Saturday, June 27, 2009
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.