Friday, July 07, 2006
Road trip to Kampong Chhnang to Cultural Museum of Cham People
On Friday, I was surprised with another road trip. This time, I ventured to the province of Kampong Chhnang to attend the opening ceremony of the Cham Cultural Heritage Center. The Cham people are the largest ethnic minority in Cambodia who originally came from Vietnam. I was seated up front by the podium with the other NGO representatives. Of course, the speeches were all in Khmer so I had very little idea what is being said; I only understood the general discussion. Well, once all the NGOs finished their talks, my boss suggested I should say a few words! Talk about being put on the spot! My training as an interculturalist really paid off here.
After the opening ceremonies, everyone brought out their cameras. One man, possibly the professional photographer, wanted a picture of me with him. (Keep in mind I was the only white person there). As I was standing there, an older woman got in the picture wanting her picture with me; the same happened with a younger woman. Finally, the photographer set his camera timer, ran to me, and put his arm around me for the picture. I can only imagine the future stories that will go through the village. Nonetheless, the Cham people were wonderful, hospitable (they fed us), and generous. When we left, Cham villagers gave us each a bag of cakes made from rice, eggs, and oil sprinkled with sugar. It is much the same as a funnel cake and very tasty. The picture of the tree with the woman on the left and the man on the right has these decorative cakes hanging from it. The picture of the young girls with the colorful turbines shows them giving the NGOs these cakes as gifts.
The final two pictures are from the truck on the way to this province. You can see the houses are on stilts. This entire area will flood in 2 months time. Although you cannot see it, the picture with the dirt road and the shacks on the side is actually about 15 feet above the ground. The river will rise to that level so the road is just above the flooded river!