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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Another Cambodian Holiday (as told to Taylor)

This morning I woke up and biked to my school directors house. Today is international human rights day, or something like that. I think they made it up. Cambodians love holidays. It works out sometimes. Anywho, I head to his house, he tells me, "be there at 7:30 or you can't come." To the watt that is. He's got a car and is going to drive. So I bike 10k to his house and get there at like 7:20. It turns out the watt was 4k away. I wait around at the house until 8 am, which would have been awkward, but I don't even know what that means anymore. We hop in the car, an old camry, with grampa three kids, pappy, mams, and myself. Two more kids follow along on a moto. I don't know anyone except pappy and just barely, he works at the school and so do I. He doesn't really speak English. Although, he did hand me a loaf of bread when I showed up and said "eat." That of course made me love him. It's the secret to my heart, bread that is, or just food really. Cambodian bread is pretty good. I think they stole the recipe from the French.

Then we drove the four k to the watt and there's a bunch of Cambodians standing around.

A picture inside the watt.

I am, of course, the only foreigner, and pappy decides to go have a smoke with his buddies and leaves me chillin’ with the family, who I’ve only just met. So I smile, and make small talk: "Have you eaten rice already?" "How many brothers and sisters do you have?" "What do you do in your free time?" I swear there's like the same 10 questions that you always ask and get asked by anyone. Maybe we have it in English too, but it seems so uniform here. Afterward we begin the march. Picture me all dressed up, holding an offering bowl that's cutting into my wrists, following a dancing puppet around a Buddhist temple: The vice principal’s daughter followed me as I marched taking pictures with my camera. I didn't even realize...she took like 25 pictures too.

I was here because ol’ pappy had invited me the day before and I think it may have been one of those offhand "hey do you want to come?" things, but I figured it would be a good way to integrate a bit more. And we’d just had a P.C. presentation on integration that stuck with me, so I said yes. I'm not exactly sure whether it was a religious ceremony or not. I didn’t really know what people were saying. I just kinda followed along and then there's this ceremony where everyone sits uncomfortably for 40 minutes while monks speak in a language that no one understands (it’s not Khmer). I asked ol’ junior about it and he said he had no clue. Then, and here's the best part, they chuck flowers at you and wand water at you. I got hit with monk water today.

Afterwards everyone watches the monks eat and then they leave. So then, I eat a giant meal sitting on the floor in a circle with people all around me. My legs are cramping like no other. The food's great though, but I'm eating with my hands, which aren't washed, and we're on the floor, and there's non-dewormed dogs prowling about inside. Almost everyone is barefoot and has walked where we are eating, but I felt that wasn't a good time to get all prissy, though I may regret it in a few hours. I proceeded to eat, fish and egg scramble, meat and peanuts with pepper, fish soup with potatoes and green stuff, very-likely-unwashed raw vegetables, something green, and then unshelled baby shrimp with fish paste. A feast to say the least. It was all Khmer traditional food, some of it was freakin amazing and some I quickly learned to avoid.

Then we hopped in the old camry and bumbled our way back to pappy's. I’m going to try and learn to cook the good stuff, so you can all try it. As soon as we got out of the car, pappy began to set up meal two. I didn't plan for a meal two. I was really full from eating at the watt, but it’s a big deal to eat food, especially as a guest. I was served another giant bowl of rice, bowl four in the last 30 min, and force fed. After the meal, we looked at family photos for a bit and then I raced home and booted up the computer, trying to catch up with Josh on Skype. The end.

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