July 23, 2014 at 11:15 am

I Miss You Already, Cambodia

Original entrance to S-21 prison, now Tuol Sleng Museum. These are currently used for formal events and for when the main entrance is unusable.

Original entrance to S-21 prison, now Tuol Sleng Museum. These are currently used for formal events and for when the main entrance is unusable.

By Elizabeth Cychosz ’16
Studying Anthropology, Journalism (HTC), and Museum Studies
Imagining International Justice in Post-Genocide Cambodia

It’s one week after waving goodbye to Cambodia from a tiny airplane window, and I can finally take myself off my antimalarial medication.

Sounds trivial, yes, but today has been a day of reflection. For the past week, the most poignant reminder that the past two and a half months were, in fact, NOT a dream, has been swallowing the tiny pill that has prevented me from succumbing to the mosquito-borne illness. Removing that motion from my daily routine forces me to admit that yes, I really am home in Ohio, no longer in our shared apartments in Phnom Penh, and I won’t be back at least for a while. From now on, I must snatch at the fleeting memories of our time there, holding them close in the hopes that they won’t fade.

I miss you already, Cambodia.

Though our task was research, I and all others on this trip really did build a life there. We paid rent, went grocery shopping, and practiced bartering. Days came and went, some more productive than others. I learned what it means to do fieldwork after hours sending emails and visiting offices in hopes of setting up at least one meeting with a potential informant. I learned how mentally taxing composing field notes can be, chronicling and analyzing at the end of an already busy day for future reference. And I also learned what it means to me personally to develop relationships that are necessarily complicated by my status as a researcher but still one in which someone might smile when I visit unexpectedly.

I consider my last two weeks there to have been the most transformative for me as a researcher. The other students had left, and I was graced with the good fortune to stay for an extra two weeks beyond the end of our program in order to finish up some extended research, since I am writing my senior thesis based on this summer as well as the program’s required article. I’m immensely grateful to Dr. Haley Duschinski for staying with me those extra weeks; having her as a mentor by my side perhaps was one of the best things to happen in my time there. We were able to set up and attend meetings with officials who likely (and understandably) would not have met with a lowly undergraduate, and we were tasked with the exciting opportunity to craft and implement a visitor survey for the Tuol Sleng Museum of Genocidal Crimes—my primary research site. In the last two weeks, I rounded out my research and was able to give back  even just a little bit to those who helped me so much this summer.

Although my busy schedule prevented a full night’s sleep most of the time, I can now say with confidence that I have saturated my notes with all the data my thesis can handle (though I intend to return with even bigger questions!). As I organize my notes and finish up some background reading this summer, I eye this fall with anticipation. I’m ready—and eager—to begin the next stage of research.

(And by the way, I highly recommend atavaquone-proguanil for Cambodia-bound travelers researching antimalarials. Very few side effects.)

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