By Paul Hyde
Here’s what I learned:
Walking 140km+ in the heat with 20kg on your back isn’t easy; but possible. When my dad and I walked we heard some pretty amazing and disturbing stories; usually both amazing and disturbing hand in hand. Even though those stories would scar most people just listening about to it; it’s very important that people don’t forget about them. Those events are like, both metaphorically and very literally, sin. It’s disturbing remembering but healthy to remember and understand in order that sin doesn’t repeat itself in the younger adult generation, or my generation, or any generation to come. My dad recently posted a blog called “They Don’t Believe Us” you who are reading this probably already read and know what it’s all about, and I for one do believe them. Why? Well, you pretty much figure out that your parents or grandparents aren’t lying when everyone over 40 in the entire country tell the exact same kind stories about horrific atrocities. Not only that but also there is a tremendous amount of proof all around Cambodia you can find in every jungle, rice field, old school foundation, Buddhist temple etc… It’s illogical to not believe. But don’t get me wrong, even with all the proof I find it very hard to comprehend such disturbing history.
I never really knew much about my mom’s history during the Khmer Rouge, only bits and pieces over the years. Only until pretty recently I heard about where she was held and how long she was held (officially people were released 3 years 8 months 20 days but for some, including mom, it was almost 4 years) and her walk to freedom with her mother and sister and little brother. But her mother and brother passed away before I got a chance to meet them. I’m very thankful that my mom and aunt survived the Khmer Rouge. I know that I have an incredible mom; she was strong enough to survive the Khmer Rouge and make that incredibly difficult walk back to freedom.
After this whole trip if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that history is important as well as honoring people from history. That was that whole point of the Freedom Walk after all. I may have technically missed school but I really didn’t. And I for sure want to do the Freedom Walk again someday, maybe with just my siblings and me (with dad giving moral support on a bike). After all is it even possible to honor someone too much?