• Tara B. Vasi

Day Five: Azahar Yoga Class, Genocide, Poop Museum, $5 Massage, Kickboxing Competition.

I had my alarm set for 5:30am so that I could do sunrise yoga on my balcony, but when the alarm went off and I heard rain, I had no problem hitting stop and taking in the extra replenishment and rest. I woke up again at 8am and it felt nice to sleep in. I wanted some coffee but didn’t have a kettle, so I went down to reception. I got a kettle and filled it with water, but there is only one plug in the room, so heated hot water under the desk by my feet. The day is busy outside and I can hear cars, motorbikes, horns honking, construction, music, and conversation.

I absolutely had to take a shower, even though the tub reminded me more of The Dog Wash in OB where I used to take Cooper for his after ocean rise. There was a shower head luckily, it just didn’t have a place to secure it over head, so I washed myself with one hand and hosed myself off with the other. The amount of dirt that came off my feet was disturbing and I have no idea how I let myself go to sleep like that the night before. Luckily I have the most gigantic bed, so I can sleep on the other end and not have to touch my filth from the night before.

I looked at myself in the mirror and to the side and decided I had finally shit myself back to my normal size.

I spent the majority of the morning writing and drinking instant coffee on my balcony. I went down for breakfast right before they closed and brought a plate of eggs up to my room.

At dinner the night before, I talked with Louu about doing yoga today because we both opted out of the guided tour through the killing fields and genocide museum. She messaged me this morning that there was a vinyasa flow at 12:30pm, and we are both excited to check out a yoga studio in Cambodia.

Louu and I met at reception and started walking through the city about 1 mile to the yoga studio. We gave ourselves plenty of time in case we got lost. We both wondered if the class would be in English or Cambodian, if there would be fans (it was 90 degrees that day) and if the class would be challenging. We came to a round a bout where traffic was thick and had to wait for a good ten minutes before a gap widened enough for us to cross the street safely. We walked passed the studio once but came back around and finally went in. Drop in was $7 for the All-Levels Vinyasa class. The instructor was a real sweetheart and taught the class in English even though it was 50% Cambodian. She had us introduce ourselves at the start of class and let her know how long we have been doing yoga. When it was my turn, I said I had been practicing for ten years and teaching for five. I didn’t mention that I took a year or so off from teaching when I thought teaching early morning yoga classes would interfere with my drinking.

Wyman took me to my first yoga class at yoga Vermont in Burlington, maybe 2008?

The Cambodian woman in the back said she had only been doing it a few week so was the youngest yogi in the room. There was a French woman there who lived in Cambodia with her husband. They have been living there for almost a year and plan to stay for another two, so that they can work with the Cambodia school system, teaching English to children.

The class started with a few sun A’s and a few sun B’s and I was so impressed with the teachers English. She took us through a warrior flow and even taught forearm stand, handstand, and headstand. She definitely took my heart when she taught baby grasshopper pose, my favorite arm balance. She giggled when she fell out the pose and said its ok to fall, see, I am ok. About three quarters of the way through class the electricity went out, so the lights and the fans stopped working. She played yoga chants from her phone and I started singing them silently to myself. We moved into savasana and I thought to myself, I can’t believe I am savasana in a Cambodian yoga studio. The fans kicked on and cooled my system. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I am so fortunate to have a healthy body that is able to practice yoga, to have the ability to explore the world and other cultures, and be able to share my stories with my family and friends (even new friends that I have met along the way).

I was considering asking if they were hiring, but still don’t love the chaos of city life, let alone the chaos of Cambodian capital city life, though I think I could make a difference here.

The day was hot, around 90 degrees. Our clothes were wet with sweat, from our walk to the studio, our practice, and our walk back to the hotel, so a shower and a wardrobe change was an absolute must. By shower, I mean dog wash. I laughed to myself each time I stepped in the tub and hosed myself off. Louu met back up with her boyfriend and I met up with Bryony to head to the National Museum of Cambodia. She wanted to go to the Royal Palace but it had closed early the day for construction.

On the walk to the museum she told me all about her experience at the killing fields and genocide museum.

Warning! This next part is disturbing.

The genocide in Cambodia happened from 1975-1979, so quite recent, and resulted in 2 million deaths, nearly a quarter of the Cambodias population at that time. The killing were carried out by the Cambodia Khmer Rouge regime under the leadership of Prime Minister Pol Pot. The Khmer Rouge wanted to turn the country into a socialist agrarian republic and killed all Cambodians who opposed. They emptied cities and forced Cambodians to relocate to concentration camps in the country side where they were tortured and starved. They dug a mass grave and lined the edge with Cambodians, hit them over the head and pushed them in the grave. To be sure they were dead they were covered with acid and then dirt to be burned or suffocated. She told me that they walked the killing field and their were still clothes and teeth that remained on the earth from the killings that each time it rained heavy more remains were uncovered.

She told me about a tree that was near another grave site where they took woman and children. They made the mother watch as her baby was held by the ankles, smashed into the Tree, and thrown into the pit.

Young boys were a part of the Khmer Rouge and brainwashed to do unspeakable things including torture and killings.

In 1979 Vietnam invaded Cambodia, and it was then that the Khmer Rouge was revealed and defeated.

Pol Pot was never tried from the crimes, though a few of the higher up officials were. The trials began in 2009 and in 2014 they were convicted and sentenced to receive life imprisonment for crimes against humanity. Pol Pot was instead welcomed into the United Nations and died of natural causes in 1998. They could not try all of the men that were involved in the killings, so not everyone was held responsible for their crimes. Instead many many men assumed different identities. Therefore, Cambodian men in their 60’s were most likely apart of the Khmer Rouge and took part in the killings.

There were seven survivors and one of the survivors visits the museum ever day. He says that so many people know about the Holocaust during WW2 and think that something that awful could never happen again, but it did, and it happened in Cambodia in the 1970’s.

I teared up as she was telling me about the killings, especially the part about the babies. (Sorry Other, I am sure that part was hard for you to read) I didn’t know it was so recent. It made me uncomfortable knowing that the older men that pass me by on the street were most likely involved in the genocide.

We went to the National Museum of Cambodia and walked through a maze of large stone statues of Buddha, Lakshmi, Ganesha, and other Hindu Deities. I was surprised to see that they were in such great condition.

The statues were originally in temples like Angkor Wat but people were stealing the heads off the statues so they put in the museum to preserve and protect them. We learned about the friendship between Cambodia and the Czech Republic.

They played a video of Neil Armstrong landing on the Moon and displayed a piece of moon rock in a glass case. Shrug.

The museum was small and made up of multiple rooms open to the outside elements. The walls (when there were walls) were covered in bird shit and even some of the statues had poop on their heads. Bryony and I had a good old laugh about it.

I wanted to get a massage because (what’s new?) my lower back hurt (regardless of the yoga session) and I had see signs advertising a massage for $5, and needed to know what a $5 massage felt like.

I went towards the river and Bryony headed back to the hotel. I approached a few places where there was a group of women sitting around on their phones, and asked for a massage, but no one really got up to help me, so I just walked away. I found a place that offered a Swedish massage and their was a smiling man welcoming me right at the front door. The cost $11 an hour.

The lady at the desk gestures with her elbow to another lady and that lady leads me upstairs to a room with three massage beds. I have yet to see a massage bed in Asia with a hole for your face when you lay on your back.

The masseuses stands with me in the room and tells me to take my clothes off. I wait for her to leave, but she doesn’t. I awkwardly ask her for some privacy while I change. She understands and leaves, but doesn’t come back for ten minutes. The room has bright fluorescent lighting and smells like stale laundry mixed with the smell of garbage coming from the open window and the street below. I don’t here her enter the room but I feel her pounce on my back and I immediately feel like prey. She begins dousing me with oil with a touch that resembles a tickle. it feels As though she avoids my muscles and instead presses on my bones. I wait it out, hoping this bazar massage is just a temporary thing, but as time goes on I realize that she intends this same style for the remainder of the hour. I ask her to deepen the pressure and focus on my lower back. She proceeds to give my anus CPR and I squirm awkwardly before sitting up and stating, “This massage is over”. She said, “You no like?” And I said, “No, no, I do not like.”

I go to stand up and she keeps asking “You no like?” And I feel so bad, and I am not sure why, but I say, I am sorry and that I have to go. She still won’t leave so I drop my towel anyway completely exposing myself and hurriedly get my clothes on right in front of her and walk downstairs still covered in an inch of massage oil. I give them five dollars and leave. All I can think is, well, now I know what a $5 massage feels like.

I walk towards the hotel and am harassed by men trying to offer me a tuk tuk ride or a ticket to a museum or temple. All I can think is that they are probably baby murderers. I stop to get some noodles with vegetables and find a big old bone inside my food. Well, that’s certainly not a vegetable bone. I am not vegetarian, but still don’t appreciate bones in my vegetable dishes.

We meet at reception at 6pm for the Kickboxing competition. Sochea reminds us to see out personal belongings close especially in the tuk tub because men on motorbikes are known for reaching in and snagging Westerners bags. The group separates in three tuk tuks and I opt to go with three of the boys and nicely inflate their ego by saying “I know I will be safe with three big strong men.” Haha

Its rush hour and to make matters worse, it starts to rain stray cats and dogs.

The tuk tuk driver motions for us to unravel the plastic flaps on the side to stop the rain from getting in, and when they are all closed I joke that its like Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage. The flaps didn’t really keep out the rain and no one really felt like Cinderella. The boys and I had a grand ol’ time on the ride getting to know each other and bantering.

The hotel is only six kilometers from the fight, but it took us about an hour to get there. I am holding my bag in between Florian and me and prepared to drop an elbow into an eye if need be. Kind and spiritual, but I can throw down if I need to.

We run from the tuk tuk to the entrance of the small stadium, but get drenched anyway. Cambodia V. Thailand.

All the fighters are young boys with zero body fat.

In between rounds the fighters coach and team pour ice water over his head and down his shorts, massage his arms and legs and aggressively press his chest into the corner of the ring. They dried him off, but essentially he went back into the next round covered in water and sweat, so when the opponent made contact there was a loud slapping sound. I didn’t see any blood all night, but one kid got hit so hard he went completely limp. When he came to, he stood up, but went full wet noodle again.

The audience, ooh’d and grunted with every hit and I was certain there was a ton of money bet on the fight. There was a live broadcaster and the fight was televised live. There were 5 fights and overall, Thailand won.

The ride home was smoother, quieter, shorter, and dryer.

I starfish in my giant bed and reflected on the day. The things that have happened to me so far are so unreal that it would be impossible to make up. Each day is a new revelation, a completely new adventure. Writing this blog has been such an incredible gift that I have really given myself. I have become hyper aware of my senses in the moment knowing I’ll report back to my computer later to compile a story. I am fortunate live each moment again when I create the blog post, and then will forever have my stories to look back on.

Tomorrow we travel by bus and then ferry to the island of Koh Rong.

I am looking forward to hiking up a mountain to a waterfall. Of course, I hope nothing goes wrong, but hey, at least if it does, it makes for a good story.


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