I’ve been sick lately, battling some Cambodian version of a cold that my body isn’t used to. I told the students that I’d make a brief appearance at the school for the holiday festivities, and so I pedaled my way over at around 10am. There was a small stage set up with giant speakers, and a lone singer performing for a shy crowd. It reminded me of the beginning of junior high school dances in the states. The boys were all together. The girls were all together. No one was dancing. Feeling sick, and slightly overwhelmed, I played the passive role of an observer. I walked around and said hello to some of my students and fellow teachers. What really struck me was the way that people were dressed. In an informal interview with my students before, I’d ascertained that it is culturally appropriate to wear black pants and a white shirt. The very same students who’d told me this showed up decked out in their freshiest attire (The word “freshy” was invented by Cambodians and is commonly used here to describe in-style people or clothing, and, as an English graduate, I reserve the right to make up words, thus “freshiest” was born). Even one of my teachers came dressed in his freshiest. Picture a man in his late thirties wearing skinny jeans and a tight-fitting long-sleeve Waldo shirt. The school director, having come from a meeting with the educational big-wigs, was appropriately dressed as a naval captain.
The captain, in a manner appropriate for his attire, delivered a speech to rally the troops, well, students that is, to start dancing. Leading the way, dressed in his brilliantly white suit, surrounded by students dressed in what is nearly our equivalent of well clad boyscouts and a few freshy boys, he began a circular dance around a tree.