Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Full of cake and gratitude

Every village visit makes me feel a little more comfortable in rural Cambodia. The heat becomes less overbearing, the insects are less irritating and the people smile at you like a friend instead of a crazy white girl with pink hair and a strange enthusiasm for taking photos of everything in sight.

Or, maybe, I have simply learned to stop over-analyzing.

Whatever it is, I greeted Chen Chea's family with a polite bow of the head, a smile, and a poorly pronounced 'jum riip sou''. It is always impressive to see how far she is progressing in just a few short days. Outside were large squares of material covered in rice being dried in the sun. I had seen these in Vietnam and other parts of Cambodia, but hadn't yet had the chance to touch it, or ask questions to people who spoke good enough English to answer me.

Every few minutes, Chen Chea's mother would leave the team doing the casting and go to tend to the rice. I had always known her mother to be generous. On one occasion, she sent us back to Takmau with a few banana leaves full of sticky rice. Today, she had made for us some mouthwatering palm sugar cakes, similar to a banana muffin in Australia but much, much tastier. We were already full of cake and gratitude when she offered us another cake. I couldn't refuse.

Just when we thought that somebody couldn't get any more generous than that, she said that she would like us to take with us a bag of the rice that she has been drying out. Situations like this can be very difficult, because while it is amazingly nice of them, you also become aware that this is their livelihood. Joanna simply said that she wants to do what is most polite, because she didn't want the lady to feel as if we thought her rice ''wasn't good enough for us''.

After a brief translation, Chen Chea's mother explained that she will sell the rice for income generation instead.

Cambodian people are just so generous!

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