Monday, September 10, 2012
The Tuol Sleng Prison Museum tells the gruesome and barbaric story of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge rule of nearly four years. Just like the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, the Tuol Sleng Prison Museum is a hard place to visit. Though not nearly as polished or well funded as those other two museums, it can still have a sobering effect. I go to museums like these not because I like to, but because it's a way for me to value human life. To know the suffering of others and not ignore it or forget it is important to me.
The night markets in Siem Reap are more fun than the informal markets in Phnom Penh. It's cooler for one and there are colored lights illuminating the stalls which create a more festive feel. Also the darkness helps to hide garbage or broken sidewalks. Siem Reap is a tourist city. There is just a different feel because of that compared to Phnom Penh. I like both places for different reasons.
Our final day together back in Phnom Penh was spent just relaxing after a pretty full itinerary. Stephen had to go to work, poor guy, even though he did ALL of the driving. The flights out of Phnom Penh that head to the US generally all leave in the late evening. We lingered with them as long as we could and then we waved good bye through the glass. Our drive back to the apartment was quiet. We were a little worn out and a little sad. And it was late at night so the streets were quiet. Though we are only 36 hours of travel time apart, it feels like worlds apart. But it won't be long before we take that same journey halfway around the world. :)
Tuesday, September 4, 2012
To meet with clinic staff and tour a village for a potential project, we drove 4 hours north of Yangon. The driver of the van, both provided by the Christian organization partner, had from my perspective shocking driving habits. Though we drove on a wide new four lane freeway with hardly any traffic to speak of, our driver gave no room to motos, bicycles, or pedestrians we happened to pass. Instead of simply moving into the open lane to the left and passing safely, he honked his horn obnoxiously for great distances and then shaved past the moto, bicycle or pedestrian. I was perplexed and dismayed by this behavior.
Since returning from our trip, I've been reading a book called "Finding George Orwell in Burma". The author is an American journalist writing under the pseudonym Emma Larkin. As a young man, George Orwell took a post in Burma for the British army. One of Orwell's earliest books is called Burmese Days drawn from his 5 years living in Burma. In Emma's conversations with locals, she recorded how the Burmese love to read and they especially love George Orwell. With Burmese Days as part one, the Burmese consider Animal Farm and 1984 as parts two and three of a trilogy about Burma. His books are banned but supposedly there are still copies to be found hidden in the country. When I finish Finding George Orwell I am going to read "Letters from Burma," a collection of articles written for a Japanese newspaper by Aung San Suu Kyi after one of her releases from house arrest. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and is the leader for human rights and democracy in Burma, just recently elected to parliament.
One week in Myanmar was plenty for me. Myanmar is even poorer than Cambodia and we could certainly feel that even as visitors. When we returned from Japan, Cambodia felt unpleasant in a number of ways compared to all the wonderful things we found and enjoyed while in Japan. But when we returned to Cambodia from Myanmar, Cambodia felt so pleasant. Cambodians are friendly, there are so many more restaurants and really good coffee, and the light in Phnom Penh is better to draw and paint by. It's all relative...