New Year, New Lessons

I thought my Khmer New Year in 2011 would be the same as previous years. I never expected it to be so productive and meaningful. As usual, I enjoyed it with my family: sisters, cousins, grandmother. Our destination this year was Laos border, through Stung Treng (Cambodia), still unknown to all of us.
Teacher-Driver
I met this driver once when I went to visit a wise old man in Kep last year. But, back then, I didn’t talk with him that much. I really love the way he speaks: sharp, clear, thoughtful, straight, long-sighted. However, when one turns 40 plus, they tend to take too firm positions sometimes! While, I, as a man, support equal opportunities for both genders, he claims that, no matter we do, men and women are still different. To an extent, he’s right. He believes there are jobs “naturally” designed for women. They can simply exploit those natural trends for their own benefits. Of course, women do best as baby-sitters, teachers, nurses and all occupations that need emotional skills. But I’m wondering why the best cooks, fashion designers, artists tend to be men! Their emotionality must be as strong as women! This even leads to the subject of LGBT. No matter how human beings are, I believe they need partners to feel complete. Single people? Maybe their partners are not humane! They can be work or dream.

Expectations from a father
When we passed by Kratie, our discussion evolved from gender to fatherhood. I didn’t tell him straight that we had trouble with our father who is seeking to get re-married. I just raised this as a Mr. Father’s case! He seemed to support the fact that a husband who lost his wife could have a new wife. As an idealist, I would say that father should remain a “widower” for the rest of his life and spend it with spiritual causes. Then, he made me realize that that son (me!) is expecting too much from his father. The father has a different mindset from his. The son can’t change him the way he wants to. The son himself should be the one to set an example for his children or the grandchildren of that father.

Suphamith Lessons
Suphamith (fortunate friend, in English) was not originally on our destination list. Yet, some Stung Treng residents suggested that we visit these cascades. We happened to also hear about this site before. So after visiting Khone Phapheng waterfalls in Laos, we “stopped by” at a dock to Suphamith. I tried to ask the boat driver for a life-jacket as I cannot swim; only to see only a few brought to my female relatives. Well, I had to take a risk to have fun! We were seated on a small, long, slim boat. As there were 9 of us, we took two boats at the same time. Our journey went down the stream of Sekong river, past an area known to be home of a few Mekong dauphins. But we didn’t take a chance to see them at all. After this area, our boats went through a wavy zone, where we felt more secure than ever. I didn’t know why those waves spilled over me in the boat while I was second in the row! But Nature didn’t disappoint us when it opened us more to its wondrous rocks that I normally found in other countries on TV. The best part was that the deeper we went into, the more rocks they gathered until we met the cascades. This proves that Nature also has its sense of order or logic and that human beings apply this to their artworks, especially to films!

Another forgettable beauty for me was the inclined trees, along those waterways. I’ve never seen such before. I believe they can never be straight as their profile is shaped by the flowing water in the rainy season. Yet, they never go away from their roots either, presumably no matter how strong the stream is. It proves to me another category of human beings. Some people just follow the trend (the stream) without knowing their direction. Others might be a little flexible, but they remain firm with their foundations and principles, just like those amazing trees.

Shoe Sharing
At the end of our adventure to Suphamith, most of my relatives stopped at the first level of cascades. I went further with my male cousin, Panha, with the guidance of gentle Lao boat drivers. Of course, the further we invaded this site, the more beautiful landscapes we could discover. Yet, I traded it off with a scar on my sole as I gave one shoe to Panha, who went there without his shoes! I felt a bit painful under the heat of April. But I’m glad that he could come this far with my shoe to stand those bumpy stones and rocks.

So during my last Khmer New Year, not only did I have fun, but also, I learned things along and all the way back and forth! I hope you make the most of every trip, too 😉

Happy belated New Year!!!

The Re-Marriage

One of my best friends has the same family situation as mine. His mother passed away several months ago, leaving his three siblings and himself. Her decease has literally changed his life ever since.

His parents met by an arranged marriage. Although his mother was very selective, she ended up being forced to marry his father in 1979. This union resulted in 4 children, with him as a second child. Since childhood, he always thought his parents were the best couple in his life until they sold their old house in early 1990s. Over time, his parents were very independent from each other. What they had in common was probably the future of the 4 children. They rarely showed each other mutual affection in front of them. He kept wondering why they could not follow all those couples he saw on movies. 
A few years later, his father invested some money in building a cluster of small houses for rental. To watch all the affairs, he needed to stand by day and night. Which means a more and more distant relationship between his father and his mother. Little did he know about what his father did when he rarely came to the house where the rest of the family lived. 
His mind was blown when hearing, a few days ago, that his father decided to get re-married, even before all the children. In fact, his youngest brother was in civil union with 2 children now, which cannot be considered a “(traditional) marriage”. Months ago, his father also forced him to get married so he would look good to relatives for a future re-marriage. In Cambodian society, at least, one child should get married before the re-marriage of a parent. But he decided not to get married yet while he couldn’t even yet convince the girl he loves. So, as passion has it, his father still made up his mind. To be fair with him and his siblings, he has just shared some properties with them so his new family won’t affect their future living. 
In his heart, he doesn’t want his father to get re-married, which would seem to him a romantic perversion against his late mother. But what could he do as our old man said he simply wanted to live with the woman who cares about him for the rest of his life? 
In the end, he and his siblings can only let him go and start facing new life realities together. They may also need to learn to live without their father, whose attention will turn more to his new family. But a happy thing is that a new father has turned up: their younger maternal uncle. This latter always come to help them whenever in trouble, especially with a current land issue with a neighbor. In short, the story proves this Khmer old proverb: “It’s better to lose a father than a mother and to sink in the river than to have a fire.
And that best friend of mine is ME…