I woke up very early this morning in Takeo to the sound of a worship band preparing for little Zoe Gabriyel’s baby dedication. Apparently, like weddings, baby dedications are big events! Allyn is Zoe’s godmother, so she stayed for the dedication while Kiet and I went up to the road to flag down a taxi back to Phnom Penh. We arrived back at the Bible school about 8:15. Not wanting to wake Kim, I ditched my bag and decided to go exploring the neighborhood.
I walked down some back roads that wind between concrete walls, homes, and little home-front shops. The roads are paved with sand, small rocks, and bits of broken tile and concrete blocks. Because of my terribly white skin (which has darkened considerably since I’ve been here!), I draw stares everywhere I go. For instance, when my foot slipped a bit on the uneven path I drew a chorus of laughter from the ladies sitting in front of one of the houses. A few bikes and a moto or two passed me on the path as I walked. A perfect stranger, but apparently a kind-hearted woman, who was slurping down some noodles in her kitchen, called out to me, gesturing with her chopsticks, “Would you like something to eat?” I wasn’t really hungry, but warmed by her gesture of friendship! Too bad I speak so little Khmer! I walked on, climbing a hill up to a main road. By this point, the morning sun had warmed me quite sufficiently, and I realized how thirsty I was. Usually, I carry my water bottle with me, but it was in my bag back at the school.
I opted to get some iced coffee at a little family-run cafe near the school. One girl, maybe 14 or 15 years old was running the cafe, and two old men wrapped in Kramas were sitting at a table, chatting and finishing their breakfast. I removed my shoes before entering, then asked the girl for some “cahve dteuk dokor.” She smiled at my poor pronunciation, and I laughed. Sure, I’m learning, but ever so slowly! While I drank my coffee, a Buddhist monk, robed in brilliant orange and carrying a yellow umbrella, stopped outside the door of the cafe. Knowing that this monk was begging food and alms for the local temple, I wondered how the girl would respond. Like a very good Buddhist girl, she took some bills from the money box and placed them in the yellow tote bag that the monk carried over his shoulder. She then knelt down and inclined her body to the ground as the monk chanted a blessing over her. The monk moved on down the street, and the girl returned to her post at the cafe. I finished my coffee, paid 30 cents, and headed back to the Bible school.
Near the gate of the Bible school, I saw an old, gray haired woman. I joined my hands in front of my face, inclined my head and greeted her, “Hello, Aunt.” Her face lit up and she started talking with me. I understood the first bit, but she quickly lost me. She walked up and grabbed my hands, still chattering to me in Khmer. When she had finished what I assume was a question, because she was looking at me as if expecting a response, I smiled and told her that I spoke very little Khmer. She seemed understanding, nodding her head and patting my hands, but she continued to rattle on in Khmer. A few moments later, she said goodbye and I returned to the Bible school, with a grin and a chuckle.
I think that sometimes it’s true- “ignorance is bliss.”