Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cambodian Genocide

I woke up this morning in the Anise Hotel wishing I had asked for a second blanket. If there’s a trick to balancing the too-cold a/c with the hot humid weather of the Meekong, I haven’t found it. After a quick breakfast at the hotel café (fried rice and orange juice for me), my group boarded a small van and set off for the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, also known as S-21.  S-21 was once a high school in Phnom Penh until the Khmer Rouge emptied the city when it was converted it into a detention and interrogation facility. Words like ‘atrocity’ and ‘cruelty’ that I had read about the Khmer genocide now seemed insufficient to describe what went on there. Former classrooms had been converted in cells or torture chambers. Some rooms displayed graphhic photos of the bodies that had been found when the prison was sacked, placed on the bed frames that still remain. Other rooms told the historic narrative; these displayed prison artifacts such as confessions victims had been forced to write, along with prison photos demonstrating how well organized and calculated the genocide was. Other rooms had torture devices while one had nothing more than blood stains that had never been removed.
I was crouched alone in this room, trying to photoograph the floor when a young man, who might have been Cambodian, entered. He reached the center of the floor before he noticed the blood; I saw his expression change as he realized what I was photographing. Our eyes met, filled with tears.

I was personally touched by this wall I photographed under a staircase because it was a place where visitors had voiced reactions to this place. I shared the pain I felt in their words, and the desperate cry for peace they conveyed. I was reminded of the Children’s Memorial that stands at ground zero in Hiroshima, Japan which reads: “This is our cry, this is our prayer: peace in the world.”

Upon leaving the museum my group met at a café accross the street, to rest and have some fruit smoothies. I ended up bargaining with 3 children who were peddling scarves, books and bracelets to tourists. One boy was a master in sales, betting a sale on besting me in 3 games of rock-paper-scissors, which he won. Later, he was kind enough to draw an original tattoo on my shoulder of the Monster energy drink logo. Upon leaving the café, a South African woman who lives in Cambodia working with an NGO took a moment to reprimand us for buying form the kids. She explained that if the kids make money it is incentive for the parents to keep them out of school selling their wares instead of studying. The alternate solution she offered, the "Friends" program, wouldn’t put food on this family’s plate tonight, however, nor would it keep the sun off my neck today. She was successful in making me second guess my purchase; I struggled to decide if the importance of education was a Western ideal that should not be foised upon someone with different cultural and economic values, or if education really is universally valuable and necessary to heal this community. 

Soon we were back on the road, this time heading toward Choeung Ek Genocidal Center, a.k.a. the Killing Fields. The fields were a vibrant green except for the small dirt paths that lead visitors among the mass graves, most of which had been partially excavated. These photos speak for themselves.

Between 10,000 and 20,000 Khmer people passed through this and other detention centers to be interrogated. Once forced confessions were recorded they were told they would be taken to work camps, but instead were taken to the killing fields where they were executed one by one, usually by being hit over the head and thrown into a mass grave. A 17 tiered tower in the middle of the Center houses the remains of thousands of victims of the genocide, 10 tiers of nothing but human skulls.  It was explained that in Khmer culture the resting place for the dead is significant, so although there is no way to identify the victims, it was important to find a way to enshrine them respectfully in hopes of offering their spirits rest.

I would like to write more about the politics of what happened here, but right now I just have to feel it. I can't believe what human beings are capable of doing to one another.

P.S.  Later that night, I ran into the same kid who had sold me the scarf. I asked him about school. He said he goes to school in the morning and sells in the afteroon. That made me feel a little better about buying  the scarf. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

A Week of Gratitude

Yesterday I challenged a client of mine to keep a gratitude journal for a week for reasons that I knew could benefit me too.  I told him I would do the same.  So this is entry #1 of my week long gratitude journal:

My life can be frustrating at times, busy, and poverty stricken with no end in site, but really I'm wildly content because I've found something I love and want to do for the rest of my life.  I've been living a hellishly busy schedule for the last 3 and a half years and yet my excitement about becoming a psychologist has only increased.

I attribute much of my excitement to a book I read which changed my life:  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.  It changed the way I thought about my abilities, my intelligence, my potential, my work ethic, and my parenting.  It convinced me that I didn't need to be inherently good at something to become good at it.  It convinced me that with hard work (harder than I am used to) I could achieve much more than I ever expected, and that without hard work I could not hope to achieve nearly any of what I someday wanted.

Things that I had once categorized as "impossible" or "too hard" or "not worth the effort" became not only possible, but wishes, dreams, ambitions, and finally goals.  Like anyone, I often have those "If I knew then what I know now..." moments in which I lament the learning curve upon which I travelled, I cannot honestly say that I would change anything.

I got an A- this semester.  I was devastated as I had decided that I could tiger mom myself into straight A's for my master's degree, yet at the same time I was proud of myself for holding myself to a higher standard.  In High School a B- felt like an A, and an A- felt like an A+.  I know grades don't reflect intelligence, but they do reflect a work ethic that I have never had, and bringing myself up to that level has given me a lot of well deserved self esteem.

So... I guess the thing I'm grateful for is that...I'm awesome?  I'm kidding.  I'm grateful to have discovered Tiger Mom and that the lessons I learned from her have affected me in such positive ways at a critical time in life.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Crazy for Blocks

Jake doesn't love having his diaper changed.  He's too curious and eager to play to sit still for something so six-months-ago.  Sometimes when he's being particularly difficult and needs some distracting while his mom changes him, I will set the blocks on his face as quickly as he can take them off.  It seems to upset him much less than the diaper changing, and while he doesn't exactly revel in block-to-face game, he treats it like a math problem.

I'm sitting here watching Jacob "play" with his blocks, which right now consists of placing them on his own head until they fall off.  He is not smiling, but rather looks like he's working on a math problem.

It will be interesting to see what psychosis this develops into.  (I'm kidding, psychologist joke)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

My Conversation with Gabby (PG-13)

So I signed into my MSN account for the first time in a long time and had a friend request.  I wasn't sure who it was, so I accepted.  As luck would have it, the person who sent the request was online and contacted me right away.  This was our conversation:

Gabby says: (03:15:46 p.m.)
hey u there??

Ender says: (03:15:51 p.m.)
Beep boop

Gabby says: (03:16:00 p.m.)
hey there, hope you dont mind chatting with a SPITEFUL horny girl, soo how are ya?

Ender says: (03:17:11 p.m.)
Well, there's someone in the house.  I think they just murdered dog, and I'm hiding in the closet.  Can you please send help?

Gabby says: (03:17:21 p.m.)
yeaa i know its random, but my asshole EX cheated on me so im on a MANhunt hehe... i got your username on a msn directory, im gabby, you are? ;)

Ender says: (03:17:40 p.m.)
Ouch.  I was just stabbed.  I'm bleeding to death

Gabby says: (03:17:49 p.m.)
wish u were in my bed having your way with me ;)

Ender says: (03:18:37 p.m.)
please.  Please.  help me.  It's so cold

Gabby says: (03:19:06 p.m.)
i c.. where do you live? i am bored at home...and this usually leads to bad things ;) esp since im single and sexually deprived :-(

Ender says: (03:21:00 p.m.)

Gabby says: (03:21:11 p.m.)
are you signed up to any dating sites? You seem cool. I just took some dirty pics and uploaded them on my ComeHookup profile.. wanna see??? haha

Ender says: (03:21:47 p.m.)
No thanks.  In heaven, everyone is naked.

Gabby says: (03:21:57 p.m.)
no worries..thouhght u wanted to see me naked ..:)

Ender says: (03:23:25 p.m.)
As an angel, I can see through your clothes.  Not sure what the big deal is, tbqh.

Gabby says: (03:23:36 p.m.)
ok, go here, lmk whatcha think [link removed] ! you might have to make an account if you dont have 1 already. it takes literally 1 minute and it's completely free!

Ender says: (03:24:04 p.m.)
It's so nice to chat with a real girl for once.

Gabby says: (03:24:15 p.m.)
give me ur username when you join so I can send u a friend request, and if u like my pics maybe we can get to know each other better ... cool? ;)

Ender says: (03:25:26 p.m.)
Kill yourself, and we'll have the eternities.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Everybody ought to have a hobby

I endorse this notion.

I used to think of a hobby as some kind of fun that is more permissible than other forms of play because it somehow builds character so it is encouraged.  So basically having a hobby, a REAL hobby, was the best way to have fun.

Unfortunately, my hobby was playing.  Not a musical instrument- just playing.  So the idea that my uncle's "train room" was his form of play, and my dad's watching of judge judy was his, and brother's video games as his, made all of these perfectly acceptable hobbies because they relieved stress and added a little spice of life to the routine.

The hobby of "play" isn't a very good one.  The fun is always fleeting instead of creating, and in the end you don't have anything to show for it.   "Making" hobbies are a new discovery for me.  I met a few people in sales and business that I could tell were doing their hobbies for a living, which was an accomplishment I usually attributed to successful artists.  I began to make the connection between loving to work and success.

But loving to work is hard when you don't love to work.

I feel that I've found my magic hobby in psychology and being able to line up my hobby and career will make me as proud as any accomplishment.

I do still love to play.