Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Cambodia Recap Day 2

Starting the morning with some Soursop...Oh YEAH!!! Durian on the bed too...good mix.

So today was a mix of ups and downs. A great day of course, but we visited some spots
of Cambodia's ultra-violent past, so it wasnt exactly sunshine and lollipops all day.

As a cool little bonus, the daughter of the owner of where we stayed was getting married.
They had the ceremony downstairs and it was pretty vibrant.
Im not sure if it was an arranged wedding, but it seemed pretty possible.

Here Iris is with the sister of the bride:
This is the bridal party:

Pretty cool, eh? Looks like a NYC bike messenger. we were off on our tourist pursuits.

Stop #1 was Choeung Ek...otherwise known as "The Killing Fields".

I posted the wikipedia links for anyone wanting to learn more. I knew basically nothing of this horrific era in Cambodia's history, and Im basically dumbfounded how the American school system is so devoid of any information regarding it. What a joke.

Ive never come face to face with genocide. Ive never been to the concentration camps from WWII. My life has been pretty sheltered from violence and death.

When you walk into this area, you come upon this huge stupa filled with 5000 skulls of the executed individuals who were later removed from the mass graves.
Like a punch in face...there it was.
You can walk inside and look at glass separating you from the horror.

I kept getting these tingling chills down my spine.
Even writing about it now, Im getting the feelings again.

And what I thought was REALLY screwed up was that people were actually
taking pictures in front of the skulls. And some ladies were actually SMILING.

Where the hell is the respect and decency?

All the pics of this are from Iris, I was not in the mood to be taking pics.

So after that, we walked around the excavated mass graves. There was a guide talking about how everything happened there, and to keep this post relatively non-stomach-wrenching Ill leave it out. There was this tree there which was used to kill children (yes...CHILDREN...use your imagination or read about it) and of course the cameras were in full effect.
Here I am, crying...and people are taking pictures of this tree. What the hell is going on here?
I just couldnt believe the lack of respect.

This is me discovering part of a human leg bone on the ground. Real enough for you?
There are still old clothes around, and bones everywhere. My spine is tingling right now.

Yeah...pretty tough for me. So after this we were off to the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum.

(Dont worry...I dont think anyone is going to smile here.)

Almost everyone killed at the Killing Fields were previously tortured here.

There are mugshots of all the prisoners on the walls, and you see the terror in their eyes.
Out of almost 20,000 people that were brought here, I think something like 14 survived, and only because they were the last ones there when Phnom Penh fell in '79.

This is so much to digest. You walk through the actual interrogation rooms. You see pictures of what happened in the room you are standing in. You see blood stains on the floor.
You think your life is tough? Do you want to complain some more about your job?

Whats really messed up is that most of the guards and torturers were very young men, in their early teens. Brainwashed by the Khmer Rouge to carry out these acts.

And whats even MORE disturbing is that many of the torturing practices that they used are the same ones that (were? are?) used in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Electric wires, waterboarding...ponder that for a while. Want to keep paying taxes?

So we were there for while, but I had just about enough. Time to go.

We checked in to our new hotel (Really nice...and only $33 a night) and then headed for our next massage. One hour of foot, one hour body. Still, the thoughts of what I just saw were still in my head. I have no right to be sad about anything in my life. We all have so much to be thankful for and most of us just bitch and whine. We have no idea how hard it can be.
Sorry to be such a downer, but its the truth. Please be grateful for EVERYTHING.

After the massage, we went for dinner. I did lots of spicy salads like mango, green
papaya and pomelo (grapefruit). They would put peppers and nuts in it, and it was great.

After dinner we just walked along the river. Lots of people were out...mostly locals.
Most tourists were drinking it up or eating...there really isnt much else to do in Phnom Penh at night. HOWEVER...we wandered across these crazy kids who were doing a drum circle and break-dancing right in the park. It was AWESOME. Some were doing backflips!

So I ended up doing some handstands with them and dancing a little bit.
I grabbed one by the hands and swung him around and everyone else wanted me to do the same with them. It doesnt seem like kids get much attention here.

They were really loving it. And pretty soon everyone was watching.
People need to get a life, I swear...just a bunch of one doing much.
We had the best time with these kids, and it cost absolutely nothing. This is REAL fun.

Such a great unexpected bonus.
Be open to the randomness.

Off to Siam Reap and Angkor Wat via boat in the its an early bedtime.

2 for 2 so far...really good days.


Tiffany said...

Hi Anthony,

I have been reading for a couple weeks now and wow...even if I were not attempting to go raw myself I would still is rare to find someone so inwardly beautiful and willing to let other see right into the soul. Thanks for letting us peek into your life. Started off the day with tears reading about your journey. Thanks so much....

Rediscover Raw Food said...

Thank you for blogging about your travels. Most of us will never travel to Cambodia or similar places. It's enlightening to see it through your eyes as you experience it. Though I've read of the Killing Fields and the like, seeing the remnants of that time through your eyes makes it that much more real. As is often said of the Holocaust: We Must Never Forget. Yet, how easily we do.

Anonymous said...

I love your site and greatly appreciate your sensitivity and interest (and genuine care!) about other peoples and cultures. I do want to point out however, that it is considered poor form among American Ex-patriots working or living abroad to refer to their home country as "wretched" as you have the US. When I first lived in East Asia I also had the same attitude you have displayed here towards the U.S. but over time I learned more and more about the governments and policies of China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and yes, Europe and unfortunately found that ALL countries struggle against inbred tyranny as much as outside forces. You will never find a country that is perfect (although parts of the Netherlands has achieved great things) and try to remember that many people have lived and died for you to have the privilege to call the United States "wretched". This is still a Republic here in America, so if you call the U.S. "wretched" you are really referring to yourself and your countrymen/women. If you think our political system needs changing (yes! it does!) than come home and do something about it because you seem to have the energy and focus to care and take positive action for the good. But meanwhile, you can point out the flaws of US foreign policy without throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Best wishes to you and Happy New Year!
Susan G.

raw by default said...

Wow... quite the contrast between death and life in that post. We truly do live in a world of contrasts.

Anonymous said...

The woman above clearly does not see the difference between the people of a country and the government, and I think that's an important distinction. Governments go after power, people behave in all sorts of different ways. We have every right to criticize a system that has caused such horrors--and a duty, really. People have died so you shouldn't speak out? I love your posts, your open-mindedness and positive intentions really shine through.

ali said...

Hi Anthony -- I've been perusing your online notes for the past week or two, and like your style. It's quite inspiring. I've linked to your blog from my home-grown blog page -- hope you don't mind.

keep on shining as bright as you do.


Anonymous said...

The world of duality. How would we ever learn without it?

Kristen's Raw said...

Such great pictures....makes me feel like I'm right there with ya. Very cool.

Have a super day!
Kristen's Raw

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad your having a good time in Cambodia. It's always important to remember how blessed we are, and I'm thankful that your spreading the word on that. Anyway, keep the posts coming!!
I just have one question...are you there on vaction or are you working?

Anonymous said...

You evidently do not understand democracy or republic as here in the United States, "We the people" ARE the government. We elect who will govern us, it is not handed down to us from a monarchy so we have NO EXCUSE when our government does horrible things in foreign countries. I just think it is too easy to call my country bad names abroad rather than do something about it.
Anthony is alive, awake, and conscious, people like him give me hope for our country and political future.
Susan G.

Anisha said...

The salad looks great. The kids look so happy! Its amazing how a little positive attention can make anyone happy.

You are right, we take a lot for granted. I have noticed that for awhile now, but since being here in India - I usually do massive shopping and now it has come to a halt because I really question whether I need a lot of this stuff. (=

angel said...

i've just found your blog, and haven't been able to stop reading! great, great stuff!

the reason i had to write is that something in this post gave me a really negative reaction, and i'm hopeful you'll be receptive to my comment.

i was enjoying reading about you twirling the kids around, nodding my head as you said they likely didn't get enough attention... then it was like a kick in the gut to read you characterize the observers as needing to get lives! maybe they, like the readers of your blog, simply enjoyed the sight of love and joy being expressed. observation of love gives the same internal, immune system boost as experiencing it personally, so why not enjoy their attention, and your unintentional contribution to their well-being? those people were likely the grown-up version of the attention-starved children you found, finding a lost piece of their childhood in watching you. contempt instead of compassion is not a good look.

i'm so glad i found your blog, and hope you receive the message with the love i intended.