Disclaimer: These are my views and do not reflect the views of the Peace Corps.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giant Buddha at the night festival.

About two weeks ago I followed my host family out to the biggest watt in our area on my bicycle. Both my front and back light holders were somehow broken, so I biked along, flashlight in hand, trying to keep up with my three host brothers on the moto. It's nearly impossible for me to describe the scene accurately, and the pictures don't do it justice. In a text from that night i described it as "Woodstock minus the sex and drugs." Everyone was fully clothed, dressed up actually, and there was a huge stage blasting Khmer music (think pentatonic). We walked around a bit and I got blessed by a monk. At least that's what I think happened. Due to the medium of the scratchy speaker, surrounded by really really loud music, I really had no clue.

Afterward, I chatted with my host-cousin who's about my age and we walked up to the giant Buddha. If I had to guess, I'd say this Buddha is around forty feet tall. He's big even for Buddha. At the Buddha, I had a culturally informative conversation about how Cambodian society views gay men and women. He said a word in Khmer that I know was offensive because he wouldn't say it until the transgender woman near Buddha left. From what I gathered, people are somewhat accepting of transgendered individuals, but they see all gay people as transgendered. There isn't really any room for someone who is not transgender to be gay. As we walked down the path leading away from the giant Buddha, he stopped to point out a group of transgendered people dancing. His English isn't great, so we generally switch off between Khmer and English in order to speak with one another. He repeated the word and stopped to stare. I kept walking and he quickly followed. "You don't want to watch them dance? It's funny." "No," I replied, "I know what it's like to be stared at here. I'm the only foreigner in our town. Everyone stares at me no matter where I go. I don't like it, and I don't think that they like it either." I'm not sure how much of my point I got across, but we proceeded back to the main gathering by the stage where I bought an over priced water bottle (17.5 cents instead of the usual 12.5) and stood for another hour until we went home.

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