Just an example of how unbelievably artist some of my students are. The assignment was to "draw your favorite place" and this student drew Angkor Wat.
Sua sa dye ch’nam t’mai! (Happy New Year!) Over the course of this year, I have already celebrated two New Years and I still have one more to go. Western New Year was celebrated in Kampot with a bunch of volunteers and Chinese New Year was celebrated in Battambang with my Khmer family, who knows what the last New Years will bring…
Chinese New Year was a riot. The first day, which was Friday, February 13 was probably the biggest day. There was a really big lunch with all of my host siblings and their spouses and children. My oldest host brother, Manlee (who is Chun Lai and Chun Liap’s dad) came home for the occasion. He has been working construction at
, which is still in Battambang, but it’s pretty far away. From what I can gather, which usually isn’t much, he is working construction on the road. The meal was amazing, as it always is. After the big lunch, I went to a meeting at the Banan Mountain UME for our International Women’s Day event, which is coming along really well. We expanded the schedule to include a workshop on public speaking, which will present a project for the students, which will be to speak to the females at their schools about what they learned at the session. It will be very beneficial to teach the girls a skill as well as presenting them with information on women’s affairs in their province and country. We ate left overs for dinner that night from the luncheon feast.
The offerings to the ancestors on the first day of Chinese New Year
Saturday was day two of Chinese New Year, as well as Valentine’s Day. If you are wondering, yes, Valentine’s Day is a huge deal here. There were stalls selling roses, blasting Khmer love songs. I did what I do on most Saturdays which was to meet up with the other volunteers in town at what we call, “The Spot” which is actually the “Espresso House Café”. That is the family that I have become friends with after the mother, who was a cook at a restaurant run by Americans quit and started her own restaurant with her husband and four children. The kids are all so hard working and they balance their education and running their small business. We always try to send people there to eat because the food is really good and they are such a nice family. Their business has been doing really well. So, we went to breakfast there then I came home for lunch with my family. While eating there, my brother Huck told me that it was Chun Lai’s birthday and there was going to be a party. I didn’t really know the protocol for birthdays, so I called up Darlene and we went to the market and bought him two trucks and a police car. Since there aren’t really any Hallmark stores here, I took the present to my friend who owns a little café/bakery/western store (the place that made my birthday cake) and asked them to help me wrap it and she did a wonderful job making it look good for him. I came home with Darlene and people starting coming in for the party. We ate a feast of shrimp, fried spring rolls and of course, rice, on bamboo mats outside of the house. We ate cake before dinner then after we ate fried water beetles, at least that’s what I think they were. They were actually really good and I ate two. They weren’t cockroaches but I don’t really know what they were. Better not to ask questions sometimes. Huck gave me some sparkling grape fruit juice, but some man (I have no idea who is he, a friend maybe?) handed me a beer and told me to drink. I didn’t really know what to do because it was the first time I was drinking with this family. Just to remind you, Khmer people don’t really sip on beers, they cheers and chug. It is always really difficult to strike a balance between not being judgmental but not getting smashed. My host cousin asked me if this is the first time that I tasted beer and I didn’t want to lie, so I said that I have tried it before. My host sister was drinking and was pretty drunk after only a few drinks. My host mother was really concerned that I was drunk and everyone kept asking me if I was drunk. I only had one beer, but that is enough to do in most Khmer people. I didn’t want them to think that I was drunk, but I also didn’t want them to know that my tolerance is probably better than most of the men there, not because I drink that much, but just because it’s in my genes to be able to drink more than the average Khmer person. My host sister’s brother in law took a liking to me and gave me a rose (that he stole from his sister in law) and gave it to me out of friendship for Valentine’s Day. It was so awkward because I didn’t want to insult this man by totally rejecting him but I also didn’t want to give off the impression that I was interested in dating him, because I’m not. The best way to avoid these situations, I have learned, is simply ignorance. Literally ignoring the comments or just pretending that I don’t understand what he is saying worked like a charm. My family was getting a kick out of it and I made a joke out of it, so it was fine. My family would probably love for me to marry a Khmer man, especially one that they know and really like. Don’t get me wrong, he is a nice guy, but I didn’t really come here to get married. If something happens, ok, but it’s not my goal. I actually had a conversation during the week with my host mother and sister about how I came to
to teach and help, not to have a boyfriend. They thought that it was funny when I explained that I am taller than most Khmer men, so I can’t have a “song saa” (boyfriend) who is Khmer because they must be taller. That night, I ended up staying up until 9:30, which is so late for me. I’m sure that they were confused when I didn’t head to bed at the stroke of 8, which is what I do every night. America
Yesterday didn’t really feel like Chinese New Year because no one at my house was really home. I was actually sort of happy that we didn’t have a huge celebration, again, because two days was enough for me. I’m not as young as I once was, so I can’t party for three days in a row.
This week is testing for grade 11, so I will not be teaching. My coteacher asked me to come and I said no, because I am not going to be involved with the tests. He doesn’t agree with my no cheating attitude (rather a think for yourself attitude) so I decided to avoid the frustration and instead get some other work done. We will be going into PP next week for 8 days, so I want to do as much work as possible for this International Women’s Day event before we leave. I will teach all through March, but there isn’t much school in April because of Khmer New Year and I will most likely be in
, so this school year is really winding down. After April, we have class in May and the tests start in June for semester 2. The time is really flying and before I know it, we will be at the year 1 mark. Vietnam
This is a close up of the New Years tree that was set up near one of the spirit houses. It's decorated with Chinese ornaments and lights. Reminds me of another holiday I know....
I will be leaving for PP on Sunday and until then, I will be tying up lose ends here and maybe even visiting an orphanage or exploring BB a little more. We all kind of realized that coming back to site after a trip sucks at first, but giving it a few days to get back in “volunteer” mode really makes it enjoyable.
Today (is in Tuesday) I taught 10Q and did laundry. I am going to set up another meeting for our event then probably just hang out with the babies. Today I was playing with both Lai and Liap and they were just beating me up. Hitting is affectionate but also out of anger. This, I guess, was affectionate, but it really hurt. Liap slapped me across the face then laughed for 5 minutes and pulled my glasses off my face. Perfect.