I hate to admit it, but I have no genuine interest for world history. It was my least favorite subject in high school and college, and conversations related to this topic bore me. No matter how hard I try, conversations of this kind just don’t flow out of me naturally. I am kind of shallow like that.
When Mike and I decided to spend our Spring break in Cambodia, I didn’t really know what to think or expect. All I knew was that there were temples and really good pizza. I warned you about my lack of depth, didn’t I? So being the teacher that my boyfriend is, he made it a holiday prerequisite for me to watch The Killing Fields (1984). Pardon my insensitivity and ignorance, but it took all my will to not reach for my iPad to play a few rounds of Bejeweled Blitz or Draw Something. The movie left me still ignorant and unaware. All I knew was that I was excited to meet a new city.
Upon arriving in Pnom Penh, I noticed the city’s similarities with Manila’s Chinatown, and felt instantly at home. We headed to our little oasis in the city, settled in, and watched the night life by the Mekong River. Our view from the second floor of the FCC was captivating, and I was thrilled to be taking in the sights and sounds of Pnom Penh. Little did I know that the following day would provide me with one unforgettable history lesson.
I still find it hard to describe our visits to S-21 and the Killing Fileds. It was extremely difficult to see the accounts of inhumanity and cruelty; the portraits of the victims, the cells, torture devices, and the graves. I tried to hide the tears, but soon realized that I wasn’t the only one holding back quiet sobs. Everybody’s eyes were filled with sympathy, regret and disbelief.
Cambodia, I had no idea.
Hearing about these events inevitably changes a person’s world view. It certainly made me put things in perspective, and I am more grateful of what I have. I now constantly remind myself that no matter how demanding life gets, there is REALLY nothing to complain about. I am still no historian, but I now have a better appreciation of how the past inspires and teaches us to be better people.