors were also at the museum, placed there as if they themselves were also amusements. I could not do more than bow to one of them before tears started to well up again.

The next stop was the Cheung Ek Killing Fields I don’t think I could have taken any more heartache so while I went around and paid my respect to those who lost their lives in that place, I decided to walk around with a more optimistic spirit. I couldn’t help but hear how lively the birds were singing and, considering the tragedy that happened there several years ago, the place was alive with so much hope. Back at home, we have a belief that butterflies and other living creatures are actually spirits of those who passed away. If they can come back to the site of their deaths and hover, it occurred to me that life goes on and that hope comes tomorrow. I will share photos of some of the creatures that intrigued me in the Killing Field.

The tour was emotionally draining for me. I did not expect to be so affected, but there are some things that touch you deep in your humanity. I pity those who would come to these exhibits and not feel a thing. It may mean that they have become numb. Not that that is a bad thing; a little numbness help us get through the pain.

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May we learn well the lessons of history

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One thought on “Day Twenty-Seven – Genocide and other thoughts

  1. Pingback: Day Twenty-Eight – People from all walks of life | The Philosopht Gallery

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