On Tuesday, I found out about something really tragic. I woke up and my host parents were watching TV. I didn't understand why Hun Sen (the prime minister) was making a speech and I was too groggy to care. I took my usual bucket shower and when I got out my host mom kept telling me that people in phnom penh were visiting for water festival and kept repeating a word I didn't understand. I didn't think anything of it and I went to class. There my kmai tutor informed me that over 300 people were killed and 300 more injured Monday night when something triggered a stampede on a bridge in Phnom Penh. The first thought that came into my mind was "wow, that is a lot of people to die in a stampede". To me this is the epitome of senseless death and it really sucks for a country, that has already gone through so much, to go through such a tragedy again.
Later that day I found out a tidbit that was also surprising. Around 5 I went to the usual English class I help at and sometimes the students overcome their shyness to ask me questions. One girl asked me if I heard about Phnom Penh and what I thought about it. Then she asked me if any tragedies like this happened in America. We started talking about 9/11 and I realized that none of these students have ever heard of it. These were 10th to 7th grade students. They asked me why people died and in my broken k'mai I replied, "because people didn't like America." They wanted to know how many people died. They were curious, but the generation gap was obvious. There was also probably a large difference in the choice of topics in education. For a Cambodian, learning the history of another country that they will probably never see or even come clos to is logically not a priority. I did have another conversation about 9/11 earlier in training with my first host family. That one went more like I expected, but I think thats because I was speaking to my host parents. A generation that lived through it, like I did. Memories are short. We try to learn from history, but how much is ever really learned?