For those of you who may have already seen this post, I’m sorry for posting again. I was editing it a couple of days ago and something weird happened where the screen would go blank if I pressed any button, which frustrated me and I deleted it. So here it is again, but with lots of new content, so it wouldn’t be so horrible if you decided to read it again 🙂
About two years ago, when I was still living in Shanghai and in my penultimate year of high school, we went to Cambodia! I wasn’t blogging at the time, so I couldn’t share this experience with anyone, but I’m excited to share it with you now!
Home Sweet Home
I am in no way exaggerating when I say this… Our campsite was in the middle of nowhere! There were no shops within a million mile radius. There weren’t even any cars around – just motorbikes, which apparently was normal for children to drive? Anyway, the guides who looked after us throughout the trip had built us these huts to sleep in. They were actually the cutest things ever. They looked like something out of Snow White or something.
Oh yes, they had made us our very own bathrooms too. How lovely… not!
The main reason for this trip was to help out Cambodian families and schools as part of a Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) project. We helped local families rebuild their homes and helped design and paint a wall mural for a local school. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I thoroughly enjoyed being able to help these families who couldn’t help themselves, almost as much as the local children enjoyed speculating as we did so. And we had some spectacular views on the way to our work site!
You can see one of the houses we were working on in the top right hand corner of the following photo. During our breaks, we would use sticks to draw pictures in the sand and the local kids loved it!
This was the mural that we designed and created for a local school. The painting bit was fun, but the painting in Cambodian heat part.. not so much.
Obviously, the local kids didn’t have any phones so they didn’t know what selfies were. When I was taking a few with my friends, they caught a peek and decided to try it out for themselves…
Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum
The following photos and matching descriptions may be a little gory, so skip ahead if you get offended or creeped out by these sorts of things.
One day, our teachers told us that visiting the genocide museum would be on our agenda and it was something that a few of us were freaked out about. But it was interesting (and scary, I’ll admit) to learn and see the sorts of things that happened in olden day Cambodia. What used to be an ordinary high school was turned into a prison and killing field by Khmer Rouge (the followers of Kampuchea – a communist party). This was a place where captives were tortured, interrogated and executed.
What was a peaceful and beautiful village was turned into the infamous and miserable killing fields by Khmer Rouge. This was where prisoners were sent to be killed and buried.
The place really did look like an ordinary high school – there were buildings with rooms and a green lawn in the middle. It’s scary thinking that this used to be a place where children went to learn. The classrooms were turned into prison cells, and the lawns were turned into areas for torture.
One of the methods of torture was hanging. Prisoners were hung until unconscious and then their heads would be dunked into a pot filled with chemicals that revived them only to be hung again.
Out of the thousands and thousands who were captured, only 7 survived. We met one of them.
That’s enough of that! Moving on to nicer things…
Monks and Palaces
We always had something planned when we weren’t working. One day, a monk came down to our in-the-middle-of-nowhere campsite and blessed us all! It was a water blessing where the monk chanted in a native language, which no one understood, while splashing holy water all over us. Because monks aren’t allowed to touch girls, we were blessed by some rando – not fair! We all received these pieces of red string which we had to tie around our wrists once we were blessed.
We were also fortunate enough to be able to wander and visit some of Phnom Penh’s most incredible palaces and temples, which are the most photogenic things ever. So jealous!
We weren’t really allowed to take photos inside the palace but everything looked so cool, I just had to!
I mean, this really was an experience of a lifetime. I may not have been at the time, but looking back, I am so thankful that I got to see what I saw and do what I did. Well done, Cambodia! 10/10 would recommend.