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A Lesson From Cambodia: Never Underestimate Your Resilience

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Michael Hero / Shutterstock.com Michael Hero / Shutterstock.com

I’ve just returned from a trip to Cambodia with my family. In between lots of fun and adventurous new ‘firsts’ (“Crispy fried crickets anyone?”), I had many encounters that reminded me just how resilient the human spirit can be.

While in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, I visited the infamous S21 – one of many barbaric ‘torture centers’ set up by Pol Pot’s brutal Khmer Rouge Regime. Afterward I travelled outside the city to the notorious Killing Fields, where tens of thousands of people, having been starved and tortured, were beaten with clubs (to save bullets), thrown into ditches, sprinkled with DDT and then covered with dirt. The stronger among them often survived the clubbing and were still alive as they were thrown into their mass grave, and took their last breath with their hands tied behind their backs, acid eating their skin and dirt being piled above them.

Only seven people ever survived S21 and I had the distinct honor of meeting one of them – Chum Mey. While his wife and four children were executed, Chum was spared because he could repair the typewriters the Khmer Rouge relied on to document their barbaric acts. Rather than seem a sad old man, he was warm, very friendly to my children and had some of the kindest eyes I’d ever seen. His ‘way of being’, for lack of a better phrase, touched me deeply.


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