Actually, the whole trip Greg drove a hard bargain when shopping or taking tuk tuks. I bargained a little but I’m not as hard core. Both of us were good though, in the fact that we are willing to walk away. So many tourists aren’t.
Once we dumped our bags at the hotel, we hired a tuk tuk for the day. I have a friend who once told me I'm the only person she could see doing equally well in the Peace Corps or the military, so perhaps it makes sense that while on vacation from serving in the Peace Corps, I went to a shooting range. Depending on how much you want to pay,
you can fire a variety of weapons at Cambodian ranges from shot guns and pistols to grenade launchers. I chose an
AK-47 and fired a clip (25 rounds) at my target. It was not the first time I’ve fired a gun, actually. I fired a .45 Smith
and Wesson and a .45 Glock at criminal justice camp in high school, but that was the last time, so it had been awhile. I was nervous about what the recoil might be, but it was fine and I really enjoyed myself. I know that my saying I enjoyed shooting a gun could be misconstrued, but the truth is there’s something very cathartic and empowering, I think especially for women, in firing a weapon. It doesn’t mean I’d want to turn it on people. It was maybe interesting for the people working there to see a man and woman walk in and the woman fires the weapon while the man takes pictures. I wish the entire nation of Turkmenistan had been watching.
S21 is the school building-turned-concentration camp where victims of the Khmer Rouge were kept before being shipped to the Killing Fields. There were tortures and executions there as well. But at S21, they’ve posted photographs of some of the atrocities. You can enter a room and see the bed where a prisoner was tied down and above it, is a photograph of what happened to him. In the photograph, you see the body and the pool of blood below the bed and in real life, you look at the floor and see where it has been scrubbed and bleached to get rid of the blood.
The worst part for me was the row after row of head shots. Simple photographs of all the prisoners. Most of them were teenagers or younger and you can see it in some of their eyes. The fear or confusion or anger. Some of them were barely old enough to walk. At the Killing Fields, they point out a tree that “soldiers” used to kill children and infants with by swinging them by the legs and bashing their heads against it. I saw the photographs of children who had that fate. That’s when I broke down and sobbed. I don’t have any photographs of S21, you’ll have to look it up online. Greg kept telling me we could go if I wanted. But I don’t want to be the kind of person who just ignores the evil in the world because it makes me uncomfortable. It’s important to know these things and rail against them. One of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge lived in comfort for twenty years after the killings before being brought to trial. And the trials are still going. The Cambodian government is made up of former Khmer Rouge members who keep stalling and trying to prevent further trials.