I chose this internship for the work, it's true, but also because the opportunity to travel to a new country and culture was quite irresistible. Friends were envious and family were resigning themselves to another in a long list of whimsies they'd been presented with over the years... by me. So, there was definitely a bit of chagrin in the air when I realized that I'd been in Phnom for 2 weeks and had not seen a single place of interest. Not even a done-to-death tourist spot, and many abound in a country that peddles the name of Angkor so desperately that a local beer has been named after it. And it's not even good beer...
And so, I went to see Tuol Sleng. Most people would have started out with the Royal Palace, the Silver Pagoda or even Wat Phnom. Knowing that these monuments were not famous for getting up and leaving in the dead of night, I am still in no hurry to see them. But, even before I came to Cambodia, I knew about Tuol Sleng... and am glad it was the first place of interest I saw. A slight amount of effort will result in an overwhelming literary bounty about it, each book & website using bigger and more convoluted words than the last... attempting to encapsulate this... well, it. I know it cannot be done. You have to be here and see it for yourself. So, I will not try.
The experience was not depressing and instead confirmed what I've always thought - we, as people, humans, supposedly the pinnacle of evolution... are capable of atrocities beyond the scope of any other species on the planet. It also made some sort of sense that the head of operations at S-21 (as it was known at the time) was Comrade Duch, a teacher of mathematics.
The flagitious events that took place here did so during the Free Love and Beatnik / Hippie years in America. Fittingly enough, more people know about the philosophy of the Woodstock years than they do about S-21.
Fittingly enough and perversely enough.
Song for the moment: So much trouble in the world - Bob Marley