Monday, November 22, 2010

water festival

In some description of the TCK (third culture kid) experience somewhere (how's that for citing your source?) I remember a passing reference to how we TCKs experience the news in a less abstract way than our peers. It makes sense. I am better able to understand a riot or a prolonged drought because I've had personal experience, even if I've never been to the specific country whose tragedy is making BBC headlines.

But there's more to it than that. Being a part of a community that is spread all around the world means that sometimes things happen and I know I will be no more than a degree or two removed from the tragedy. Like the World Cup bombing in Uganda in July. Like the attack on a team of western medical workers in Afghanistan in August.

And then there are things that happen in places I have been, near and possibly directly affecting people I know and love. I've been following the stories about the stampede in Phnom Penh. Two years ago, I was there:
I got back to Phnom Penh just in time for the Water Festival. After being warned by pretty much every Phnom Penher I know (both foreigners and locals) about the dangers and discomforts of the 3-day holiday, I loved it and went all three days. The population of Phnom Penh doubles overnight and they shut off the scenic riverfront area to traffic (well, anyone not willing to pay a bribe) for a party. It’s a bit crazy. The crowds in some places are so dense you can't move (I definitely felt some opportunistic fingers trying my purse and pocket). But mostly its just fun - street food and vendors selling everything from locally made bamboo fish to cheap imported toiletries, row boat races on the river (and a 'tourism pavilion' for us white folks who get edgy in crowds) and fireworks and special lit up boats from the different government ministries and lots of concerts. After spending so much time in the last 6 months with all of this country’s problems, it was great just soak up Cambodians celebrating being themselves.
I'm doubting that anyone from my host family was there last night. They only went one day when I was there, and only to appease me. Like most city-dwellers, they preferred to stay home and watch the concerts on TV rather than mingle with the country bumpkins at the riverfront.

Still, it feels very, very close.

1 comment:

  1. So thankful. I talked to my host sister this evening and no one from the family was at the Water Festival on the third night. Some of them had gone the first day, but no one was there the night of the stampede.