Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cultural Window

I'm home from Cambodia but I keep wanting to learn more. I've paid a few dollars for iPod Khmer lessons and reading Cambodian news. I'm finding news stories about people killed on the Diamond Bridge during the water festival an interesting window into the culture, values and lives of the people of Cambodia.

This young woman dropped out of school after grade eight to work in a garment factory, to contribute to her family's income. Her mother wishes for her to be reincarnated in a rich and kind family where she can go to university and live a long life.

This young woman was Muslim, a member of the Cham ethnic minority. As far as I can see, her family look and speak the same way as ethnic Khmers. She was already an orphan, living with her grandmother.

In this video, monks place what look like offerings into a hole in the bridge, and issue a blessing before reopening the bridge to traffic.

And here is a play about the effect today of the time of Pol Pot. It's in Khmer, but there is a scene-by-scene translation of the dialogue. If you read just one, read Scene Seven. It sums it up in a way. It seems from my reading of the play that everyone in the country is carrying guilt. Everyone who remembers that time had to do something to survive, and carries the guilt of what they did, even if it's just a starving seven year old girl taking rice from her baby brother.

I'm oddly homesick for Cambodia, after being there only a short time, and I enjoy hearing the language again in these people's voices.


Capt. Schmoe said...

Sounds like someone is planning to return to Cambodia!

Echojuliet said...

Anyone who has immersed themselves in another culture is familiar with this feeling. The only way I can truly describe it is to refer to one of the last scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies (Correct, I am a nerd!). After the quest is complete, the hobbits are back home enjoying a brew, and no one around them is even aware of what happened, let alone understanding of the adventure they have been on. While the Shire is still home, they know so much more of the world that their old pleasures don't satisfy as much.

Upon finishing a study tour, my professor challenged us with this: I hope you feel smaller and stupider as a result of this trip. Smaller in that you have seen that the world is bigger than you understood before. And stupider in that you realize that there is more to learn than you were previously aware of.