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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - Quantum Leap for My Human Heart

PHILIPPINES | Wednesday, 17 April 2013 | Views [210] | Scholarship Entry

We have been travelling for more than six hours. I stared at the blackness beyond the window but what I saw on the pane was my own reflection. It then started to rain hard. I sighed. I was tired but I could not sleep.

Then it happenened so quickly! Everything that I witnessed a few hours ago during our audio guided tour at Cheoung Ek Killing Fields came back to me. The narration filled me with grief:

Pitstop 13 - The Mass Grave where 166 bodies were found headless.
Pitstop 16 - The Killing Tree where countless innocent children’s lives were lost.

Hoping to escape the haunting images in my mind, I looked around and observed the people in the bus. I glanced at some of the older people and I could not help but wonder. Were these people in some way victims of the cruel hand of Polpot? A gray-haired woman caught my eye. She was looking down fondly at her grandchild asleep on her lap. How did she escape? How was she able to build a family after the tragedy? Three rows away from me slept a man oblivious to the murmur of the bus. Does he have nightmares from time to time? It was tempting to learn more about their story, their emancipation to normalcy.

Life was going on all around me. The horrors of Polpot forgotten. I realized with a smile that I was in the midst of survivors, individuals who have seen abuse unimaginable and have lived to tell the tale. Surely these people have become better individuals. With that in mind, I fell peacefully to sleep.

It was already 2:30a.m. when we arrived at Siem Reap. Before we left Phnom Pehn, we sent an e-mail to Bousawy Guest House prompting them of our arrival at 11:30p.m. Delayed by three hours, we were worried our arranged transfer would not push through as we had not touched based with them during the entire ride. We had not made any reservations either.

But when we stepped off the bus, an elderly man with an umbrella was already waiting for us. He was holding up a piece of paper with my friend's name written on it. We were thrilled and impressed, that he had waited for us even if there was no assurance of our arrival. We approached him and asked how long had he been waiting. With a sincere smile he said that he arrived before 11:30p.m. We were speechless! We thanked him profusely and expressed our relief at his kindness.

I think of everyone who underwent Polpot's cruelty. Yet these people, who are still slugging it out to live, seems wholly without bitterness. They are hospitable and welcoming, and so open.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

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