Saturday, June 27, 2009

Back-breaking banter

Now, in a rare day off, enjoying the sunset at Phnom Bakheng
Now gave me a call today to tell me she's finally off into the fields to plant rice for the whole of next week. It's been held up a bit but tomorrow her whole family and other families in their village will take it in turns to plant their staple foodstuff in their rice fields, a couple of kilometres from their homes near Srah Srang, in the middle of the Angkor temple complex near Siem Reap. First it will be Now's field then the next day, everyone chips in with a neighbour's field, and so on, about thirty people in all. She's actually looking forward to it - not the back-breaking work in the scorching overhead sun - but the comraderie and banter that everyone enjoys that makes their 10-hour day go by quicker. As she just told me, she'll be there in her wide-brimmed hat, her krama covering her face and her long trousers tucked into her socks to avoid the leeches getting a grip. The weather is a bit changeable at the moment, so it could be either rice planting in hard earth or wet soil if it rains during their planting session. She prefers the latter. But what she likes the most is the break from her usual daily routine of selling souvenirs inside the east gate of Banteay Kdei and the opportunity to enjoy the company of her family and her neighbours. I've been to her village a couple of times and I can back-up that they are a happy bunch, who all help each other when the need arises. One of the books she sells on her stall is The Khmers by Ian Mabbett and David Chandler and she recalled that when she read about the importance of rice planting to the Khmer people in the book, she felt very proud that someone should write about one of the tasks that she and her family do together. I never thought about it like that before and I'm so glad that she uses the books she sells to improve her English as well as her understanding of her her own history and culture, in which she takes great pride.

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Blogger Andy Brouwer said...

Now gave me a call today to update me on the rice-planting week she's had. More than 40 of her fellow villagers and family helped to plant the rice at her field earlier this week. They worked for 3 hrs in the morning and another 3 hrs in the afternoon, and she said it was the most tiring thing she ever does, but they also had a good time as everyone knew each other and that helped keep spirits up. She's having a rest day today, and then its back in the fields to help plant the rice of other villagers, who helped her. Very much a communal exercise. The rice they plant now will be ready in December, when she and her neighbours will be back out to the ricefield, this time to collect it.

July 2, 2009 at 3:11 PM  

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