S-21 and the Killing Fields

Tuesday June 15th

S-21 and the Killing Fields in Cambodia - Dragonfly Transitions

We had an early wake up at 6:30 this morning so the students could wake up, pack their bags and prepare for a 4 hour trip back to Phnom Penh. After breakfast at a local restaurant we prepared for the descent… After 4 and a half hours of being in a van, tired and excited we arrived at the beloved BillaBong Hotel. Everyone got their rooms and happily went for a swim in the pool. After that well needed dip in he pool we all prepared to go to the Russian market.

The Russian Market is a full city block maze of stall after stall. We split up into groups and went shopping for gifts and clothes for ourselves and others. After a crowded and at times, overwhelming shopping spree, some of the students took a trip to the “Seeing Hands” massage parlor. Seeing Hands is an organization that helps the blind learn a trade and become independent and self sufficient.

S-21 and the Killing Fields in Cambodia - Dragonfly Transitions

For Dinner we took a 15 minute tuk tuk ride to Ying and Yang restaurant which was delicious and just filling enough that there was room for blue pumpkin ice cream, a special and enjoyable treat we did not expect in Cambodia. After celebrating Elias’ birthday with ice cream and laughs, we all returned to the hotel and settled down for the next day to follow.

Wednesday June 16th

S-21 and the Killing Fields in Cambodia - Dragonfly Transitions

Today we woke up and got prepared for one of our most emotional days.  We ate breakfast and jumped in out tuk tuks for the short trip out of town to the “Killing Fields”. This is national heritage site and is the location where many Cambodians were killed during the genocide of the Khmer Rouge. We rented MP3 players and headphones for an auditory tour of the fields. The recordings took us around the fields and discussed what happened in certain areas. There were mass graves where people had been buried, bones and other remnants still remained visible. It was very difficult for us to hear about what happened. There was a tree on which children were killed that really put into perspective how terrible this genocide was. Another point that brought up a lot of emotions was when the recordings played music that was used to drown out the sounds of the killings, it gave a very ominous feeling. These were the last sounds that people heard right before they were killed. The last part of the tour brought us to the center of the killing fields where there was a building filled with human skulls and the different tools that were used to kill them. This building was erected as a peace memorial to honor the dead. Once called the angry killing fields, it is now a memorial to remember the dead built with the symbolism of coming to peace!

S-21 and the Killing Fields in Cambodia - Dragonfly Transitions

This brings us to the second part of the day. We took a ride over to SR-21 a prison where many people were brought and tortured prior to being taken to the killing fields. We were going to get a tour of the prison from John, our tuk tuk leader. He backed out last minute because it was going to be too difficult for him to go through it. John was a child during the time of the Khmer Rouge, his father was conscripted as a fisherman for the regime and he had to steal and hide fish heads to feed his family.

A few of us went through the prison with one of the other drivers. He talked about his mother being killed in the killing fields and how he was forced to leave the city. When walking through the prison, we saw the tiny spaces that people were held prisoner. There were pictures depicting how the people were tortured while in the prison. When looking at the pictures of the prisoners’ faces, you could almost feel the terror that they must have been experiencing. By learning about the Khmer Rouge we’re hoping to show our respect and educate ourselves so that this doesn’t happen again.

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