July 11, 2016

The first few days in Cambodia have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Our first stop being the Killing Fields (Choeng Ek), created a humbling beginning to our adventure. While there, we were able to better understand Cambodia’s ugly and recent past.

After our trip to the Killing Fields, we hopped back on the buses and traveled to an orphanage. The experience was just as spectacular as the Killing Fields, but it set a completely different environment for us. Accompanied with music, dancing, and traditional festivities were the beaming smiles from every face in the room. Even with the limited time we had we created unbelievable bonds of friendship. It reminded us that while Cambodia’s past may have been filthy, there is now hope and happiness in the people. This is true for the entire population of Cambodia, not just the sweet children of the orphanage. The people of this beautiful country have an unconditional kindness for everyone they encounter.

The next morning we wasted no time getting back on the road. The markets were our first stop. While there wasn’t much educational value to the trip, we did get a better understanding of the Cambodian culture. For the most part, however it was a much needed break for the sleep deprived and exhausted group. Everyone had an unbelievable time bartering and spending to their heart’s desire. It was a good start to the day with everyone emotionally rested, we jumped to the buses to see S.21.

S.21 was a torture camp used by the Khmer Rouge that was also referred to as Tuol Sleng. Before being weaponized, it was a high school. Currently it is a museum and a reminder to all. The walls were lined with pictures of the prisoners that were falsely accused and murdered there. The faces paired with examples of both the torture weapons and survivor stories seemed to make a bigger impact on the group than the Killing Fields.

The following day we had the opportunity to visit the village Oroka for the first time. We participated in the opening ceremonies, which consisted of exchanging cultural dancing and singing. The Cambodians had incredible energy and put on an amazing show. The Americans sang the national anthem and taught them the “Cha Cha Slide”. After the ceremonies we had the opportunity to play and dance with the children of the village.

Later that day, we were grateful to have the opportunity to do the opening ceremonies a second time with the wonderful people of Sustainable Cambodia. Even with rain outside we were able to have an incredible bonding experience with the SC people.

In all, the first days of our trip have been inspiring, humbling, and exciting. For many, this is a first. Everything is a new experience. The trip would be better described as an adventure and easily a success. While we may have only spent a couple days so far, we are becoming closer as friends and growing in excitement for the many days to come.

-Tyge Davis