Nobody home….

Today is the second day of the three-day Pchum Ben Buddhist holiday honoring the spirits of deceased relatives. For Pchum Ben, everyone must go to their home village in the provinces so that Phnom Penh is largely empty as evidenced by this row of closed shops a long a normally VERY busy road. The resultant minimal traffic makes it wonderful for me getting around on my bicycle.

Wat’s in a name?

I remember one time, almost twenty years ago, that one of my staff told me that a wat (Buddhist pagoda) was asking us to put our DDP name on the wall. I had no idea what that meant and couldn’t get a good explanation so I said we’d pass. Later I found that it is the custom for the monks in wats to solicit donations from people, and those who contribute get their names carved in stone in recognition of their generosity. The brown marble plaques above immortalize some such donors on a Phnom Penh wat wall.

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.