- 31st August
- 19th August
- 7th August
- 29th November
- 22nd November
- 19th November
- 7th November
I come every day to tell the world the truth about the Tuol Sleng prison… so that none of these crimes are ever repeated anywhere in the world.” - Chem Muy
Today I cried. I laughed. I jumped. I danced. Today I finally understood a lesson my mother has taught me through example, all of my life.
The Lesson: You can go through unfathomable pain and destruction, experience something that breaks you down and degrades you, and in the end you can laugh and find happiness, and hopefully find peace with yourself and your experience.
My mother, a Cambodian genocide survivor, showed me what courage is today. Courage, that I myself, struggled to show. After 5 trips back to Cambodia, my mother finally went to show her respect to the 14,000+ victims at S-21 known as Tuol Sleng. I was surprise at the amount of strength it took for me to walk through the cells of the compound. I watched as my mother, hand in hand with myself and Susan, my fellow Columbian, face her past. I found myself staring, in absolute horror and sorrow. The images possessed my mind and will do so for the rest of my life. Seeing an image of absolute inhumanity is not the same as standing within the context of the image. Seeing, standing in the very cell that held those innocent Khmer men and women, was absolutely heart breaking. My mother was stronger than me.
We met with 1 of 2 remaining survivors, Bo Meng, whom shared his story. And as both my mother and Chum Mey, survivors of the genocide, believe sharing their stories will prevent similar atrocities. That is why I am sharing this blog post.
But what I really want to share is my mother’s lesson. Happiness and kindness are possible. Later that afternoon I entered a world of kindness and bright smiles, a place filled with hugs and dancing. The tour was led to the Center for Children’s Happiness, an orphanage that provides full care for their children. The CACO GLEF 2011 Humanitarian Tour donated 14 bikes, medicine, and of course delicious snacks to the children. In return, they shared their time, smiles and hugs.
I was touched when the girls performed Bopha Lok Gey, a dance that I learned when I first became a Cambodian dancer. The girls lifted my spirits after they had been weighed down so heavily by the day’s earlier events. What touched my heart even more was Sovan, one of the dancers, whom placed her only bracelt on my hand as a gift, she said “it was a gift from my mother to me, and me to you”. As hard as I tried to give the precious gift back, she simply refused and walked me to our bus. I won’t ever forget her and am determined to give her a gift of equal significance before I return to the US.
A lot happened today. And I know this is just one account from the 33 members of the CACO GLEF 2011 Humanitarian Tour. I can only anticipate that the next few weeks will be filled with more heart-wrenching and touching stories, as I see Cambodia as I have never seen it before.
[To see pictures from today please visit my personal Facebook and view the CACO GLEF 2011 Humanitarian Tour Album]
- 27th October
- 13th October
- 4th October