Thursday, March 25, 2010

A chance meeting

I had an interesting bus trip (again) today. I had booked a ticket through a travel agency in the street where I was staying to catch a 7:15am bus to sihanoukville which meant that I had to get to the agency this morning by 6:45. No problems there. However, when I arrived the shop was shut and no one seemed to know what was going on!! So, I wandered up and down the street a couple of times, being accosted for tuk-tuks and motorbikes frequently (they must have thought I was crazy going back and forth) until I eventually found the guy who owns the shop and he took me to a mini van which would take me to the bus station and told me to wait for "5 minutes"... (this was at 6:45). So I waited, and waited and waited and waited some more. No joke, I waited for 45 minutes!! 7:15 came and went and I was thinking, hmm okay guess I've missed the bus, great. I was sitting there, wondering do I stay? Should I get a tuk tuk myself to the station? What do I do. So I continued to wait until 7:30 when the guy came back. His response to me mentioning that I had missed the bus was that "its okay, same same". We drove a couple of blocks away where he stopped on the edge of one of the main roads where the bus actually came and met us (already full). I was the only western person on the bus which was fine, I just felt a bit bad that they probably all thought I was late when in actual fact I was early to catch the bus!

Oh well.. Anyway so I was sitting next to an older gentleman who was wearing a face mask (not all that uncommon). We didn't really speak during the eary stages of the bus trip, until probably 3/4 way through the journey after a short break. His name was Pensamin (or something along those lines). Interestingly enough, I discovered he was a Christian, currently working for a building company, regularly travels between Phnom Penh and is 56 years old with 4 children and 2 grandchildren. He spoke about the genocide 30 years ago, but didn't mention any specifics about his involvement or what happened to him, only that it was very sad. Before his current job he worked for 3 years for an organisation where he went into the prisons and gave bible lessons to the prisoners there (I was quite pleasantly surprised to meet my first christian local on my travels). He spoke of his love for the Jesus Christ, said he had been a christian for 10 years. His English was quite good, but there were some limitations and occasionally difficult to understand him particularly with the face mask on! I asked if it was difficult being a christian in Cambodia, but he said it wasn't any more. He goes to a church twice on sundays in phnom penh. However, when closing in to sihanoukville we passed by a store which sells "house spirits", or at least the houses for the house spirits. He told me how everyone has them, and upon further questioning he still has one at his house as well. I guess there is still an element of traditional spirit worship still involved as a "back-up" plan for some of these peoople.

Also, something I forgot to mention yesterday was about one of Pol-Pots senior officers that I found quite interesting at the genocide museum. Duch (I can't remember his actual original name) is the one and only officer from that time who while in his trial admitted to having been involved in the whole genocide, taking full responsibility for the situation, as well as admitting regret and asking for forgiveness. I discoved on another poster that he became a christian while in prison, which may have had some influence into why he admitted. All other people involved deny that it happened or that they had any responsibility in it. Interesting.

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