With the poverty post still fresh on my mind, I biked home yesterday afternoon after spending the day with partners. To be quite honest, there have been multiple times now where I am so engrossed in processing everything I take in each day or looking at life happening all around me, that I have biked right by our street. But this time, I did not miss it and when I turned onto our street, I came upon the third (yes, third) Cambodian wedding held on our street this week.
Now let me start by explaining something to you. It is wedding season currently here in Cambodia, and weddings are a big deal. Not that they are not in the US as well, but this is another level entirely. Maybe these points will help explain what I mean.
1. For both weddings and funerals, huge tents are constructed that span the width of a typical street and since that is the only space available for them in the city, that is exactly where they go. And life continues to happen all around, meaning people bike and moto straight through the festivities, people come and go, to engage in the many parts of the ceremonial proceedings, and wish the couple and family luck and blessings, etc...
See what I mean? Source: I, on Cambodia Blog, www.malcolmcarter.wordpress.com
The inside is beautifully designed in colors specific to the couples liking! Source: I, on Cambodia Blog, www.malcolmcarter.wordpress.com
2. Noise regulations and violations, what's that?! The wedding festivities commonly include huge speakers, karaoke, and lots of awesome Cambodian dance music until late into the night/early morning. You may ask, doesn't this take up a lot of power in an area where infrastructure may not be the best? And you would be correct. The last wedding caused a blackout for our part of town for the better part of one night. That was a particularly warm night for me, I will admit.
3. These weddings are about family and community. And apparently, yesterday, they decided community meant me as well. Because as I biked through, they stopped me (I think mostly because I was white and some of them were Cambodians that lived abroad and returned to visit for the wedding). So long story short, I ended up celebrating Varath and Ny's wedding with them, their families, and the rest of the community. The dinner was wonderful and consisted of things like a cold asian vegetable slaw (one of my favorites), a few different curry type dishes with different sauces, meats and veggies that you eat with rice and bread, and a cold dessert made of strings of tapioca, coconut milk, some mango, and I would bet also some sweet and condensed milk (its basically a staple in desserts and iced coffee here).
During the evening, I talked to one of Ny's relatives who has lived in Melbourne since the 80's. He was granted asylum in that country after being in one of the refugee camps in Thailand, where he escaped to as a young man, alone, after the Khmer Rouge killed the rest of his family. He recounted the story as we talked. He talked about the life he had built in Australia (other family members had similar stories, some coming back for the wedding from the US and France too).
But today, this is what has me thinking in light of the poverty discussion...
In talking, he said that he adores Australia and his life there 99%. But, he went on to explain, that he is concerned with the stark differences in how different countries take care of the elderly and he worries about what will happen when he ages and cannot take care of himself.
He said "Here in Cambodia, the people may only have a little money, maybe they cannot get medicine or food, but they always have each other."
I think he just gave another perfect example of what poverty is and isn't, don't you?