Day 28: The Killing Fields and When Broken Glass Floats

In the morning, we got an early start to the day, heading out on a fleet of tuk tuks to Tuol Sleng. This was the infamous high school converted into “Prison S21″ during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in the late 70s. It was here that people were sent after an arbitrary arrest, tortured into writing absurd confessions, and executed. There were only twelve survivors of the twenty thousand people who were processed in the prison. Two of them were there today, giving our students a chance to meet them.

The class reflected in their morning note journals and we sat together in the shade for a lesson about the ten stages of genocide. Next, we visited Cheung Ek, a memorial site at one of the 24,000 mass graves spread throughout the country.

We headed back to our hotel for lunch. For our afternoon academics, we debriefed about our experiences with small group discussions about the novel When Broken Glass Floats. Students were well equipped to make connections between the memoir and their observations at the sites. Michelle noticed that both the museum and the novel shared stories about the desperation of people raising white flags to identify themselves as civilians. And Antoine noticed a meaningful detail about how difficult it was to put the corrupt leadership on trial for genocide because of a technicality: their crimes against humanity were directed at a political group and not ethnic Cambodians.

It was an educational day that transcends school. Our class was eager to understand, be respectful, and think deeply about the Cambodian genocide.

At night, we took it easy. We met at the unique dome of Central Market and dismissed for dinner. It will be an earlier night tonight. Tomorrow, the class will start to prepare for their upcoming ISU interview. We’ll be introducing that assignment, a cornerstone of the Mei Academy, in the morning.

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