Chris and I just came back to our host family after spending the weekend with his parents, sister, aunt, and uncle-in-law (one more white person!) who are visiting Cambodia for two weeks. We stayed in with them in a hotel in the city where I relapsed back on air conditioning, wifi, and American chocolate. The Buoys are kind and fluent in Khmer, though I was still lost in most conversation this weekend as they conversed with old friends still in the area, fellow survivors of the Khmer Rouge.
On Saturday we visited S21, the high school Chris’ aunt attended that Pol Pot turned into a prison during the revolution. With empty beds in every room and walls lined with barred windows and barbed wire, this site was even more chilling than the killing fields. Classrooms were homes to VIP prisoners. In another building across from the gallows, cells for regular folk were about a 5 feet long and 4 feet wide, so that I could easily touch both walls with arms outstretched. The scene is haunting. Thousands died here before they could even be exported to the camps. I sat mesmerized later as Chris’ aunt told me the story of how her family survived the revolution, and how she was eventually reunited with Chris’ mother in Austin.
On a lighter note, we also saw the Royal Palace- a completely opposite sort of national icon. The place is GIGANTIC and beautiful, far larger than my high school and perhaps just a touch more elegant. Buddhas and flowers everywhere, though that King was not in. Like the good white tourist we are, Cliff (the step-uncle) and I were the last ones to finishing moseying around every place we visited. Chris’ father, so bright and smiley and kind, poked fun at me for walking so slow while his mother laughed at my outrageous sweat glands. Seriously, I have the body of a misplaced Eskimo- not designed for the tropics.
Now we are at home again and the beautiful air conditioning, my love and my only desire is gone. I am reunited, however, with Mommie, who has the most incredible laugh I have ever heard. Every sentence (most of which I cannot understand one word of) ends in that beautiful sound. I may be falling in love with Cambodian people, so it’s best that I start understanding them soon!