[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text letter_spacing=””]Hello Friends and Family,
I was very anxious a few days before the trip began, and I’m sure I was not alone! However, after meeting all the girls, those nerves quickly began to fade. We have all been able to connect and laugh together, and I can already tell it will be a great three weeks!
It almost feels unreal that we’re already four days into the trip. It feels like we all left our corners of the country to meet in LA just a few hours ago. I think what made the time seem to fly was how easy the flight to Hong Kong was! We were all able to sleep on the flight, and the food was delicious! Once we arrived in Cambodia, we first met our guide, Phiya (pronounced Pee-yah) then we boarded our van and headed to our hotel. Our van is all decorated with purple curtains and seat covers! On our drive, we got to experience the craziness that is driving in Cambodia. There are few stop signs or lights — it’s like a free for all! Fortunately, no one gets going very fast because there are so many cars, trucks and motorbikes!
After we settled into our hotel, we went to the Royal Palace. It was beautiful! The architecture is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was also crazy to think we were not that far from a king and queen! When we finished at the Royal Palace, we traveled to Wat Phnom temple. The temple was quite beautiful and contained a solid gold Buddha. Following our trip to the temple, we ate! The food here is wonderful! All the meals consist of rice, some sort of vegetable, chicken, and fish. After dinner, we went back to the hotel, and we all went back to our individual rooms and passed out. I think the time difference had gotten to us!
After a restful night’s sleep, we woke up and had breakfast. Following breakfast, we had our first Khmer lessons with Phiya. The lesson was really fun and was the first of many! Shortly after our lesson, we got back on the “Purple Bus” and headed to the S-21 Prison and museum.
The prison was once a high school, but it was later turned to a site where so much hurt and torture occurred. The prison consisted of four buildings; one was used for the interrogations and the rest for cells. In all the buildings, the floor consisted of these orange and white blood-stained, checkered tiles. It was pretty hard to witness these sights. The three buildings that used to house the prisoners were filled with pictures of the soldiers as well as the prisoners. In the very last building, there were paintings painted by one of the few survivors. The canvases were all filled with graphic paintings of the torture the Khmer Rouge inflicted on the prisoners. While on our way out, we passed by three of the survivors. One was just a child when the Vietnamese Army came and saved him. One of the other two was the man who had painted the paintings I previously mentioned. When seeing the survivors I continuously thought: how can these men come back everyday to a place that caused them so much pain? It amazed me. I don’t think I could, and I thought about that all the way to the Killing Fields. There, we saw many mass graves. One of the largest of the graves had contained 450 bodies! It was heartbreaking!
In the middle of the Killing Fields is a memorial that has thousands of skeletons on display in the middle; all are labeled by sex and cause of death. It was hard to see all the destruction that occurred and to think no one was very aware of it. It just upsets me to think it took three million people to die till there was ever an end! I think the most important thing to take away from going to the S-21 Prison and to the Killing Fields is we must never forget the pain genocide causes, and we must learn from the past in order to never repeat all the suffering. I think we all felt this as we looked back at the emotional and hard day we had. However, the day was not over! We still had a great meal coming up and a boat tour on the Mekong river! While on the boat tour, we played more “getting to know you” games as we all further deepened our friendships. We finally headed back to the hotel to get another great night of sleep!