It’s Saturday morning now in Phnom Penh. Last night I was trying to do an update here on the website but a convergence of hardware, software, and scheduling gremlins intervened. After opening and working on the computer twice and after re-installing some programs, I think I’m back on the air now.
Cambodia has lots of good things about it. It also has more than its share of quirks, superstitions, anomalies, corruption, and downright ignorance. An example of the last is this $20 bill from the U.S. I tried to pay for some groceries in the big foreigner supermarket using this bill and they wouldn’t accept it because of the red corner. Any bill with a dirt spot or stain, a slight tear, a strange marking–No, we can’t accept that. The fact that the U.S. Government will accept it carries no weight. The majority of people just feel that somehow a marking invalidates a bill although their own currency is often in tatters with all sorts of marking, tears, tape, etc. In the defense of some of the non-accepting people, they know it is valid but they also know that THEY can’t pass it off to other customers so they will be stuck with it.
Yesterday one of our Pakistani refugees here in Cambodia was able to go to Japan where he hopes to start a new life. Our St. Vincent de Paul Society in the English parish has been working with ten families who have fled religious persecution in Pakistan, and Saturday night we got two more newly arrived families. There is a limit to what we can do. In the past two weeks I have been asked for $46,000+ for refugee needs. We just don’t have that. The persecution is real, though, and people are fleeing for their lives.
To be centered in God alone does not mean to have no interests but God. It means to realize that all other interests are meant to bring us closer to God. They are not meant to take God’s place in our lives but to enable God’s spirit to enhance the meaning of everything else.
We’re in the rainy season now in Cambodia. It should stop about now but with climate change, the seasons have been extended later and later in recent years. One thing is sure: as soon as it looks like rain, the bunches of plastic rain ponchos sprout on poles and store fronts everywhere. Click here to see some of the poncho blossoms.
Today was the first and most important day of the Pchum Ben festival in which Cambodian people honor their deceased relatives and ancestors. They all go to their home provinces for this so Phnom Penh becomes quite empty and peaceful. I had to go to a 6:15 AM mass across town and took a few photos coming and going.
Shops normally bustling in the morning are all closed up. Three very well dressed adults go visiting on a motorcycle. One man celebrates the holiday sitting in front of his shop. Two boys return from buying some takeaway food for the family for breakfast.