Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Suor sdei from Cambodia

Suor sdei is a traditional greeting in Cambodia. Can you find Cambodia on a map? Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos were once part of an area called IndoChina because they are located midway between India and China. Long before it was IndoChina it was the Khmer Empire centered around Angkor Wat. Do you ever wonder what the United States will look like in a thousand years? We do when we visit archeological ruins. Today Angkok Wat is a huge archeological site made up of many temples. The oldest was built a thousand years ago. About seven hundred years ago the area was invaded. Many of the temples were destroyed and slowly most of the people moved away and the jungle covered everything. When foreigners visited the area in the 1800s and saw how impressive the area must have been they began to remove the trees and open it up to visitors. Our favorite temple area is Ta Prohm because they have left some of the tree roots in place so people can see how the jungle took over. They say the jungle is a “destroyer and creator.” It destroyed many of the temples as the huge roots pushed the stones apart but then created a beautiful natural area. Much of the history was destroyed by the people who invaded but one stone was discovered that had writing on it. It said the Ta Prohm was surrounded by 3,140 villages and it took 79,365 people to maintain the temple, including 18 high priests, 2740 officials, 2202 assistant and 615 royal dancers. When Angkor Wat was a large city London was a small town and New York City didn’t exist. It makes us wonder what our area will be like in a thousand years. Will global warming make the oceans rise and cover London and New York?

After we explored the temples – it takes many days to see everything and much of it is still covered by trees – we walked down a path to a small village. In the village we saw people weaving baskets that they sell to visitors. In some ways they are living much like people did hundreds of years ago. Some of their houses are built on stilts and are very basic. They get their water from wells and do their cooking outdoors over an open fire. In some ways they are modern because they have televisions and cell phones. The children were just coming home from school. Many of them were on bikes.

We visited a small orphanage. At the orphanage the children looked very well cared for. All the boys sleep in one room and the girls in another. They go to the local school but also get classes in English at the orphanage. The children are learning the music and dances of their Khmer culture. They performed traditional dances and sang for us. We really enjoyed watching them. Tourists love to see the dances so some of the children may be able to get jobs when they are older at one of the many hotels singing and dancing for the guests.

From the Angkor Wat area we took a boat for six hours through a lake that was so big we could not see the shore and then down Tonle Sap River to the capital, Phnom Penh. Many people live along the river so it was very interesting to see their villages. In Phnom Penh people live a modern lifestyle. Cambodia has suffered through many wars but now there is peace and life is improving.