Tinkers are part of the American tradition, the men (I never heard of any women tinkers) who traveled with their load of pots and pans and metalware through the rural areas of the country. Cambodia has literally tinkers (although the metalware today is made of plastic) but there are a plethora of other itinerant vendors, too. This man sells brightly colored sheets and blanket and pillows and bolsters. I’ve often wondered what life is like for these individuals on the road from dawn to dusk and perhaps not selling anything all day but still needing to put gas in the motorcycle and provide something for the family to eat that day.
For quite a few years the Pentecost liturgy at St. Joseph Church in Phnom Penh has brought together the English, French, Khmer, and Korean-speaking Catholic communities at one mass presided over by Bishop Olivier. All of these communities have used St. Joseph Church as their base at different times, meeting in different buildings at different times on the weekend. Today we had our gathering and a central part of the ceremony was the conferring of the sacrament of confirmation on 37 mostly young people. Here, dressed in traditional Khmer garb and traditional sitting position, they listen as Bishop Olivier has an opening prayer. Because of the large crowd when all the communities are together, the liturgy was held on an outside stage covered with a light tenting to keep everyone out of the sun.
WANTED: CHICKENS (Dead or Alive)
We got ’em both….
On a recent trip to Kampot Province, we visited our DDP House hostel for students in our Education Project just as they were finishing their lunch. They take turns doing the chores and it was this young man’s day to wash the cooking pots.
This is a motorcycle loaded up right across the street from the Maryknoll office where I live. Probably most families run some kind of small business on the side, and every morning the man who owns this motorcycle loads it up with boxes of snack foods that he stores in his house and delivers them somewhere. It’s just part of the culture. As you can see there’s not much room for the driver to sit.
Overtaking this woman from behind, at first I thought it was a Muslim woman with a hijab since the head covering was under her helmet as a hijab would be. But then when I got beside her to take this picture, I saw that (I think) it is just a light veil or shawl that she is using to block the sun, protecting even her face, and it is thin enough that it would fit under the helmet. For many Cambodian women, keeping their skin lighter in color is just about as demanding a principle as following Islam for the true believers. Notice this woman makes sure that not even her hands are exposed to the sun.
Traffic in Phnom Penh is incredibly bad due to an incompetent government’s lack of control and planning. Now we are in a two-week campaign period before commune elections and the traffic has devolved to insanely bad because of all the demonstrators wandering the streets in large caravans of vehicles.
When I left the church Sunday on a motordupe (motorcycle taxi), the highway was blocked by hundreds of political demonstrators riding on their motorcycles and dump trucks and cars. My driver tried to detour through a back alley and for the first 100 feet it worked. Above, our traffic on the right is stopped but the opposing traffic on the left is still moving away from the demonstration a block ahead of us.
The Cambodian psyche, though, when traffic is stopped cannot abide an open space and so when the opposing traffic a block ahead also got stopped and the left lane became empty, the right lane traffic moved over to fill up that lane, too.
Of course, just as our southbound traffic was inching along when possible, so the northbound traffic tried to do the same but was blocked by the southbound traffic that moved into the northbound lane. Here the man with the face mask is trying to weave his way northbound through all the southbound vehicles now in his lane.
Finally everything just stops with gridlock caused by vehicles going in all direction. No one gets angry or shouts. Cambodian drivers just accept it as the way it’s supposed to be. It took us 25 minutes to go one block. The Kingdom of Wonder….
This year we have an especially large group of young men and women in our English Catholic community who are graduating from secondary school and moving on to universities. At our mass this morning we recognized them and gave them a blessing as they all prepare to depart to other countries for the next phase of their education. From L to R: Charlotte, Bea, Miriam, Mikael, Juliyus, and Manuel. Congratulations to you all!