What a day yesterday.
I spent the morning at a wonderful, spirit-filling yoga class, the afternoon at the Killing Fields in Cheoung Ek, and the evening considering good vs. bad girls at Transitions Global.
I took a misery-filled 30 minute tuk tuk ride outside of Phnom Penh to the Killing Fields, trying not to breathe in the stench of the sewage or the dirt in the air. I remembered what the survivors of the Khmer Rouge endured and took a swig of my bottled water and decided my bumpy ride, that required nothing of me, was not something I could put in the hardship category.
Between 1975 and 1979, nearly 2 million men, women and children were executed and buried in these fields. So during the time I was coming of age by drinking beer, taking the SAT's and blow drying my hair for hours to get it straighter, the Khmer Rouge was bashing babies against tree trunks and executing artists and intellectuals.
The minute you step through the gates toward the memorial and toward the mass graves, it hits you. The sorrow comes up through the earth, through your legs and belly, and goes straight to your heart. The tears start to spill before you really even see the evidence of the atrocity.
If you have ever visited the actual site of mass killing, you know that it is difficult to process the emotions of the experience. There is no museum experience in the world that can prepare you for the visceral shock of it.
I was struck though by the contrast that nature provided for me between beauty and pain. The two photos above and below were taken with a stone's throw and a dam between them, a landscaped mirror of how closely the extraordinary can live next to the horrific.
Later in the evening, the girls at Transitions Global thought about the difference between "good" and "bad" girls. In the U.S., this pre-Feminist measure is more covert. But in Cambodia, it is embedded into the culture. Once a girl is labeled a bad girl, there is little she can do to escape this role. We talked about how to help girls who have been judged as "bad" and were forced into the role by family, traffickers, poverty and/or society.
Despite developmental and/or literacy challenges, these girls get it. It is a slippery slope between good and bad. There is a fine line between pain and beauty.
And let me tell you, the girls at Transitions Global are fighting the good fight to balance the scale with their heroic strength and beauty.