Education Conference

This is a conference on inclusive education for children with disabilities sponsored by the NGO Education Program.  It brought together this past week a lot of civil society and non-government organizations to look at the situation in Cambodia.

It looks like a normal organization meeting in any hotel in any major city anywhere, but this one had its Cambodian characteristics.  Cambodians thrive on noise–loud noise–and they always turn the PA systems up very high–and leave them at that setting.  Their technicians do not adjust the volume for each speaker as he or she comes to the podium.  The volume stays on high all the time.  And then speakers come up and yell into the microphones.  If we were in the United States, OSHA would require ear protection for everyone in the room.  Here the locals just consider it normal—and it is in this culture.  We foreigners consider it painful.

Christmas Season 2017 #1

Cambodia is 94% Buddhist and especially outside of the cities there is little understanding of Christianity, and Christmas—which people will have heard of–will be seen as just a western holiday where the foreigners wear Santa Claus costumes and decorate their homes with evergreen trees and lots of ornaments and lights.  Christmas is not celebrated throughout the culture at all but most western families and groups will mark the birth of Christ with church services and parties at Christian-based NGOs.  Click here to see how the English Catholic community began its Christmas season.

Water Festival Preparations

Every year the Water Festival takes place at the full moon in November.  Approximately two million people come from the provinces to Phnom Penh to race and watch their local boats in the three days of boat races.  The festival starts on Thursday but today, Sunday, many people were out preparing for the celebration to come.  Click here to see the scenes along the Tonle Sap River.

Pchum Ben 2017 #5

Last Sunday, before the Pchum Ben holiday began, these people were waiting under the Japanese bridge for vans and trucks to take them to their home provinces.  Today is the last day of the official holiday.  Do you think all these people will be back at work tomorrow, Friday? Nooooooo….not by a long shot.  This year Pchum Ben had the makings of a perfect holiday, with the official celebration on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Well….NO ONE could expect someone to work on Monday before the holiday, could they?  And certainly not on Friday after the holiday.  So everyone was off Saturday and Sunday before the holidays, the full work week of the holidays, and the Saturday and Sunday after the holidays–nine days off work for a three-day holiday!  Not bad, huh?

Pchum Ben 2017 #4

Last Sunday it was double parking, lots of vendors, and hundreds of people crowding the big wats in Phnom Penh in anticipation of the Pchum Ben rituals.

Now, in the middle of the three-day holiday for Pchum Ben, the wats in Phnom Penh are devoid of people.  The locals are, for these days, in their homes and in the wats in the provinces where they grew up.  Phnom Penh is largely deserted.

Pchum Ben 2017 #3

Today is the first of the three days of the official Pchum Ben holiday.  Most people have already left town, but there are always some whose departure is delayed by their jobs or other circumstances.  This morning here were some of the late-departers cramming themselves and their belongings into an overcrowded van for a trip that can’t be too enjoyable but is just part of life for the majority of the populace who depend on this kind of transport.

Pchum Ben 2017 #2

Tomorrow is the first day of the three-day public celebration of the Pchum Ben Festival honoring deceased relatives, but prayers and various activities started a week and a half ago.  This past Sunday many Cambodian people took the opportunity to visit a wat to make offerings and say prayers for their family who have gone before them in death.

Musica Felice

Ms. Miwako Fujiwara is a musician with our English Catholic Community and she is also the founder of Musica Felice, a classical choral group.  On September 10th, Musica Felice had a concert at the Sofitel Hotel in Phnom Penh.

The first half of the concert was very classical, warm, well-loved traditional choral pieces performed by a chorus recruited from various churches and from the general public. Miwako conducted.
The second half of the concert had similar music but it was performed on traditional Khmer musical instruments.
This traditional Cambodian instrument is a Cambodian harp which had to be built from old pictures and diagrams.

Pchum Ben 2017

Pchum Ben is a religious holiday celebrated in Cambodia on the fifteenth day of the tenth month of the Khmer year.  It is a time for Cambodians to pay their respects to the last seven generations of the their deceased ancestors.  The last three days of the Pchum Ben period are a major public holiday when everyone goes to his or her home village.  This year the holidays are September 19-21.

There are many rituals associated with the festival although most do not come into full play until the holidays when the populace flocks to the wats (pagodas) to pray.  Leading up to those holidays, many people, especially the elderly make visits to the wats and make offerings of lotus pods.  These are pictures of women on the streets bunching the pods together for sale.

These two women are working together, the one on the right tying the bundles and the one on the left stacking them up. Notice they also have pomelos for sale.
This woman contributes to the line of women near the royal palace selling the lotus buds. This woman is lucky to have her husband there to supervise.
This poorer woman doesn’t have all the chairs and coolers and other things but she has the basics to prepare the lotus flowers for sale.
This woman is happy with her work. I don’t know what is the white fruit or vegetable or ??? that she is also selling on the left.