"Words have no wings, but they can travel a thousand miles" (Korean Proverb)

Welcome to Flying Words, Jon and Aileen's blog of our adventures in South Korea! We will be in South Korea for a year, starting in mid-July, teaching English in a private school. We just graduated from college this past May, and are looking forward to having some adventures before continuing our education. 
We started this blog to keep all our family and friends updated and to share our photos and stories. We hope this is entertaining for you! We will miss you all, and are very thankful to have the internet to keep us in touch. 

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A day in Phnom Penh...ancient statues and recent genocide

I didn't see much of Phnom Penh. I got there one evening after a long bus ride from Siem Reap, found a hostel and walked down the river in search of dinner. The next morning, I got up relatively early, as I'm getting used to early starts, and headed to the National Museum.
The National Museum is housed in a beautiful building in traditional Cambodian style, and houses mainly scultpures and statues from the pre-colonial period. Including many of the pieces that would have filled the temples I had just been to, and relics from before that time. It was nice to see what would have filled the empty altars I'd seen, and to get a sense of where all that architecture and style came from. The building also had a beautiful courtyard.
After that, I had lunch at a great restaurant that doubles as a training school for street kids...they have a few restaurants, and a school for kids, too. The place was great...very delicious food, and it was nice to feel like I was doing something. There are beggars all over the city, and you just can't give everyone money....
That afternoon, in the driving wind and rain, I took a tuk-tuk to the Killing Fields. The Killing Fields is a memorial on the site of former mass graves from the Khmer Rouge regime that terrorized the country for years and killed thousands of citizens in the name of a communist revolution. It the sad story that, unfortunately, has happened too many times. International forces that could step in frozen by their projections and interpretations of the situation, and how they interpret their best interest. The memorial was sobering, to say the least. It was still a dreary day, and the field was filled with pits where they dug up the mass graves. There were, apparently, bones still showing up in the dirt. I didn't see any. Luckily.
After that, I went to the genocide museum at a former detention/torture center. That, also, was sobering. And depressing. You walked through the old cells, where you can still see dark stains on the floor from blood, and old bed frames and torture instruments. They have massive displays of photos of all the old prisoners there, that the Khmer Rouge had taken when they came in. Their expressions ran the gauntlet from scared to surprised to angry to defiant. It hard to deal with, but something I know I'll have to deal with in my life, since one of the things I'm thinking about for a career is war crimes prosecutions, and dealing with the aftermath of genocide and other human rights violations. It's something I know would be hard, and this didn't put me off it, but it was still sobering to see these things in real life.