Tag Archives: Happily Lost With Cece

Cambodia: Feeling Ghosts


We are on the grounds of a high school, one that looks like many other high schools that we’ve seen in developing countries: a few buildings facing a central courtyard area, basic brick and cement, barren classrooms on two levels, a wall surrounding the complex Outside of the wall motos buzz, horns honk, people on the street yell to one another. It could be any city street anywhere, but the barbed wire on the wall, spilling over like frozen, threatening tumbleweeds, are the first indication that it is not.

This is no longer a high school. It is the remains of the S-21 prison grounds, one of many such complexes used by Cambodia’s Khmer-Rouge in the 1970’s. The Khmer-Rouge was a wing of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (Cambodia) and were responsible for the killing of 2 million people in the four years that they ruled. The Khmer-Rouge drove people from cities- like Pnomh Penh, where S-21 is- to work on communal farms. Many of these people died of heat stroke, starvation, exhaustion, and a number of other conditions.

The people we learn the most about during our informative, self-guided audio tour through S-21 are the people that were imprisoned there for being intellectuals. To be honest, the complexities of what happened in Cambodia in these few short years is new knowledge for me.

The tour through S-21conjures ghosts. The old classrooms in Building A were used as rooms for administering various forms of torture. If they choose to enter, visitors see the blood stains on the floors and walls, by now more than 40 years old. The original bed frames and chamber pots remain, and each room holds a picture of one its former occupants as they were during their time at S-21. Outside of building A are the few graves of victim’s whose bodies were recovered.

In Building B, the classrooms were converted to crude, brick cells about 5 feet by 5 feet. When I entered, I could feel the prisoners here. I ran my fingers over the bricks, and quickly pulled away in a sort of shock at realizing that this all remains as it was when innocent people were held here; prisoners of the Khmer-Rouge touched the same walls that my fingers now grazed.

Past the cells and into Building C are countless display cases full of mugshots of the inhabitants of the prison, men, women and children alike. Mixed in are pictures of the the Khmer-Rouge higher-ups. Pol Pot, the leader, is pictured in glasses; he ordered many to be killed because of their glasses and the subsequent assumption that those who wear glasses are intellectuals.

Beyond that, Building D holds displays and paintings-done by a survivor- of torture tools and methods. And finally, a shelf of skulls. The magnitude, the human side, the reality of this war finally sets in.

I find myself rushing through the last rooms in utter disbelief.

I am in disbelief that so much remains as it was, the record-keeping of communist leader proving his efforts for the advancement of his party.

I am in disbelief that humans can do these things to other humans.

I am in disbelief that we always say the world will never let it happen again, but it does: Nazi Germany, the Khmer -Rouge, Rwanda.

I am in disbelief that I never learned about this war in school. In fact, it hits me, I don’t recall one ocassion in school when we learned about a war that wasn’t centered around developed nations and- for lack of more eloquent phrasing-white people.

I knew almost nothing of Robert Mugabe and the land takeovers before I moved to Mozambique and had conversations with the Zimbabweans living there that were driven from their country.

I had only once heard of Mozambique’s decades of war, and that from a Mozambican who was studying at my university.

I knew so little about colonialism and how deep the effects really run and how long they last for those colonized. This I felt in Mozambique too, and now I feel it here in Southeast Asia.

I was blown away by the complexities of South Africa when we were searching for our lodging there and asked directions. ‘Is the owner white or black?’ we were asked. ‘If white the house will be on that side of the street, if black it will be on the other side.’

I learned of the 1980’s Contras in Nicaragua when we ate dinner in a military airplane turned sundowner restaurant in Costa Rica

And sitting on a bench in the S-21 prison courtyard, imagining students there and then innocent victims of civil war and genocide, I bowed my head in sadness for the Khmer people that endured their war in the 1970’s and for the American involvement in this region- known as The Secret War during the years that the U.S. Was in Vietnam- of which I knew nothing about.

The realization of how little I know always creeps up in new places. I can read books, watch documentaries, and devour news. I can talk to people. I can listen to people. I can learn so much invaluable information in these ways. But I become only more and more convinced that there is no better way to learn about the world than to go to somewhere unfamiliar to me, be among its people, and to feel its ghosts.


Thanks Readers, and What’s New for 2018


Hello lovely readers. Happily Lost is now in it’s 6th year, and it’s become a bit of an end-of-year tradition to check in with my stats from the year one last time. I love to see how many of you have read the blog each year and which posts were your favorites. I also LOVE seeing how many countries Happily Lost was read in each year… this always blows me away.

In 2017 Happily Lost had 5,601 views from 3,390 readers in 89 different countries (including 1 I’ve never heard of 🙂 ). Your top 5 favorite posts were Recipe Review: Thai Curry Soup (Noodles and Company Copycat (this is definitely the post that keeps on giving…hundreds of views year after year!), Health in the Peace Corps and Why I did 100 Days of Yoga, The Heart of A Mozambican, After the R: How Was Leaving and Sunday Snapshot: Parabens Moz 25.

Thanks to all of you who read in 2017! No matter where I go, sharing my own stories and reading those of others is one of my greatest pleasures. During these past 2 years, writing during Peace Corps service from rural Mozambique, my readership continued to grow steadily. I’ll be heading back to the States in a month, and I hope you’ll stick with me through the changes for a truly Happily Lost 2018. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for you!

Check out the Travel section to be Happily Lost Around the World:

Check out the Trails section to be Happily Lost Outside:

  • Adventures in our beloved home mountains..as long as we can still breathe at such eleveation. Colorado, we’re comin’ for you!
  • Other outdoor fun TBD. We’re hoping to spend some time with our neighbors, New Mexico and Utah. And perhaps mosey over to Arizona, California, and Oregon.

Check out the Our Table section to be Happily Lost in the Kitchen:

  • A recipe index with all past recipes organized by meal, as well as alphabetically, so you can follow along more easily and feed your body and soul to fuel your adventures too!
  • Culinary creations that are minmalist and truly from-scratch- we’re talking tomatoes, onions, spices> spaghetti sauce and flour, water, oil > tortillas- as I try to stick to the clean diet we had in Mozambique.

Happily Here-** Coming Soon**

  • The Monthly Mindfulness Series, in which I will be featuring a new mindfulness theme each month. I am so excited about this new, year-long series: exploring a topic that I have touched on here in the Just Talk section, and have grown more and more curious about, experimenting with podcasts/audio posts for the first time, and facilitating an interactive, peer-based, virtaul learning community for you lovely readers that choose to sign up and join in. Look for a post at the end of this month with more details about this series.

Happily Lost Snapshots:

If you’re not already, follow @happilylostwithcece on Instagram for more snapshots and mini-stories from all of the Happily Lost categories.

Looking forward to getting happily lost in 2018, and I hope you are too.

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100 Days of Moz


Well, I don’t think I quite believe it myself, but today marks the beginning of our last 100 days as Peace Corps Volunteers in Mozambique. The time is so short, but still there is a lot to be done, and more than that even, just a lot to be soaked up.

In the next 100 days we will complete our third trimester at school, and participate in some fun, festive holidays, like culture week and teacher’s day. I will move into the health-centered curriculum with my REDES girls group, and wrap up our year together with an end of year celebration, as well as prepare my lovely counterpart Marizia to run a group on her own wherever she goes after graduation at the end of this year. I have a few loose ends at the library- finishing a policy and procedures manual, leveling new books. And we’ll keep on enjoying our favorite piece of work each week: Wednesday evening Adult English Club.

More than all these tasks to be completed, though, we are focusing on spending time with the people in our community that we have come to love so much, whether that means visiting their families, having them over for dinner, taking a bit more time than usual to chit chat, or including them all in our eventual going-away party.

I expect the next 100 days to be a bit of a blur, really. Especially considering that I am sitting here wondering where the last two years of Peace Corps have gone. So, I am committing to documenting these next 100 days with images, to give you snapshots into our day-to-day lives before they change drastically, and to give ourselves something solid to look back on after it flies by.

You can find this photo series on my newly-created Instagram: happilylostwithcece, under #100daysofmoz.  And you can look for a bit more story to accompany the images that fall on Sundays, as I will post them in my Sunday Snapshot post here on the blog as well.

Looking forward to sharing these final 100 days with you!