Thursday, January 31, 2008

"postcards from cambodia"

we did not visit the killing fields in cambodia...but the awareness of the recent history of genocide in cambodia was very much apart of our experience there. many people and animals still lose their lives or limbs daily due to the landmines. cambodia has one of the highest rates of disability in the world. i felt it important to include several photographs of the monument that was built in phnom penh in honor of the 1.5 - 2 million people who were brutally tortured and killed in cambodia under the pol pot regime in the late 1970's....our guide told us of how his grandfather was tortured and drowned by the khmer rouge.

some background history from wikipedia:
"in power, the khmer rouge carried out a radical program that included isolating the country from foreign influence, closing schools, hospitals and factories, abolishing banking, finance and currency, outlawing all religions, confiscating all private property and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms where forced labor was widespread. the purpose of this policy was to turn cambodians into "old people" through agricultural labor. these actions resulted in massive deaths through executions, work exhaustion, illness, and starvation.
in phnom penh and other cities, the khmer rouge told residents that they would be moved only about "two or three kilometers" outside the city and would return in "two or three days." some witnesses say they were told that the evacuation was because of the "threat of american bombing" and that they did not have to lock their houses since the khmer rouge would "take care of everything" until they returned. these were not the first evacuations of civilian populations by the khmer rouge. similar evacuations of populations without possessions had been occurring on a smaller scale since the early 1970s.
the khmer rouge attempted to turn cambodia into a classless society by depopulating cities and forcing the urban population ("new people") into agricultural communes. the entire population was forced to become farmers in labor camps. during their four years in power, the khmer rouge overworked and starved the population, at the same time executing selected groups who had the potential to undermine the new state:
-anyone with connections to the former government or with foreign governments
-professionals and intellectuals - in practice this included almost everyone with an education, or even people wearing glasses (which, according to the regime, meant that they were literate)
-ethnic vietnamese, ethnic chinese, cambodian christians, muslims and the buddhist monks

cambodians were expected to produce three tons of rice per hectare; before the khmer rouge era, the average was only one ton per hectare. the khmer rouge forced people to work for 12 hours non-stop, without adequate rest or food. rhey did not believe in western medicine but instead favoured traditional peasant medicine; many died as a result. family relationships not sanctioned by the state were also banned, and family members could be put to death for communicating with each other. in any case, family members were often relocated to different parts of the country with all postal and telephone services abolished. the total lack of agricultural knowledge by the former city dwellers made famine inevitable. Rural dwellers were often unsympathetic or too frightened to assist them. Such acts as picking wild fruit or berries was seen as "private enterprise" for which the death penalty applied."

a sign at the killing fields in phnom penh.there are over 8,000 skulls in this building.
"postcards from cambodia"
by: bruce cockburn

"abe lincoln once turned to somebody and said,
'do you ever find yourself talking with the dead?'

...outside phnom penh there's a tower, glass paneled,
maybe ten meters high
filled with skulls from the killing fields
most of them lack the lower jaw
so they don't exactly grin
but they whisper, as if from a great distance,
of pain, and of pain left far behind

eighteen thousand empty eyeholes peering out at the four directions

electric fly buzz, green moist breeze
bone-colored brahma bull grazes wet-eyed,
hobbled in hollow of mass grave
in the neighboring field a small herd
of young boys plays soccer,
their laughter swallowed in expanding silence

this is too big for anger,
it’s too big for blame.
we stumble through history so
humanly lame
so I bow down my head
say a prayer for us all
that we don’t fear the spirit
when it comes to call

the sun will soon slide down into the far end of the ancient reservoir.
orange ball merging with its water-borne twin
below air-brushed edges of cloud.
but first, it spreads itself,

a golden scrim behind fractal sweep of swooping fly catchers.
silhouetted dark green trees,
blue horizon

the rains are late this year.
the sky has no more tears to shed.
but from the air cambodia remains
a disc of wet green, bordered by bright haze.
water-filled bomb craters, sun streaked gleam
stitched in strings across patchwork land and
march west toward the far hills of thailand.
macro analog of angkor wat’s temple walls
intricate bas-relief of thousand-year-old battles
pitted with AK rounds

and under the sign of the seven headed cobra
the naga who sees in all directions
seven million landmines lie in terraced grass, in paddy, in bush
(call it a minescape now)

sally holds the beggar's hand and cries
at his scarred up face and absent eyes
and right leg gone from above the knee

tears spot the dust on the worn stone causeway
whose sculpted guardians row on row
half frown, half smile, mysterious, mute.

and this is too big for anger.
it’s too big for blame
we stumble through history so
humanly lame.
so i bow down my head,
say a prayer for us all.
that we don’t fear the spirit when it comes to call."

-photographs from:
about "we are tim and cindie travis, an ordinary american couple who decide to live out our dreams. we saved our money, quit our jobs, sold our possessions, and set off to travel around the world by bicycle. we left our home in arizona, USA on march 2002 and have been on the road ever since. we have no plans to stop. this web site contains our ongoing travel blog, short videos and photo journal."

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

cambodia: ta prom temple

we flew from hanoi to siem reap, we are after just arriving....sportin' our trucker hats compliments of the tour company.ta prom was deserted for 500 years and became completely overgrown by the jungle....much of the growth has been cleared away, but some magnificent trees remain. it was actually nature that preserved the temple from destruction for all of those years it was abandoned. in the research i did upon returning home from cambodia, i discovered that in 1186 AD king #7 (kings are referred to in numbers!) consecrated several statues here, one of which was that of prajnaparamita - the personification of the perfection of wisdom....the mother of all buddhas.this picture gives some perspective as to how HUGE these trees were and how high the temple walls.a healing chamber with incredible acoustics. our guide told us to each pound our chests with one fist (not too hard). the sound echoed like a deep drum beat throughout the entire room.can you see the face peeking through the tree roots?manuella and jessajennifer and jennieupon leaving ta prom, we passed under this gateway with a giant buddha face on each side of the tower.we made our way to another temple nearby....david, jessa and jennifer
jennie and manuella watching from below!a little girl who we bought some postcards from at the temple....she was very giggly and sweet....she bounded up and down the steep temple stairs like she was walking on picturesque....i remember looking out at this scene and feeling like i was in some sort of dream.a beautiful temple wall lined with elephants....jennifer talking with our guide

cambodia: angkor thom...bayon temple

some of the temples we saw were hindu and some were buddhist....bayon temple is buddhist. there are over 200 large buddha faces on the 54 towers.when you find yourself standing amidst towers upon towers of equanimous, smiling faces....there's nothing to do but smile back. it had to have been about 100 degrees!