Finally Here! My First Day on the Other Side of the World (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

First, I would like to thank John and Brenda Scanelli for all that they do for the CLS/PCP Program, including making my international internship possible, Professor Christie Warren, and International Bridges to Justice.

Getting to Cambodia was like no travel experience I have ever had before. It kicked off with a tornado in Miami, which was followed by a series of missed flights, a re-routing to Shanghai (where an iPhone was lost never to be seen again), and finally ended with a turbulent red-eye into the Phnom Penh airport. It was a hectic few days to say the least. But luckily, the wonders of a new place, new culture, and new language quickly transformed my exhaustion into excitement.

Having never been to any country outside of the U.S. for an extended amount of time, to say I was a little lost about what to do upon my arrival would be an understatement. Luckily, I was able to get a taxi from the airport directly to my hotel where I checked in around 1:30 am and went straight to sleep. The next day I ventured out into Phnom Penh with my friend Brian, a fellow W&M 1L who is interning with a firm here in Phnom Penh. We were quickly approached by Bunna, a wonderful tuk-tuk driver (and now friend) who took us to see many of the top-visited places in Phnom Penh, but not before taking us to a restaurant that served "Western" breakfast - as neither of us were adventurous enough to try Khmai food just yet.

Bunna took us to the sites most commonly associated with the Khmer Rouge: the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S-21 Prison).  After a bumpy off-road adventure we first arrived at the Killing Fields, where you are given a headset and walk along a self-guided tour while listening to survivors of the genocide give a first-hand account of their suffering. As you walk by the mass graves and a giant stupa filled seven-stories high with bones, you notice bone fragments and clothing of those buried in the graves that has recently been brought to the surface by the seasonal rains. I was shocked to learn the details of a genocide which I had only briefly studied in the past, and was truthfully ashamed at how I could be ignorant of  the details of such a horrid tragedy  that happened so recently in the world's history. To give a brief overview of something that deserves much more dedication, I can only say that visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison and hearing the stories of millions of Cambodian people who were tortured and killed at the hands of Pol Pot's regime, provided me with an experience I can never forget. Visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 is something I would recommend to any traveler who visits Cambodia, as it gives you a true sense of the hardships the Cambodian people experienced very recently and are still visibly recovering from.
After an eventful day, Brian and I felt acquainted enough with Cambodia to experience some authentic Khmai food so we walked down a street to a beautiful restaurant close to Brian's hotel and were able to have a nice dinner to end a worthwhile day in Phnom Penh. 

If you would like to see the probably hundreds of photos I'll be taking during my three months here, I'll be keeping a photostream on Flickr, link here: photos/124496548@N02/sets/! But if not, here are a few photos from my first week (please excuse the blurriness as most photos were taken from a bouncing tuk-tuk):

Statute of King Norodom Sihanouk                                                      Independence Monument

Statute of King Norodom SihanoukIndependence Monument


View from Rooftop Bistro                                           Flooding & Protests Lead to 90 Minutes of Traffic

View From BistroTraffic 

Up Next: First Week of Work, and Continued Exploration of Phnom Penh!