…entre nous soit dit…

between me you and the gatepost.

PRAISE

I cannot believe how thankful I am for some things right now. Like so thankfu;l it’s not funny.

Thank gods for traveling for the next week (which means limited internet as well which at the moment is looking like a good thing)

and THANK FUCK for college!

My gods I don’t know what I would do with out it. It’s going to be amazing to be coming home to that and I am sooooooo glad I have it. Don’t know what I’d do with out it. It was the biggest relief yesterday to get the confirmation from them that I was back this year. 

That is all.

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December 31, 2009 Posted by | just a quick note | Leave a comment

Cambodia… What Day am I up to??

Well today I spent all day in bed sickHow much more awesome can it get?!

*note: immense and extreme sarcasm used for the last sentence*

Last night we went to a local festival which was put on by Suzuki because they were launching a new bike. I thought I’d eat some of the local food being sold there – steered clear of all the nasty looking one though of course. I didn’t think there’d be anything wrong with having some innocent ice cream…. but noooooooo. apparently when you stupidly buy coconut ice cream from a local guy, you get bloody food poisoning!

Viciously painful extreme food poisoning. Food poisoning that, no exaggeration, makes you feel as though someone is continuously stabbing you in the stomach and shredding your insides until, whilst crying from the pain, you become aware of the high likelihood of vomiting from the nausea of so much pain. It’s horrible I tell you and I have more of a desire to become annorexic than ever go through that again.

It actually became so painful that, whilst still at the guesthouse on my own, I had to get the orphanage director to phone one of the guys across at the orphanage to pass on a message to my Mum to come back urgently. She got back here in a hurry of course all worried and wanted to take me to hospital. I refused. Quite frankly, the idea of going to a hospital in Cambodia (or any other asian, african or third world country) freaks the fucking shit out of me and this morning I was opting to sit there in agony rather than take my chances at one of those hospitals. Fuck that.

Then I was offered to be taken to the Australian Hospital – which I will admit, if desperate then that is where I would prefer to be – however it is two hours away in Phnom Penh (the capital city) and I didn’t think I’d make the trip there too well. So instead I toughed it out with minor medication and alas I’m still living. Yay for me. Mum had said food poisoning usually lasted around 8 hours and it was pretty much exactly true in my case (thank god it wasn’t any longer).

I still feel a bit off colour and sometimes feel a bit faint when standing up, but I just avoid that on the most part. It’s working pretty well for me at the moment.

In other news, last night I finished the poster (below) that I’m going to be taking to Phnom Penh this weekend to post up in different hostels, guesthouses and hotels. This makes the second project for advertising NFO now done. Next project is making the film for the tuk tuks that will be in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as advertisement. that should be fun 😀 anyways, nighty night xx

 

December 28, 2009 Posted by | art, Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, experiences, sick, Travel | 4 Comments

Christmas Photo Update

I’ve spent the entirety of today cooped up in our room at the guest house (by my own choice) creating the new newsletter for New Futures Orphanage. The previous one had lapsed as the writer had become too busy to be able to carry out the duties any more.

As a result it meant lots of formatting, writing and editing of photos from yesterday and last night. I had a few too many photos from Christmas – really not necessary, but owell. Thought I’d post up just a couple of the best photos to show the good times had by all. It was, after-all,  a big shin dig.

 

December 26, 2009 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, Celebrations, Travel | 1 Comment

It’s That Time of the Year!

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!

It doesn’t much feel like Christmas seeing as I’m in Cambodia – a Buddhist majority country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. There’s a party on tonight though, so maybe that will kick my Christmas spirit in and have me singing all the carols…. No. I very much doubt that. I hate carols. I want to see the kids open their presents though. They have SO much in each of their bags that honestly these kids are way better off than the average village kid around here (in terms of presents anyhow – the whole not having their family thing is still a downer obviously)

Part of me wishes I was spending Christmas at home with my Dad, family and Dom… but part of me is glad that I’m here so I can see the joy on these unfortunate kids faces. I just wish I had more christmas cheer. Who knows… maybe Christmas just isn’t really Christmas unless your young and still believe in the Christmas magic. Guess that means I’m going to have to wait until I have kids (or nab someone else’s) to enjoy it properly again *sigh* Well I can safely say that that most absolutely won’t be happening any time soon. So guess I’ll just have to wait another 10 or so years…

December 25, 2009 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, Celebrations, experiences | Leave a comment

Trip to Phnom Penh (Day Four)

I just went to the Tol Sleng Genocide museum and S-21. S-21 used to be a school in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge took power in Phnom Penh and turned it into a security prison for people who were educated, religious, friends, families or acquaintances of anyone in the Lon Nol government (the government that ruled prior to the Khmer Rouge’s take over) etc. The people held at S-21 were all systematically tortured, killed or sent off to be killed at one of the mass graves (the killing fields).

           

The place is horrible. Completely sombering and downright depressing. I imagine that it’s a lot like going to one of the concentration camps in Europe from the Nazi reign. The only differences are that

  1. These mass murders are no where near as well known as the Europe camp; and
  2. They used to torture prisoners here and they have all the photos, documentations and equipment to prove it. There were explicit photos of faces half mutilated and bashed in as well as dead people that were frothing from the nose or mouth – one can only imagine that would have been the result of electric shock.

        

ABOVE: the before and after pictures of individual men from when they were first checked into S-21 to after they were dead from torture. Every person had to be photographed before and after along with full reports for the khmer rouge records.

We’re on the way out to the killing fields now in a tuk tuk. They used to take people out here in truck loads to kill them – and they didn’t even shoot them! Majority of the time they just hit the person over the back of the head with a shovel or a slab of wood. They can even prove this by looking at the fractures and indentations on the skulls that were excavated. Sometimes the blows weren’t even enough to kill them and so they would be buried alive and end up suffocating to death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they used to put DT4 on top of the bodies in the graves – not only to mask the stench of hundreds of dead bodies, but also to kill any of the people who were buried alive.

ABOVE: skulls and bones unearthed from the killing fields that they used to study the form of murder  by analysing the marks on the skulls including large dulled blows to the head (ie plank of wood/bamboo or hammer) and sharp cuts (ie an axe or hoe)

There were only around 12 survivors of S-21 and one of them was an artist. He originally started painting the brutality of the regime and that’s why he was taken to S-21. His paintings and art were all destroyed… but he survived S-21 and when he got out he repainted them and  painted others about his time hin the prison. He painted them as graphically as was necessary for realism. It’s pretty horrifying. There’s ones of soldiers torturing others and even ones of the soldiers killing babies by hitting them against a tree before throwing them straight into the pits.

There was another story which was quite striking as well. I’d already seen boards and boards full of pictures of kids that ranged from as young as about 3 years old to 12 years old (ie see to the right), who clearly couldn’t have been a threat to the revolution but nonetheless were killed for being related to others (and chances are they were innocent as well). However, it was even more shocking when you saw a picture of a woman holding a child – and there were a couple of them. But there was one in particular. One large picture of a woman holding her baby – clutching him to her body as she was photographed for the records. 

The chair that they set the prisoners in for their mug shots of sorts, had a little headpiece to line their heads up for the photo. However that head piece was also able to administer electric shocks. There’s no way of knowing if the woman was being shocked or if she was simply crying because of her futile situation – one in which she had no hope of saving her innocent child. I tend to think it was the second reason, after-all who wouldn’t be moved to tears in that situation?

      

But the expression on her face is so normal and it doesn’t scream grief or agony. There’s a slight downturn to her eyebrows and the corners of her mouth, and her eyes look sad, but with only a quick glimpse, you would never know. That’s because they weren’t allowed to how expression or cry at any time. Especially not during torture. Those were the rules – the rules of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. The rules that were enforced by the guards who were only mere children themselves yet forced to carry out brutal and gruesome tasks. Pol Pot’s rules for ‘The Security of Regulation’ were as follows:

  1. You must answer accordingly to my questions – Don’t turn away.
  2. Don’t try to hide the facts by making pretexts this and that
    You are strictly prohibited to contest me
  3.  Don’t be fool for you are a chap who dare to thwart the revolution.
  4. You must immediately answer my questions without wasting time to reflect.
  5. Don’t tell me either about your immoralities or the essence of the revolution.
  6. While getting lashes or electrification you must not cry at all
  7. Do nothing, sit still and wait for my orders. If there is no order, keep quiet. When I ask you to do something, you must do it right away without protesting.
  8. Don’t make pretext about Kampuchea Krom in order to hide your secret or traitor.
  9. If you don’t follow all the above rules, you shall get many lashes of electric wire.
  10. If you disobey any point of my regulations you shall get either ten lashes or five shocks of electric discharge.

Pol Pot truly was a disturbed man when it came to what he believed in. He used to say (and it became a Khmer Rouge saying) that it was “better to take and kill ten innocent than let one guilty person escape.” Then also told their guards that it was alright to kill the children and babies because they weren’t any good to them now seeing as they were too young, but in the future they could be raised as the enemy so therefore they were a threat and should be killed if they were there.

Another thing that I was actually kind of surprised about was that as I was walking around the museum I was listening in to a couple of different tour guides. I’m stingy like that and just listen to the guides that other people have paid good money for the privilege to have them. One of the tour guides that I was listening to was a man who said he had been a boy during the regime. He had been forced to work in the rice fields doing hard labour.

But overall at the genocide museum, it was downright bone chilling. Mum didn’t even make it the whole way through because she got so sick of how depressing it was. I think a fried of mine summed the experience up well when he once wrote of his travels in Phnom Penh. I met on a tour we did in Thailand last year and he’s well seasoned traveler and nomad – he’s been a great many places and seen many things, but his description of S21 was just so perfect:

‘This is a spectacular museum – harsh, cold and confronting. It seemed the very walls themselves emanated: Sorrow: a vale of sadness covered all things here, especially the people. No need to ask for silence – the visitors were all speechless. The enormity of the event sank deeper into the fabric of each person as they moved from room to room…

… Now I’ve tried hard to tell of my visit to S21 without actually telling you much about the place. I feel the place is best seen for yourself, without forewarning. This way the full force of the experience will stay with you. Without immunity you too might feel as I did…”

-Richard Morrison

I think he sums it up quite nicely with the first part. One of the other volunteers, Callum, went to the prison before I did and told us about how they had no smiling signs. My sister and I laughed at first when we heard that. But when I actually went there, Richard actually had it right – they didn’t need to ask for silence and no smiling, it’s that depressing that you literally did walk from room to room speechless.

And the last part is so true. Although I can’t help but write all of this out – for my sake if no one else’s – I believe that it is true that it will affect someone so much more if they are unprepared for it. Personally, I had some knowledge of the Khmer Rouge genocide and reign of terror thanks to having a history teacher for a mother… but others would know nothing and be overloaded with a scarring past that broke a nation. It’s a lot to take in in one day, but I think it’s something everyone should do. Mistakes like that should never be repeated and we should learn from our past… and yet it still goes on. 

 

…LATER ON…


The killing fields I’m at (Choeung Ek) isn’t even the only one in Cambodia. There are around 300 sites over Cambodia but this one is the biggest and the one used for all the prisoners held and tortured at S-21.

 But the thing is, I just walked around the perimeter of the grounds and it’s kind of hard to imagine that it was actually the place where so many people were systematically killed in cold blood. There’s almost nothing left that’s bone chilling about it. When you walk around the perimeter it’s all fresh green grass and the mass graves that were dug up have grown over with grass so they look like they’re just small lows in the uneven ground. Only a few graves of significance are still just dirt and given a perimeter. There’s butterflies positively everywhere as well. The back of the area has a large pond with lilly pads, fish and more butterflies. It’s so pretty and rather peaceful actually… 

I was standing there reading one of the signs when I heard the conversation some guys from Ireland were having next to me. They were saying that the killing fields wasn’t a shock to the system like they were expecting. I turned to them and asked if they had been to S-21 yet and they said that they hadn’t yet – they were going there next. I told them that S-21 would hit them hard and that it really would shock them like they were expecting the killing fields to have done. It’s dead true.

There’s not much to write about this place really. It seems so surreal and unbelievable. It’s nothing like what I was expecting. Then again, I don’t know precisely what I  was expecting to find. Something like in the movie ‘The Killing Fields‘? No that’s a little too far fetched to expect considering that was set at the time when the genocide was happening. There has been 30 years since then and the earth has had time to heal even if the nation hasn’t completely.

Seeing as there really isn’t any more to say (and this is long enough as is), I’ll finish with a picture I took  of the children who stood on the other side of the perimeter fence – local kids who didn’t seem starved or mistreated (then again who really knows about the latter), but were begging for food, money and water off the tourists that walked around the perimeter – myself included as a target. Personally, I think they were just targeting tourists because they have money, and the kids probably actually make quite a bit out of it each week, but hey, what you gonna do about it. I just like the photo.

December 22, 2009 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, experiences, Travel | 2 Comments

Trip to Phnom Penh (Day Two)

Well I can honestly say this hotel Mum booked us into (the Himawari) is nothing short of amazing. Thankfully it has a pool, air con in rooms, and an actual bath – with hot and cold water. Hallejulah!!

It’s pretty ritzy and fancy looking actually. It just screams luxury and when we left Chivas Shack (our hostel from last night), as we left this morning, we asked the girl how to get there and she seemed to turn her nose up at it a bit. She scribed it as being down he road where a whole pile of big fancy hotels were together. We thought that meant not too far, so we walked… a couple of long and heavy kilometres later, a over a dozen turned down offers for a tuk tuk ride, we actually found the place. Thank goodness.

Anyways, we’re off to the Russian Markets now before we have to go pick up Mum at the airport this afternoon. The markets are supposed to be quite good although they supposedly tend to sell more to tourists so therefore it will probably be a bit more expensive. Owell. Have to experience it anyways. Cya later alligator.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, experiences, Travel | Leave a comment

Trip to Phnom Penh (Day One)

One of the more shocking things that hit me since arriving in Phnom Penh this moring wasn’t the overflowing amount of beggars that you can see on the streets absolutely everywhere, but a one particular beggar woman cradling a boy on the side of the path. I don’t know what was wrong with him though… Usually you can tell the disability – albinoism, amputations/loss of limbs, dwarfism, not being able to use a condom (having too many kids) etc; but this oy’s head was abnormally formed. The cranial space was completely warped and extended. It was so incredibly sad and shocking that I din’t even react. It was just a glance as I was walking and a second later the shock set in…

Apparently marijuana really isn’t an issue here – well at least it definitely doesn’t seem to be for the tourists. I’m sitting downstairs out the front of our hostel in the restaurant part and the couple of guys next to me are just chilling out smoking a couple of joints. It’s strange to see it so openly and casual, but I had heard about it presviously, so I was warned. Apparently  you can also get “happy pizza” somewhere around here as well… I reeeeeeally want to get some of them for mum – it would be hilarious!!

Anyways, we’re talking to a guy about a trip we’re going to do on Sunday at the moment. The trip goes out to one of the villages where people have essentially nothing. The guys that run the shindig are a group of Australian and American ex-pats who go out every fortnight on a Sunday to deliver food, medical supplies and a few other pieces. Should be an amazing experience…

December 19, 2009 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, experiences, just a quick note, Travel | Leave a comment