I wasn’t in Egypt, but I was in da-nial. I hadn’t felt good in days, if not weeks. I didn’t want to admit I was sick but luckily my next stop was in the capital of Cambodia. After spending a few days in Battambang I was eager to continue to learn about the Khmer Rouge regime, potentially get some medical attention, check out the scene but not devote too much time in the “big city.”
During the Khmer Rouge a high school in the heart of Phnom Penh was turned into a prison, interrogation and torture center (Security prison 21 or S-21). During my visit to Battambang I learned about S-21 by my guide Mr. Phi Lay who had once attended the high school; now the Tuol Sleng Museum in Phnom Penh is probably one of the best places to really understand the genocide that took place in Cambodia. I spent hours wandering around the grounds, peering into different rooms that had once been school rooms, scanning the photos of thousands of prisoners, thinking about the horrific conditions and looking at the different torture devices used during the interrogations. At one point I felt sickened and stepped outside, the history so closely resembling Nazi Germany brought thoughts of the Holocaust to my mind, the air relieved my sense of breathlessness but nothing could help the feelings of anger and sadness.
Back in da-nial, I spent some time walking around the National Museum, The Royal Palace, Wat Phnom and the riverfront promenade but the lingering uneasiness would not leave my stomach; I knew it was time to finally seek medical attention. I found the international doctor and described my symptoms from the past few weeks. Sometime between explaining that I had been in India and the doctor pushing on my stomach I left the clinic with time to kill while I waited to “deliver a sample.” I did what anyone would do, I hopped on a motorcycle taxi and went straight to the central market to find a new big hat. While I was trying on big hats another tourist, yes he was kind of a creeper, also trying on hats offered to buy me a drink . We were having a friendly conversation over a coconut when I suddenly became aware of the movement in my colon; I laughed at my predicament and said farewell to the creeper. I paid the small fee for the bathroom, closed the door in the sweaty, dirty bus station stall and laughed as I retrieved my own sample (sample retriever kit had been supplied at the doctors.) Really? Kind of ridiculous.
I left Phnom Penh, the da-nial, my stomach pains and the experiences on the next morning bus – learning the history (good and bad), seeing some sights, engaging in conversation with a creeper and rolling with the poopie punches is all part of the art known as traveling.