Tuol Sleng


Today was perhaps one of my favorite days.  It was the perfect combination of vacation sight seeing and the joy of getting to spend time with the kids at PE2.  We kicked off our morning with breakfast at Cafe Yejj yet again.  It's a quick walk and they have stuff that everyone in our family likes, so it's a win win.  With full tummies we set off on foot for the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. 

During the month of April, the kids and I really dove into learning about Cambodia's history to give us a framework for our trip. We quickly found some pretty hard stuff to digest. While utilizing various library books to gather facts, we also read through "First They Killed My Father" which is written by a survivor of the Khmer Rouge.  Her writing really captures the essence of what many Cambodians went through.  Having read and thought about what this country has been through, made our trip to Tuol Sleng really hit home. To walk through the halls where innocent people were held captive, to see the hundreds of pictures of those that passed through these doors, the skulls of those tortured, made for a heavy visit.  Known also as S-21, Tuol Sleng, was once a grade school that the Khmer Rouge turned into a place of torture & murder during the reign of Pol Pot.  Interestingly enough, the Khmer Rouge wanted nothing more than to do away with education; their desire was to create an agrarian society in which the "un-pure blood" of the Cambodian people was done away with. Hard work was far more important than education and so they took the very thing that the people held dear and turned it into a place of terror. 14,000-20,000 people passed through the doors of this former school and death would have been a wish granted; instead they were tortured for endless hours, chained to beds (metal racks), stuffed into tiny cells, starved, and forced into agreeing to crimes that they had not committed. Over the course of our time here, we have talked with both Narun & Sophal about their families and how the Khmer Rouge affected them.  With heavy hearts & tears they shared their pain; a bit of their story. As much as I try to understand and put myself into their shoes, I fall short, for my mind cannot truly fathom what these people, this country, has been through; it is a tragedy that must never be forgotten.  

From Tuol Sleng we walked to Orussey Market, the biggest market we've been to yet.  Whatever you're searching for, if you can manage to navigate your way through the three story high building, you are sure to find it.  The smells that waft from these markets is something very unfamiliar to our American noses.  From dried mushrooms, to dried fish, pork, beef, eggs, half dead chickens and tons of other stuff, the smells can be quite overwhelming.  Word to the wise, don't walk through the markets if you're pregnant!  On our way back home, we stumbled across a shoe maker's shop.  Just for kicks, we decided to check it out and ended up leaving with 4 pairs of beautiful, comfortable, leather shoes to be custom made for our feet for $100 total.  We go back in 3 days to pick them up!

Narun picked us up in the afternoon for our time with the kids after school. Sophal once again, cared for us as family and made Jeremy & I a special tea with honey to hep calm our stomachs.  We played lots of card games, football (soccer), & made some friendship bracelets.  As always, we had a blast! I have never met more creative, loving, nurturing, kind, joyful and fun kids! 

Just for fun...things we've experienced while here...we're not complaining, it's all part of the adventure!

  • Crossing the streets here is like playing Frogger.  The driving here is absolutely insane, so crossing the street can be kinda terrifying at times.  I almost got  squished by a moto today.  
  • Diarrhea strikes when it's most inconvenient.  Like when you're on the 3rd floor of Tuol Sleng and you are hoping you make it to the bathroom on the first floor  in time.  While descending the steps, you seriously think you may pass out, the sudden onset of heat waves that are rolling over are crazy you and the sweat just  begins pouring out of your face.  Having remembered to grab the flushable wipes, you make it just in time to loose any nutrition or fluids you had in your body.  
  • When you need to find a bathroom, don't use words like bathroom, toilet, restroom...you'll only be lead to a tuk-tuk...which in the end worked out fine...we just  waited until we got back to the guest house to use the restroom. Narun later shared with us that the word toilet & tuk-tuk sound to similiar to them, so we should  ask for the "WC" or "water closet". 
  • A Coke will settle an upset stomach...no complaint from the kids on this one, especially since they don't get it at home!
  • If you get stuck in a bathroom without your baby wipes, there is no time like the present to try out the ole' bidet.  Not a fan!
  • Eating here is like playing Russian Roulette...you do your best to eat only fruits and vegetables that can be peeled, or have been thoroughly cooked, but you  just never know until a few hours later. 
  • I've been learning to go "all natural" as the power converter that we bought doesn't work at all for my hair dryer or curling iron.  And there's really no point in  wearing any make-up 'cause you're just going to sweat it all off anyways.  At least it's saving me time.
  • When you take your clothes to be laundered, they make come back...

a.  stinkier than when you took them

b.  clean, but stretched out and unwearable

c.  clean, but possibly missing a few items as the number of items you took in doesn't match the number you came home with

  • Never act like you really love something at the market or they won't budge on the price; you gotta be willing to walk away.
  • If you want to know what time something starts, ask several people and go with the majority.  And then be flexible, because that time still isn't probably  accurate.
  • If you're a cute freckled face little girl, just know that people will stare at you and giggle, point at you or pinch your arm & cheeks.
  • When trying to speak Khmer, laugh alot and keep trying!
  • Sprinkling doterra's TerraShield on my bedsheets has seemed to keep the ants out of my bed...not a pleasant way to wake up!
  • The geckos in the house are my friends...they're mosquito control...just please don't crawl over me while I'm sleeping or you may get squashed.
  • Never take forgranted the many, many amenities we have in the US to make our lives so much easier or more comfortable.