Killing Fields

Almost 24 hours after walking the sacred grounds of the Killing Fields, the tears won’t stop.  Finally they are flowing freely, enough distance, a country away, has allowed my heart to unclench.  My soul to scream. I will never be the same and I shouldn’t be.

Our tuk tuk driver delivered us first to the prison, the former school, where atrocities replaced laughter. Stark concrete walls, razor wire, instruments of torture.  Guilt as we tour, should we be looking?  But we must, so we can tell.  No one is listening to the Cambodian people still.  40 years later and only 1 war tribunal conviction.  Current leader has Khmer Rouge affiliations.  How is this happening?

We move on to the Killing Fields.  Stella wept over breakfast.  She didn’t want to go but wouldn’t let herself off the hook.  How can you go to the country, indulge in their cheap souvenirs and not see their pain?  But would they feel resentful at her tears?  It wasn’t her family?  We decided it is all of our family, we must cry over these losses.  The people who were lost deserve our tears.  No one will judge.  A pure heart, my daughter, to not want to offend a desperate people with her tears.  We were soon to discover we would give more than that.

The ride to the fields took us through the worst of our travels to date: trash collection areas, recycling sorting, roadside shacks with sewage flowing under.   Dust and dirt covered us, gritty sand in our eyes, hair. The smell…gone was the appetizing mysterious scents of cooking.  And then we were there, just right in the midst of it all was this holy ground.

What happened there, I can barely put into words.  I hesitate over the keys.  I am no stranger to evil.  Evil committed by many to many amazes me.  scares me.  no terrifies me.  there is a huge tree, a big beautiful tree much like my grandson would love to climb and pull the bark off of and use his toy chainsaw on.  this is the tree on which the Khmer Rouge, in front of the moms, bashed the babies heads in. the pit for the moms and babies was right in front of it.  today it is decorated with thousands of bracelets from those who have come to mourn.

Bones and teeth still emerge from the ground, especially after the rainy season.  Every person in Cambodia has a family member who died in this genocide.  It is that recent.  We come to discover truth, they come to find their grandmother.

We left Cambodia and flew to Thailand, many bus transfers and finally got to our hotel late.  All day we talked of the shower we would take.  But we didn’t.  24 hours later, gritty with the dust of Phnom Phen, I can just begin to open my soul to cleansing.

Unloading my Pack

Brought my sadness to south east Asia, packed tightly in my new hikers backpack. Ready to be unloaded, released at a temple, in quiet meditation on a beach at sunrise, after too much laughter with my daughter. Instead I find Thailand has its own sorrow, so deep so pervasive, there is just no room for mine. Grief rides the rickety bus. Hopeless shuffles the feet of even the youngest. Heat slows everyone, there is no escaping the reality of destroyed buildings, lost generations. Rubble and rubbish at the foot of signs for new smartphones.
Riding the night bus overflowing with mattey haired hipsters whose clothes are more authentic than the locals we stop to pick up, I watch as the mopeds swarm us, lead us like pilot fish to the whale. Or is it a shark? During the ride I’m not sure which belly I’m in and can’t sleep the narco-induced slumber of these kids. So I carry the anxiety for my bus mates while the rest jolt and toss and shift but still they sleep. Odors joining, mixing with no concern for boundaries or states rights. Germany Canada Finland France USA.  There are no superpowers, just dust and yesterday’s dirt or maybe the day before and a bit of mosquito spray with incense. I’ve lost track of how many days I’ve worn which clothes, having already shed some at the last two hostels to lighten the pack. With each repacking I evaluate what is critical to carry further into the trip. The sorrow has begun to weigh too much but now in Cambodia I see they too will mock my grief. Only a generation long? Just one year of sadness? How can I give them my tears when they continue to mine bones in the killing fields. No, I came to the wrong continent. A plump middle aged white woman taking artsy pictures of their homeless cats and broken buildings, their old women selling the same pots of noodles her mother and hers before made, this woman has such audacity to dump more sorrow on the broken backs, barely beating spirits. It is truly the rich who seek purpose. The rest seek survival