Monday, January 23, 2012
They don't pretend to forget. The message of the Genocide Museum, a stupifyingly sad collection of memorabilia housed in a school-turned-torture chamber, reads Keeping the memory of the atrocities alive.. plays a crucial role in preventing new Pol Pot from emerging in the lands of Angkor or anywhere on earth.
And with temples and paraphernalia of holiness everywhere, it's hard not to wonder how such cruelty could happen. Maybe humans aren't meant to stifle emotions behind that famous Angkor smile, maybe there's good reason the friezes show Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, seated next to his 'beloved brother' Murugan, God of War. The more direct reason is of course more sinister: the national shift to communism that allowed Pol Pot's extremist policy of 'rupture' was caused by Nixon's covert, illegal, carpet bombing of Cambodia in 1973 - an outrage supported by Kissinger, whose reward of the Nobel Peace Prize inspired Tom Lehrer to pronounce political satire now obsolete. And the rest is ghastly history.
Recent past is close to the surface everywhere but our journey revealed many layers of history and it's impossible to fully summarise ten days of amazing experiences, a full notebook and 200 photographs, so here's a list of some of the many memorable aspects and precious moments:
~ the meditation led by Michael at Ta Prohm where spong trees swaddle the ruined temples, while monkeys hooted and cicadas shrilled as dusk deepened
~ champa blossom fallen everywhere, called the yoni flower...
~ luxuries! khmer massage, hotel breakfasts of papaya and dragon-fruit, restaurant suppers of Fish Amok - a speciality of Cambodia, local fish in seasoned sauce of coconut milk and spices.
~ Kulen National Park, the massive reclining buddah carved into ancient rock, the waterfall, and the sudden monsoon downpour
~ water lilies, puce and spiky, on long stiff stems
~ Water of Hope, bringing wells to the rural communities of this country, poorest in southeast asia, high infant mortality rate, and still bereft of supportive infrastructure we met Narong who runs this project here.
~ our writing night in the poolside bar
~ and my group of fellow travellers, expertly led by Michael Eales. Great to spend time with you all, here's hoping to meet up again with all my new friends.