I wasn't too aware of Cambodia's history before I went there, in school we mainly just learnt that Cambodia was used by the Vietnamese to get from North to South in the Vietnam War and that was only in context to America (yep we do American history in the UK), I'd also done no research on the country, so going into Cambodia I had pretty much no expectation, which in a lot of ways was actually refreshing.
After being in a Cambodia for a few days I had learnt a bit about the Khmer Rouge Regime, and what a disguting thing it had been and how disgustingly innocent people were treated but I didn't quite know the severity. Throughout the day I really did learn the severity and brutality of the whole thing and also the complete injustice about the ending of the regime.
I don't think I've ever sobbed as hard openly in public, I kept it mostly together in the memorial site until I bought incense to light and gave a thought to all of these people who were tortured and killed and I couldn't keep it in anymore. I was just thinking about people who had no power stop any of this happening with no one else doing anything to help them, I was there just hoping they would have another chance at a better life.
But the sobbing in public wasn't what helped me grow, this genocide happened in the 70s, my parents were alive for it and it went on for four years, in two years almost 2 million people were killed. It made me wonder, what would I have done in the situation? As you do when you think about situations like this.
But then I realised that I can see how I'd act in that situation when there's atrocities going on on the other side of the world, because there are. Being in the memorial site of a genocide that took place only 40 years ago made me think about Syria, North Korea, Palestine, and many other countries with thousands if not millions of people struggling. What I'm doing right now about the genocide in Syria, and about the refugee crisis coming from that, reflects what I would of done had I been this age 40 years ago.
And that struck me, I realised that I wasn't being the person I hope I would've in that situation, all I wanted to do was try and make the world a little bit of a better place but had absolutely no idea how. I wasn't doing enough
So it inspired me so much, inspired me to start making changes, because even though I have no idea how to make a big difference yet I can start with small ones. It's why I changed this space, why I switched to ethical fashion, became more determined in my veganism, and started to make more conscious choices about my consumption, my travel, my complaints, daily. Because if I can start by reducing my negative impact on the world that is something. I can start by not supporting companies that exploit child and slave labour; I can start by supporting businesses trying to make a small difference to the world. And I can highlight that all here on my little online space, it's not much but I know that I have more to give.
And it has also made me so so determined to get my degree and grow as a person, so that with education that I am privileged to have access too I can learn how to impact the world in a better way. I can learn how to support people in need.
And talking of privilege that day really made it hit home just how much privilege I have. I knew it was there but it had never sunk in. The fact that I have access to education, a roof over my head, I don't have to worry about going hungry, I don't fear for my life on a daily basis, I am so so lucky to have the life that I have and I want to do something good with it.
Not only that but I want to enjoy it, I have suffered with depression on and off for years and I know that's not something that can just magically disappear forever but it is something I can refuse to give into because given the life I have I can't spend it miserable. I know there are so many people out there that would do anything to be in my shoes, would do anything just to not go hungry and get an education, or to live without fear of airstrikes, so it's not something I want to throw away.
|Me and Chum Mey, one of the few survivors from the S-21 Prison. One of the most warm and friendly people I've ever met.|
|Me and Bou Meng, another of the survivors from S-21 and an incredible artist.|
So in one day a lot of things finally hit home for me, my privilege, my wish to do something meaningful, but also my cluelessness as to how, I gained a true appreciation for life I've never had before, and realised how much bad there still is in the world. I am thankful for those two men, who survived torture in S21 only to go back every single day and try and educate people, to try and help others like them that survived. I am thankful for so much and this day made me appreciate all of this so much more, so thank you to the people that day that taught me so much.
I still don't feel like I'm doing nearly enough, but I will.
Have any of you ever experienced anything like this? A day where everything clicked? Or one full of immense growth?
That's it for this post, it was a lot about me, so if you wanted to know more about the Khmer Rouge Regime, or these two survivors let me know. I hope you enjoyed and I will see you on Tuesday.
Thanks for reading!