17 November, 2008

The Killing Fields

Yesterday we went to the Killing Fields and Toul Seng. For most of the team, who were alive during the years of Pol Pot, they were asking themselves where they were. Many would have been old enough to know what was going on. My mom realized she had been married for 10 years when Pol Pot was overthrown. And yet... they remember Vietnam so well, but nothing about what was happening just next door.

For me, the shires were not as hard as I thought they would be. I walked through Toul Seng, a school converted into the main torture facility for the Khmer Rouge, wondering why they were torturing those people at all. The K.R. wanted to make everyone equal - to rid the upper class and create a county of peasantry... They did not want to know what the upper class knew, they did not care.

In one building (the complex had several) there were rows and rows and rooms and rooms of pictures of people who had been through Toul Seng. Most look resigned or defeated, but a couple looked petrified. I was struck by the number of women and children. Of the 20,000 who came through Toul Seng only 7 survived. And as I left I asked myself - why did they die for?

I have more to write, but for lack of time will say the discussion will continue later. Cambodia is amazingly beautiful, yet it is contrasted by a sense of hopelessness. It seems that some people here are resigned to their fate, and I have to ask, where is the hope for them? People have made homes and started whatever they can to make money, but squatters and begging are commonplace and abundant. How does a society in this state improve? How do you buld up a middle class and help people create a better future for themselves? I don't think handouts work, so how to you inspire entrepreneurs and raise up their economy?

The team is great. The weather is sublime. I will take 80 degrees + humidity over the 40 degrees it was supposed to be in DC this week.

I will try to write more later. Thank you for your continued prayers.