16 November, 2012

Khmer Holidays

Cambodian holidays can be compared to those I experience in Hawaii or Spain.  They happen often and last for days (or weeks!).  This past week was the beginning of the month of giving.  It’s kind of like Jerry Lewis MS Telethons I watched in my youth; except that it isn’t only a few days.  Basically this is the month to give back; to give to your local Buddhist Temple (or Wat).

Wat’s all over Cambodia were cleaned up, decorated and gardens/grounds given special attention.  The adjacent Wat Oport was no exception.  We gave our kids their holiday special bonus (around 25 - 50 cents) and they came and went all day showing me their snacks and such goodies as the horribly creepy monkey king masks!

Wayne mentioned to a couple of the kids that he would go over that evening after meditation.  The kids were estatic!  Wayne doesn’t leave Wat Opot much; a visit to Phnom Penh or to the local market once a month or so.  The news spread like wildfire and soon mobs were running up to me stating the big news and asking if I was going too.  When I said I would go with Wayne, you would have thought the King of Cambodia himself was coming. 

 As promised, after meditation we cleaned up and headed to the Wat.  With the new fence around the property, we can’t just walk “out our back door”, we have to go down the road, turn right, walk 40 feet and then turn right again. 

The first thing we saw (and HEARD) was the movie the kids were talking about all day.  A huge white material was hung between trees and the video is cast onto it.  What you see in the below photo is actually the movie showing thru the sheet; a reversed interpretation of the actual show.

Then there’s the food and drink stalls, toys, balloons and other little carnival type vendors.

The Wat was lit and decorated showing it’s colorful beauty.  Lost souls (orbs) or dust spots, you decide.

Of course the beautiful smiles are just as bright!

And the special holiday snacks!  Veasna is enjoying (as Wayne and I did) these sweet puffy bread-type treat.  They are kind of like breeding cotton candy with a stale crepe.  With them priced at a whopping 2 for 500 reil (12.5 cents) who can resist!  Venot  entertained us while Wayne posed with a group.

and those creepy masks multiplied!

On the way back, I was offered some treat in a plastic bag with the reassuring words “Melinda ot trei ru sach (no fish or meat). I was still hesitant about sticking my hand into a bag in the darkness and then putting the contents into my mouth, so I said, “Wait” and pulled out my camera to have a look.

Once the contents confirmed, I put a bit on my tongue.  It was like the dried pounded rice snack I had in Nepal.  Not necessarily good, but not bad either.

Once back at the house, the kids looked over their treats like it was Halloween. But Miss Kunthea quickly fell asleep because she was not feeling well; Chuchi the dog didn't last long either since running around protecting the children all day is tiring!

As I was getting ready to head back to my room, I looked up and let out a yelp.  Miss Srey Nou was just standing in the doorway with that dreadful mask on!  It really is creepier in person; the photo makes it look funny.  But it is definitely not.  As she joined the others in laughing at my reaction, I said, “I want those masks gone tomorrow!” and then smiled, looked at her now mask-less face and said “Srey Nou that was not funny, you almost made kñom chu nom ca (pee my pants)!”  I left them laying on the floor giggling at my expense as I headed in the dark to my room…keeping a watchful eye for another glowing plastic face coming at me.