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  • "Some things you want to ask," he tells us, the man with the sad smile. "Please don't. Some things I will not answer."

    He is our tour guide.

    "You can ask anything you want in the bus and I will answer but not in the fields."

    The fields. The killing fields. The fields filled with deep pits and shallow graves, bits of bone and teeth and clothing loosened by every rainfall. We see them as we walk, the bits, the fabric, and our hearts and minds reel too much to form even the most basic of questions. There's little we could or would ask him anywhere.

    On the bus, I do ask one thing. I ask of his childhood. The man with the sad smile mentioned being taken from his family, of losing his brothers and sisters, of losing his parents and being taken to work in the fields where he spent hours, days, weeks, and years scaring away birds.

    "Do you know what this is called?" he asks. "Scarecrow. I worked as a scarecrow."

    In the morning, monks in saffron robes, with parasols in shades of orange, stand on their shoes outside of stores, awaiting their offerings. Before the fields, we go to a genocide museum and meet two survivors, and after, a restaurant that serves as a training ground for street children. They learn to do something, to be something other than beggars and thieves. Two days ago, we visited Angkor Wat. Tomorrow, we go to the beach.

    In between, we ride buses, public buses, sweating as we sway on the upper level. Our bags are down below, stowed alongside a couple of motorcycles and the smell of the bathroom we really shouldn't use. Wouldn't use. But for the fact that we're not stopping.

    I hope it means we get there sooner. The beach. Outside. Someplace other than here. The air feels distinctly unconditioned with our seats in the sun on the sway, swaying upper deck. My head aches and I long for the Gatorade I made with holy water from the temple in Bangkok. I have more water but want quick hydration. Drinking seems distinctly ill-advised given the lack of facilities.

    The driver honks his horn but other than that the ride is fairly quiet. The low murmur of conversation in the back. The occasional baby's cry. We are blessedly karaoke-free.

    The driver confirms that the A/C doesn't work and the windows don't open. I feel vaguely ill for the third time in three bus rides, but we just passed an elephant. We spent a day in the killing fields. We're going to the beach. This is my holiday and I've chosen to spend it in a world far from my own.
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