"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
On April 13 – 15 Khmer and Thais celebrate the New Year! I had the honor of being in Cambodia for a humanitarian aid trip during this time of year in 2007. It’s a celebration unlike any I’ve ever seen.
People are so happy, friendly, and kind. In the region it is common practice to “bless” one another with water or chalk that has been placed before religious statues. The idea is to bless one another as you head into a fresh year full of prosperity and potential. But the Khmer took it a step further. You cannot walk down the street of a Cambodian city without being pelted with water and chalk. It’s like the best water fight I’ve ever been in, and on the grandest scale by far – everyone participates! Peals of laughter, squeals of shock, and happy shouting can be heard all about.
I remember taking a van from one of the outer villages back to our quarters in Campong Cham. A friend and I volunteered to sit on the roof on the overcrowded van and off we went. The slight breeze was an oasis in a hot and humid land for me. And then we saw a bus coming up in the other lane. A couple of younger Khmer boys yelled at us from their window and we turned just in time to see bucketfuls of water stream towards us. It felt SO good after the tropical heat of the day! We shrieked in surprise and then couldn’t help but laugh.
Later that day back in Campong Cham, some of my team and I decided to ride our bikes through the city during our free time to see the festivities. People came rushing out into the street as we passed. Some of the kids had super soaker guns but most were rushing about with buckets of water and handfuls of chalk. I got a fistful of chalk in my hair and realized that it was essentially baby powder!
I have a friend in Cambodia doing aid work right now and I hope she’s getting to enjoy the New Year festivities as heartily as I did. It was such a pleasure to share in the customs and celebration of those beautiful people.