the Katan festival
Last weekend we were invited for a day trip to the Svey Reng province, to the homeland of some of our staff, for the Katan festival. Svey Reng is a little over three hours SE of PP, near the Veitnamese border. We all got up at 6am Sunday morning and piled into a minibus, which was at least 15 yrs old, with Sophan (assistant director), Peseth, Sitar, Donnai (who cooks for us), and some more random Khmers. -a bit cramped, but I wasn't complaining (beats a cramped, broken pickup with spitting babies, a pee pot, etc...!)
The whole experience was really sweet. When our van pulled up to the pagoda, we were swamped by at least 50 kids, many of whom had never seen white people before. After warm welcomes from some of the villagers and relatives of Donnai and Sitar, we sat down and were served an interesting meal of fish (whole, with the works: eyes, bones, skin, etc...), fish paste (didn't even try this one- but it was apparantly so good a friend of mine almost spit it out on the table- shes so polite!). There were Khmer noodles (thank god for starch!) It was pretty amusing...also there was a crowd of people standing around our table watching us crazy caucasians eat!
After lunch, we watched the festivities inside the actual pagoda. There were about 5 monks chanting a prayer and every so often the people praying would join them in the chanting. It was pretty cool to watch. When they were finished, we joined then for a cerimonious walk around the new temple being built. Some nice lady gave me incense sticks to carry around like everyone else so I felt like I fit right in! More chanting and then it was off to Donnai's house for lunch. Wait, didn't we just eat lunch a couple hours ago? Nope, apparantly that was snack! Overall, the trip was really an awesome experience and definitely not something I could have done as a tourist!