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.

Valentine’s Day in Phnom Penh

Valentine’s Day is another of the western celebrations adopted by Cambodian culture. Often known as “sex day” among Cambodian youth, the government has decried its popularity and even toyed with the idea of introducing a Buddhist celebration to compete with Valentine’s Day.
Coming home after early morning mass yesterday, I was surprised to see only these two outlets selling Valentine’s Day-themed merchandise. Usually there are many more, so maybe the government’s disapproval is having an effect. The one place was selling flowers on the curb, and for those who wanted to go over the top with their gift, this shop was selling any size teddy bear that would suit your fancy.

Where is the risk-management team?

I went to a DDP graduation today, held at a Christian church near the Chinese Embassy. Especially because it is a church, even though we were using it for totally secular purposes, Khmers would never wear shoes inside. Instead they leave them at the door–literally. In the United States the liability lawyers would go crazy at the hazard the shoes create for an organization, but here it’s just part of life. What else are you going to do with your shoes?

Lunar New Year 6

After you clean the house and buy new clothes and get your haircut; after you burn the incense and paper offerings; then it’s time to put out the food and drink offerings to really make the spirits happy.

Almost every shop has some sort of offerings on display…
A safety equipment store.
An Internet shop…but why do they have three offering tables?
Offerings outside a restaurant.
At a used car parts shop.
At a beauty salon.
Some shops put out really elaborate offerings. (I’ve noticed that the spirits really like beer. Or at least the people who put out the offerings think they do.)
This beauty salon has a rather humble offering.
This private house has a rather generous offering.
While this house’s offering is much more subdued.
This man goes all out at his house, making sure the spirits are pleased.

The End