Monday, June 29, 2009

Favorite Things

One of the things I will miss about Cambodia is that even if you have a less than exciting day, your still in Cambodia with little surprises around every corner.

It rained heavily yesterday afternoon so I wasn't alarmed that the concrete courtyard of my house was flooded with about four inches of water when I got home from work. Luckily, the rain had ended about an hour before so the water was not murky. I paused, watching the little bubbles popping up through the cracks in the concrete, took off my shoes and rolled up my pants (white leather flip flops don't do well with sandy water). The little girl who lives down stairs at my house ran inside to get a big red bucket and I was trying to figure out if she would attempt to float me through the water with it.

Then something moved on the roof of the small warehouse next to our house. Stupid horny cat, I thought, guessing this was the creature whose yowling makes me cringe. But then I noticed its unusually long tail. And long limbs. And face. It was a small, pale monkey! I have never seen a monkey anywhere in Phnom Penh besides Wat Phnom park and, though my land lady said there were monkeys near the house, I was pretty surprised.

I started pointing at the monkey frantically as it crawled between the wooden openings of the roof. The land lady's husband, in only his plaid boxer/short things, plodded out into the water and looked up too. Unfortunately, the monkey was gone by then and I didn't know how to communicate that in Khmer. So I shrugged and waded over to the stairs to my porch. By then Alida (little girl) was back with the bucket and gave it to her dad and pointed at me. I tried to say I didn't need it but he came over to me on the stairs. And then he poured water from the bucket over my feet with a joking, "Oooh!"

I laughed, said thanks and headed inside with a warm fuzzy feeling. This place and the people here continue to amaze me.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Glitter and Glamour

I have a theory that when it comes to glamour, no one does it better than Cambodians. This was confirmed at the wedding of Martha, my coworker Savannary's eldest daughter. Vannary, Martha and the family were kind enough to invite me to watch the many ceremonies that make up a Cambodian wedding.

The wedding started on Sunday with a blessing by monks and offerings and continued Monday with the fruit procession and more ceremonies. All the ceremonies take place in the front room of the bride's house, which is emptied of funiture and then bedazzled with red and gold ribbons and flowers. Relatives come to witness and take part in the different steps. The rituals included "hair cutting," feeding each other in bed, offerings to the parents and blessings by those in attendance. And for each one there were different outfits! Marta wore at least eight different traditional costumes (that I saw). Each step was filmed and photographed with such tenacity that the camera men were kind of like hired paparazzi.

The wedding concluded with dinner and dancing at Chenla theater for about 980 guests. I have to admit, I was a bit tired after just attending all the events. I gotta have respect for Vannary and her family for organizing everything and hosting so many people. I remember hearing people comment on huge, extravagant weddings in the U.S. and I think I can safely say that those don't hold a candle to the kind of weddings that go down here.

Watching all the little steps in the process of Martha and Teathe's wedding, I was awed by how long it takes and how everyone is involved. It really is a gathering of family to support and bless this new union. In one particular rite, the bride and groom bent over golden cushions and held an ornate sword. Friends and family, starting with the parents, tied red strings from a bowl of flower petals and water around their wrists and blessed the couple. They also put money between their hands and the sword. It reminded me a little bit of the dollar dance that you see at some weddings in the States....but with more meaning and glam.
Ready for their blessing.

Relatives throw flowers after the blessing ceremony.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Done riding elephants

Summary of May's trip to magically Mondulkiri:

lots of green space

lots of rain, lightning and house-shaking thunder

lots of bugs

many water falls

many hours in the car

good food

good friends

And I am done riding elephants after four hours on top of a giant purring, tree munching one.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pomp and Circumstance Shout out

Congratulations to Braden Cook on graduating from high school tomorrow! I received a scrolly, orange and black announcement and this dashing photo today. Of course, I had to show it off around the office. Coworkers expressed congratulations and some concluded that Brady and I look nothing a like. I told them, “Wait until my mother is here next week.”

While trying to describe my relationship to him in Khmer I accidentally called him my son (goan proh). I corrected myself but the slip made me think how much I miss him. I have admit to feeling a little maternal about my siblings, especially the youngest, but that is pretty typical of us fretting, older sister types.

Joking about family resemblance and mixed Khmer nouns aside, I am really, really proud of my little brother. He rocks and I can’t wait to see what shenanigans and adventures await him.