Thursday, August 19, 2010

7-day ceremony

5 monks from the nearby pagoda, Wat Kdei Daung, in prayer with Rumnea's family
Okay I'm back in the groove, having arrived back from Kompong Thom tonight, just in time to catch the John Burgess book launch at Monument Books for Stories In Stone, the story behind the inscription of the Khmer temple of Sdok Kok Thom that resides over the border in Thailand. Having listened to John's take on the inscription, it's a temple that I haven't been to, so want to visit, obviously, but it was also good to hear that he's currently writing an historical novel on Angkor, that sounds as though it will be well worth waiting for. As for Stories In Stone, I'm keen to read that too. The day began early for me, with a 7am arrival at the home of Rumnea's family, in order to celebrate and remember her father, who died a week ago. This 7-day remembrance ceremony is very important for Buddhists, and whilst the body of Rumnea's father, Heng Sophal, was buried at a pagoda a few kilometres away, everyone gathered at the the family home today to say prayers with the monks and of course, eat. Rumnea and her mother, brothers and sisters were all in white, the two sons had shaved their heads and mourners from the pagoda, near and far neighbours and in excess of 100 people joined in to remember a man held in very high esteem by everyone that knew him. It was wonderful to hear how loved he was by all. But of course, incredibly sad that the family have lost their most important member. This was the first 7-day ceremony I have attended and sitting in front of the monks during their chanting was a painful experience on my legs, but one which I am so glad to have taken part in. Joining me was Kunthea, the daughter of my best pal Sokhom, and who will soon come to Phnom Penh to begin her university studies. She acted as my translator. After mid-day, Kunthea and I left Rumnea's home to head into Kompong Thom town. We visited her mother's market stall, the family's new home, her father's homemade advertising sign and then ended my very brief stay in Kompong Thom by popping into see Chhunly, another friend of mine, who has just taken up a teaching job at the American VIP school in the town. Seeing her teaching the youngsters made me feel very proud of my young friend. Three hours on the Mekong Express bus delivered me back in time for my rendezvous at Monument Books.
Members of Heng Sophal's family includes his wife at top of the picture
Rumnea in her white mourning over-clothes
Rumnea's family pass food to the monks at today's ceremony
Kunthea alongside her father's homemade street sign on national highway No 6 in Kompong Thom
Chhunly (blue shirt) having fun with her students at the American VIP school in the town
Author John Burgess scratches his head (right) during the book launch of Stories In Stone at Monument Books tonight

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Anonymous Kent Davis said...

John Burgess tantalized me with samples of his Sdok Kok Thom research over the past two years. His distinctive style makes this history readable and exciting. A lot of people are anxiously awaiting the US release of "Stories in Stone".

Meanwhile, I'm stunned to learn that there's a Khmer temple you haven't yet visited! Stunned. (-;

August 23, 2010 at 1:48 AM  

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