I’m copying a Facebook post I wrote on Dec 22, 2016, about Choeung Ek (the most famous of perhaps hundreds of so-called “Killing Fields” across Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge era of the late 1970s) and dropping it here so that this travel blog more fully represents my travels. I wrote this as I sat in the airport at Phnom Penh, preparing to fly to Siem Reap for my first international Habitat for Humanity build. Having visited this site and having it weigh on my mind for a long period afterward — as it continues to on occasion even now, four months later — helped deepen my fascination of and love for the Cambodian people I met in coming weeks. To have survived decades of brutal warfare, genocide, starvation, terror, etc. and yet remain so open and welcoming… honestly, it remains beyond my comprehension. Here’s my post from last December:
I believe what struck me the most about visiting this place was how beautiful and peaceful it is. One might suspect it’s a public park suitable for picnics. I found it disconcerting given the horrors committed here.
I’m reading First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, a survivor who lost the vast majority of her family. I wish I’d marked the passage when I encountered it so I could quote her, but she describes her resentment at how nature — with its colorful sunsets and blossoming trees & flowers — failed to reflect the brutality and hatred and fear that the people were experiencing. I read that portion the evening after visiting here, so it resonated with me far more than it likely would have otherwise.