Street signs in Cambodia are erected and used in a different way here than they are in other countries. Click here for some samples of Phnom Penh street signs.
Today is New Year’s Eve and all Chinese should be home with their families for the reunion dinner. If you were out and about, however, and needed a few last things for the dinner, you may have encountered this crowd at Lucky Market.
Tomorrow (Monday) is New Year’s Eve, one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar, the re-union dinner when all the family MUST be home. Today, Sunday, gave people a little time to prepare for tomorrow.
Another essential element for the proper celebration of the Lunar New Year is chrysanthemums. And they are out in full force on the streets now, ready to decorate every house with any Chinese heritage.
More signs of the approaching lunar new year are appearing. Today I passed a woman on the street who was washing traditional Chinese figures and symbols used to celebrate the New Year. They were probably stored away in a box all year and very dusty.
After washing the figures, the woman dried each one with a yellow towel. As I saw her handling them, I was wondering if she has a favorite figure just like some of us had favorite Christmas tree ornaments that we would look forward to displaying each year.
Just a little over a month ago, local shops were displaying red Santa Claus suits. They are one way a culture that knows nothing about Jesus and Christmas can participate in the Christmas merriment through their children.
Now those shops are selling red suits again, but this time in preparation for the Lunar New Year. Most people in North America and Europe speak of the Chinese New Year but Lunar New Year is a more appropriate and inclusive label because all the chopsticks countries (Korea, Japan, Vietnam, etc.) celebrate the Lunar New Year, not just China.
A recent trend in advertising in the kingdom is the use of inflatable figures set out on the street to beckon to customers. Click here for some examples.
Faintings by factory workers are a regular occurrence here. They do all kinds of tests, improve ventilation, advise the workers to eat better, get more sleep, whatever, but I don’t think that’s going to change a thing. For whatever reason, it’s a cultural phenomenon with its own expectations. One young woman faints for some reason–or maybe just suggests that she feels funny or something–and that is the trigger, giving permission for everyone else to “faint” too. There’s probably no problem. It’s just what you’re supposed to do. I suspect the best response is to have a section of clean factory floor and just lay them side by side until they decide they’ve been on the floor long enough and them let them go back to work. Taking them to clinics, etc., probably doesn’t help and just perpetuates the problem.
This morning I was riding a motorcycle taxi (a motordupe) across town to our 10:00 AM mass, just like I do every Sunday, and I was thinking it was strange that this microfinance place was open on Sunday.
Then it dawned on me: “This isn’t Sunday! It’s Christmas!” and I considered how it’s just like a Sunday with all of us off from work and going to mass and that I would have the afternoon after mass to catch up on some paperwork.
Then it further dawned on me: “Wait! This isn’t Sunday! And it is Christmas, but it’s a work day in Cambodia” where 94% of the population is Buddhist with zero interest in Christmas and the birth of Christ. As I saw this woman dusting off the wares in her little shop, I realized that this afternoon after mass I would be heading back to work at the Deaf Development Programme. “It’s Tuesday!”, just an ordinary Tuesday and an ordinary workday for all of Cambodia except for the few of us Catholics who had a service on Christmas morning.