Sunday, March 21, 2010

Grant - Day 7

In the movie Blood Diamond the characters were heard to say, "TIA" a number of times. It is a reference to describe the tragedy of Africa - "This is Africa." Here, I am reminded that it is equally appropriate to say, "TIC - This is Cambodia."

This is Cambodia.

Today was our day off. We got to sleep in unless like me you were awake at 5 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Oh well, its only sleep.

The plan for today was to blend together the tragedy of Cambodia's history at one of the biggest Killing Fields with the every day of shopping in a classic Cambodian market. We had booked our tuktuks last Sunday when we first arrived because I saw Sothea, the main guy who drove us in 2008. We noticed that he hadn't been around the last few days. Last night one of our tuktuk drivers who took us to our restaurant said that he would see us in the morning, telling me that he was Sothea's brother. Ok, good enough. This morning we went out front to see Sothea's brother and our other ususual (sorry I don't remember his name) and then Sothea came around the corner. Great we were set. I wanted to confirm our negotiation of the previous evening with Sothea. He told me his child died a couple of days earlier. His wife was pregnant with their first child and all was well. She was due to deliver and was at the hospital and all was well. The baby shifted position and there were questions...and then there was no heartbeat. Finally the baby was stillborn. We were already faced with tragedy and we hadn't even left for Cheong Ek (the Killing Fields).

Cheong Ek is the place where thousands were killed by the Khmer Rouge beginning 35 years ago. Every rainy season brings to the surface more of what was buried - pieace of clothing, bones and bone fragments, teeth and the rope and cords used to tie the hands of the victims. We agreed that we would each go through the site in quiet and solitude. There was a particular place I wanted to pray - the Killing Tree. I crouched down and touched the protruding roots of the tree where small children and infants were killed. I prayed. "Help us God!" I prayed it over and over again. "Help us God!" TIC. This is Cambodia.

Back in Phnom Penh, we had lunch at Jars of Clay, a cafe where women formerly in the sex trade learn a new trade. It was a wonderful lunch in a happy setting with these women (the staff) who are in the process of finding hope. This is Cambodia.

After lunch we went to P'sat Toul Tom Pong - a very regular Cambodian market. I recognized almost all the beggers from past visits. It was hot - very, very hot - in the market. We began to pick some things up for our families and just experience the hustle and bustle of regular life in Cambodia. We then had a short tour through the city in our tuktuks. Then back to the hotel to clean up and process what we saw and experienced. Tragedy and joy, loss and hope. TIC

This is Cambodia.


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