In preparation for the trip, students took a trip to the Cambodian embassy in Washington D.C on Thursday December 3rd to claim their visas and meet the ambassador, H.E. Chum Bun Rong.
To get ready for the meeting, students read and researched a bit about Cambodian history and culture. The biggest topic of study was the genocide that occurred from 1975 to 1979 under the leadership of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Although the articles gave helpful, insightful information, they did not give the true story of the country. As we sat down with H.E. Chum Bun Rong, we heard a first person account.
He told us stories about his experience in the killing fields during the time of the concentration camps and how he was tortured. Rong repeated that the only reason that he survived was living off of grass, worms and cow’s milk.
“If I ever was caught sneaking grass or the milk they would have killed me right away,” said Mr. Rong.
He has seen improvement in Cambodia over the years, however. He remembered being a kid and seeing the helicopters fly around his house to drop down clothes for the people in his village. This gave him hope that one day he would be able to build up his country.
“I lived in hell and when I came to America, it was like heaven. Now when I go back to my country it isn’t hell anymore.”
Mr. Rong said that it was most important that he become educated before pursuing his goals. So, riding his bicycle 16 kilometers each way to school wasn’t going to stop him from making his dream come true.
“Education is very important for you to have because you will be successful”
Before we left, H.E. Chum Bun Rong fed us with fruit and coffee and insisted that we take some of his food before we leave. On the bus ride back to Bullis, the group couldn't stop talking about the experience of meeting the ambassador and learning about Cambodia; this got us even more excited about taking the trip in December.