Day 12 - Ethan
Today is not an easy day to describe, honestly I don't think I can do it justice, but I'll do my best.
Heart wrenching, devastating, unfathomable, loving, compassionate, hopeful. After a simple breakfast at the Alibi Guesthouse, we left on tuk tuks with our guide Bunna to the genocide museum, and were soon able to experience the first three words. It was extremely difficult for us pilgrims to see the evils that Cambodia had lived through, and many of us were very troubled going through the high school converted into a prison. Things that we'd heard about, and had perhaps seen as just an event in history, became very real and confronting. We learnt of the injustices and inhuman ways the prisoners were treated, but together we were able to help each other through the overwhelming experience, and we headed to the next experience we new would be difficult. The Killing Fields were another level of confronting for me. Through our audio tours we learnt of the suffering that so many Cambodians went through, and I think for all of us, it was impossible to not feel pure sadness at such tragedies. One of the survivors stories "loss of an infant" particularly hit me hard, as I listened to the struggles of a mother not being able to provide breast milk to her child because of starvation. Other stories like these really showed us how important it is is that we are pilgrims, trying our best to be in solidarity with the people who's lives had been upturned only 40 years ago. Although these two journeys were some of the hardest of our lives, we are so fortunate to be able to share in the experiences of the Cambodian people, and to be able to really appreciate the people that we come into contact with now.
The final three words, loving, compassionate and hopeful have been shown to us in all of our experiences with the Cambodian people's. The joy that is evoked from a simple smile or hello truly shows the resilience that the Cambodians have to be a community of kindness, and to not fall into the trap of a hateful revenge. This was further shown to us in our visit to Tabitha, a program that aims to empower women and give them independence to take back their lives. We were given a presentation on how women and families are helped to save their own money to become independent and how they are also given the opportunity of decent work in silk and we were able to purchase some of the beautiful works afterwords. From that, we rested and headed to dinner at Romdeng, a restaurant that trains people to be independent and to seek a better life for themselves. After a good feed, we headed back home to debrief for the day. Looking forwards to a rest after an tough day.
Ethan Richards on behalf of Marist Solidarity Mission