Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Cambodia: strong positives, strong negatives

Phnom Penh is a feast for the eyes -- I'm swooning.

Traditional Khmer architecture and ornamentation is everywhere (much more visible and present than traditional Vietnamese architecture in Vietnam). Khmer design is intricately textured and carved -- with pagodas and steeples, single or in clusters, and roofs corners with stylistically curled, diminishing ends (like the turned-up ends of a French moustache -- or Grinch-like). By night (at least), I see some similarities to Thai architecture. I can't wait to see Phnom Penh in the vibrant light of day!

In preparation for my travels, even though then I wanted to see Angkor Wat then as now, I excluded Cambodia from my plans because I felt leary about entering into the presense of evil (of the Khmer Rouge). Evil does not just dissipate/disappear ("energy is neither created nor destroyed"). And no one has in any way been held accountable for the ferocious atrocities ("the killing fields," etc.) inflicted by Cambodians on Cambodians.

For me that is one chapter of modern history I don't understand.

I understand from a factual perspective how Hitler came to power amidst the social and economic forces that contributed to the Holocaust. That doesn't diminish the pure evil that was Hitler, but understanding helps me to integrate the facts. Similarly, I understand the events in Rwanda, how the seeds of conflict were sown in colonialism and more recent conflict between the Tutsis and Hutus (spilling into other borders and at the same time fueled by other countries).

I don't understand why the Khmer Rouge killed 20-30% of their own.

So, one of my major tasks is to obtain a deeper understanding of what happened in Cambodia and why. That and to see Angkor Wat, the world's largest house of worship.


Note: I've delayed my flight to South Africa so that I can spend more time in Cambodia and possibly go to Laos. It looks like I'll have to cut Mozambique completely. But for now I love it here, I don't want to be anywhere else.


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