The real thing…

Earlier this month I posted this picture to talk about the wooden shrine in the back on the right. Today I want to point out the wooden stools for customers to sit on when trying on shoes. Heavy, bulky wooden furniture is a sign that a family or a business has “arrived,” that they have made it. The wooden stools and other pieces appear in any and every kind of business. (See it in gas stations.) This shoe shop has to have the wood also and, actually, it makes more sense here where it doesn’t need to be moved much and is out of the weather.

Recognizing the Spiritual

Almost every home and shop in Cambodia will have some kind of shrine, like the one above, next to the fan. These are different from the spirit houses which most buildings will have also. The spirit houses are replacement dwellings for the spirits who were displaced when the humans erected a house or other building. The shrine above is an acknowledgement of a more active spiritual presence and the shoe store staff will every day burn incense and make offerings in the shrine.

Sunday of the Spirits

Today is Pentecost Sunday for Christians. Last week on the day of the Ascension, Jesus handed over his mission to the apostles before ascending into heaven. Today Jesus imparts his Spirit to guide and strengthen the apostles in their mission to the ends of the earth.

The Khmer culture attends to the spirits also.

In the pictures above, a dental assistant at a dentist’s office first says a prayer, holding sticks of incense (L), and then she puts the incense (M) in the shrine on the right side of the entrance. Then she puts more incense in the holder to the left of doorway.

Flower Power

It is an unwritten cultural norm here in Cambodia that any government official–or even just someone to be respected–must be graced with at least one display of flowers. Here is Prime Minister Hun Sen giving a talk during the coronavirus crisis and his desk is well adorned. Half the time the floral displays are so large they tend to hide the speaker at a podium, and they’re especially bad for deaf people who need to see sign language.

Impulse Eating

In the US, supermarkets put tabloids, chewing gum, and other items along the check out lanes so people might be tempted to buy these things on impulse while they’re waiting to check out. Here in Cambodia they have impulse food, like this cart full of small mussels from the Mekong River. You can be riding by on your motorcycle, see the cart, pull over, and without even getting off, you’ve got a bag full of shellfish to munch on.

Now that I have your attention….

A not uncommon sight on the streets of Phnom Penh are huge human figures like this one used for fund-raising for Buddhist activities. The woman with the pan collects donations and makes sure the figure doesn’t get run over. Often the figures are accompanied by a slow-moving vehicle with a loudspeaker asking for contributions.