All posts filed under: Dark

National Trauma, Collective Memory & Recovery: Vietnam & Cambodia

Vietnam and Cambodia are two beautiful and fascinating countries to visit. I was greatly intrigued by the recent violent histories of both countries and how the path to recovery seems to have led Vietnam and Cambodia in very different directions. Politically and economically, these ¬†differences are glaringly apparent- Vietnam technically remains a communist country and is an Asian economic powerhouse; Cambodia has a complicated, ostensibly democratic though often corrupt government with an economy which has failed to match that of its neighbours. But even for the most casual visitor, uninterested in politics or economics, the differences and the impact they’ve had on the national psyche are clear to see. Here, I look at how Vietnam and Cambodia’s recovery from national trauma can be interpreted through one particular lens- that of their attitude and view of foreigners and tourists. The first surprise I had in Vietnam was the abruptness and at times, downright unfriendliness, of the people. As someone who’s enjoyed many a good bowl of pho on London’s Kinsland Road, I was expecting the same …

Absorbing Trauma through Writing and Walls

As I wandered the grey, damp prison complex,through endless cell after cell, huge blown up pictures hanging everywhere, desperate eyes watching, I began to ¬†tap lightly on the inside of my left wrist with my right forefingers. Victims of unlawful imprisonment, torture, rape and summary executions looked at me and I tapped, tapped, tapped. Some had tears in their eyes, some were smiling as though it might elicit some bit of sympathy from their Khmer Rouge captors. The sun outside was shining, heat beating down onto this beautiful green city but inside there was a damp chill, a cold that crept up and down my spine. I started to feel the breath catch in my throat and so I tapped and tapped on my wrist and kept walking and didn’t stop looking, at the bloodstains still unwashed from the red brick walls 30 years later, until I felt like I could breathe again. The tapping is a trick. It doesn’t help of course but when your chest tightens and you feel like you can’t breather, …