Posts Tagged Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

Cambodia – Floating Village, Killing Fields, Genocide Museum, Temples & Palaces


As the year 2013 is drawing to a close, I am thinking of the previous years.   Last year, for me, the highlight was the visit to the floating village in Cambodia, on the shores of Lake Tonle  Sap, near Siem Riep.

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102_1154The visit generated many conflicting emotions.  Gawking at the people, as they went about their daily lives, seemed voyeuristic and clearly an invasion of their privacy.  We could also see the power of water and rudimentary and creative ways that people adapt to dealing with sometimes destructive force of nature.  In most of rural Cambodia, houses are frequently built on stilts, so the homes can survive the rising waters of intense Camodian monsoons.  And people have hammocks tied to the roofs and there are hammock bars as well.  Nice way to relax and stay dry, if needed.  In the floating village, however, the houses are often on riverboats and they actually float and the entire village moves depending on the ebb and flow of the waters.

While the abject poverty of the people living on the water and living off of whatever the water provides, was heart-wrenching, it seemed strange to buy junk food from mothers at highly inflated prices and donate it to their kids.  The village mainly subsists on fishing and fish farming and there is a community market, a school, a general store, small clinic and dispensary, a Catholic church and a Buddhist church.  Sometimes it seems that the Government uses the poverty of the people to generate tourism and it does not seem to be at the greatest advantage of the people.  Neesha (my sweet child and my loveliest travel companion) and I were glad to visit an orphanage where children were happy and smiling, and make donation there.    102_1190

Visit to Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields (seeing rows upon rows of skulls neatly lined up) and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum with cells, interrogation paraphernalia etc., was a gut wrenching, soul searching, thought provoking, tear streaked, heart rending experience. Why do people do horrible things to people; brother to sister; child to mother? Out of about 7M population at the time, Cambodia lost close to 4M people; due to war, rebellion, man-made famine, genocide, and politicide, including over 2M in mass murder by Khmer Rouge. Every family perhaps had someone who was killed and someone who was responsible in some way, for the killings.  It was extremely sad, solemn visit.
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Temples and Palaces of Cambodia

The temple complex of Angkor Wat was the main reason I wanted to visit Cambodia.  Ever since I learned about Angkor Wat in 6th grade, I wanted to visit the temple.  Angkor Wat was first a Hindu, and then a Buddhist temple complex in the country and it is the largest religious monument in the world. The temple was built by the Khmer King Suryavarman II, in the early 12th century.  He broke from the Savism tradition of the previous kings, and dedicated the temple of Angkor Wat to Lord Vishnu.  The temple is beautifully preserved.  There are more than 1000 temples built between 9th and 13th centuries.  We also visited the temple where The Tomb Raider and Indian Jones Temple of Doom were filmed.  It was a mystery as to how the huge stones used to built the temples were moved there but researchers have now solved the mystery and declared that the stones were brought there through a network of hundreds of canals.

The Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, consists of a set of buildings which serve as the royal residence of the king of Cambodia, whose full name is a mouthful.  It is Preah Barum Reachea Veang Chaktomuk Serei Mongkol. This has been a primary residence of the kings of Cambodia since 1860s.  But it was noticeably unoccupied during the turbulent times of the Khmer rouge reign.  The palace faces East and serves as an allusion to Lord Brhama.  It is absolutely gorgeous structure with Throne Wall, Moonlight Pavilion, Silver Pagoda, impressive Temple of Emerald Buddha,     and more.  It covers almost 175,000 meters.

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Year in Review – December, 2012: Theme- Water


Floating village house Tonle Sap Cambodia 2

Floating village house Tonle Sap Cambodia 2 (Photo credit: Pondspider)

For me, a big theme this year has been waterHurricane Sandy once again reminded us of the destructive power of water. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, (http://bit.ly/XizQZL) a challenging water movie, depicting life sustained in and by water, was a treat for the senses at every level.  And to borrow a water metaphor, if our eminent leaders (in the so called free world), do not quickly resolve the fiscal cliff, then there is a chance we will all fall of the cliff, and drown in high taxes.  I loved reunion with my college buddies, near the ocean in Orlando, and yearly visit with my mother, in India, despite the monsoons.

For me, the highlight of the year was visiting the floating village in Cambodia, on the shores of Lake Tonle Sap (http://bit.ly/TPGLE2), near Siem Riep. The visit generated many conflicting emotions.  Gawking at the people, as they went about their daily lives, seemed voyeuristic and clearly an invasion of their privacy. While the abject poverty of the people living on the water and living off of whatever the water provides, was heart-wrenching, it seemed strange to buy junk food from mothers at highly inflated prices and donate it to their kids.  Neesha (my sweet child and my loveliest travel companion) and I were glad to visit an orphanage where children were happy and smiling, and make donation there.   Visit to Khmer Rouge’s Killing Fields (seeing rows upon rows of skulls neatly lined up) and Toul Sleng Genocide Museum with cells, interrogation paraphernalia etc., was a gut wrenching, soul searching, thought provoking, tear streaked, heart rending experience. Why do people do horrible things to people; brother to sister; child to mother? Out of about 7M population at the time, Cambodia lost close to 4M people; due to war, rebellion, man-made famine, genocide, and politicide, including over 2M in mass murder by Khmer Rouge. Every family perhaps had someone who was killed and someone who was responsible in some way, for the killings.

And speaking of the horrors, people in Syria have been suffering at the hands of the brutal dictator, for too long, now. By now, almost 50K are presumed killed and close to 30K, reported missing, and over a million Syrians are displaced, as the world watches, helplessly.  It was a year of loss as well as a small victory in the UN, for the people of Palestine.  Many Israeli and Palestinian people are rooting for peace in the region and we hope these voices will prevail.  Jeremy Lin and Ganganam style dance were overnight sensations as twitter went abuzz with them.  Big Bird, Bunch of malarcky, and Binders full of women were the big buzz words of fiercely fought, US 2012 elections.  UK was a grand host and young Olympians, including Gabby Douglas, Katie-Ledecky, Missy Franklin and many other amazing athletes made the games, memorable and interesting.  As we get ready to celebrate X’mas, the Sandy Hook gun violence makes me and my children, infinitely sad.  In loving memory of the slained, precious children, I am sharing two of my poems, http://bit.ly/QZOh2a & http://bit.ly/TlaQN2 .  Taliban were not able to silence or separate the brave young girl #Malala from her books, by shooting at her.   #DelhiVictim #Nirbhaya after being brutally gang raped & sodomized and after loosing all of her intestines, is fiercely fighting to survive and here is my poem honoring her fierce spirit http://bit.ly/WyY4zf .

Life continues to offer me many blessings, with my children being the hugest, best blessings. My mother is becoming increasingly frail, but every night she ends my call with “Best of Luck”, – her way of bestowing blessings on her daughter, living in a foreign land.  I love my work, both recruitment for medical device and biotech companies http://bit.ly/VT2TNP  and training in diversity and inclusion http://bit.ly/W33tZ2, both here in the US, and in India. My blog www.darshanavnadkarni.wordpress.com , is increasingly being read, worldwide :).  The stats indicate, 18,991 total views, with 1040 people following my blog.  My reviews e.g.   http://bit.ly/MWhMPl  helped Shady Shakespeare Theater Company win a spot on the @greatnonprofits 2012 Top-Rated List!  So life’s been fun, exciting, sometimes sad, and always full of blessings.

Wishing you health and happiness, peace and prosperity in 2013.

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