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Monday, June 8, 2009

biking in Cambodia (again)

Yes. Again.

Rahima got me on a bike. Again. This time we are in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. The historic Killing Fields are about 12 kms outside of the city, so instead of taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike, we ambitiously pedaled. Luckily, Cambodia is still flat, so after such a nice biking experience the other day in Angkor Wat, I had few reservations about this journey.

But I learned very quickly that biking in a city is very different than biking on nice, wide, empty country roads. Here, where luckily they at least drive on the right side of the road, they do not pay strict attention to dividing lines, sides of the road, or merging in or out of traffic. It is every man for himself, with the pecking order seemingly being bigger has the right of way...or faster has the right of way. So while I am trying to get the basket on my bike to balance correctly and not fall down so that my knee is hitting it on every rotation of the pedal, Rahima is feeling the adrenaline rush of biking with the possibility of death. The brakes on her bike worked fine, but screeched like the music from the shower scene in Psycho. No joke. She enjoyed that too, as she said it make everyone around her scared and pay attention. Who AM I traveling with?!?!

As for me, I was not enjoying the constant competition for road space with cars, trucks, motorbikes (which whiz in and out of everything stopped or moving at all times), other bikers, vendors with their carts, etc. The other thing was that as you are in the mix of the melee at any time any one of those vehicles can decide to come straight for you. Why? Usually because they realize crossing the road would be a death sentence, so just go against the flow of traffic, which is obviously safer. (read the last line with heavy sarcasm)

The good news is, I made it out there and back with no major or minor injuries. :)

On a much more somber note, the killing fields were intense for me. I took one look at the monument built amongst the mass graves which holds almost 9,000 skulls, many categorized by the age and gender, and just started to cry. Those skulls are under half of the 20,000 people (many children) who were beaten to death (to save bullets) and then thrown into mass graves. I'm glad I skipped S-21, the school in the city that was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and used as a place of torture and death. Never being good at history (and not ever having been one to really like things I am not good at) I am shocked as I learn about things like this as I continue on this trip. I feel like everyone should be as outraged and affected as I am learning about these atrocities, but then I remember how until I was actually here I remained ignorant to them. Guess it is just one more thing I will grapple with as I return home in a few months...trying to continue to find the beauty, tragedy, and comedy in life, and then figure out what to do with it.

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