31 January 2011
[K'chea 3] : A happy bday beyond language
27 isn't a particularly notable number when it comes to milestone birthdays, but I have to say that it was probably the most unique celebration in recent memory. When else would you have a chorus of Cambodian primary school students serenade you? I was somewhat hesitant to share my "one year older" news on the trip, particularly since we'd be heading to our group's new work site and I didn't think turning the focus on myself would be particularly appropriate.
But lo and behold, during our introduction to the Phoem Kok Primary School (the site of our constructed latrine), Savoeun (our contact at Habitat for Humanity) said something in Khmer to the kids and subsequently announced to me that they would be singing on behalf of my birthday. I was really touched by this gesture, and even though I couldn't understand a word, it was still a great and completely unexpected way to celebrate.
That night after seeing the site, we had our first of many dinners at the local "5 star" restaurant owned by Sinouen, a woman who exuded a kind of strength and defiance both in the kitchen as master chef and in the "dining room" as proprietor. Putthy (or, affectionately known as Thy Thy) whipped out an English-Khmer birthday song along with a handful of candles, and then we ended the night with a visit to a carnival at the local wat (= temple).