I teach dance in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and one of my Khmer friends from work asked me to present a contemporary dance duet at her wedding. Leak was having two weddings: one for her family in Battambang and one in Phnom Penh. I asked one of my dance students, Dara, to perform with me. We practiced our routine for weeks, then off we went to Battambang for the first edition:
The day begins at 5:45 a.m., but while my 18-year-old student Dara and I are bleary-eyed, the wedding tent has already taken over the street and music is blaring when we arrive. I’m ushered inside to find my friend Leak being turned into a goddess by a team of makeup-and-hair artists.
It’s always fun and interesting to receive a visit to the Girls Trek Too blog from guest trekker Gillian Rhodes, a young American expat in Cambodia. She made the following daytrip last fall, three-and-a-half-months into her eight-month stint as a dancer/choreographer in Phnom Penh:
By Gillian Rhodes
The girl sitting next to me looks terrified. But when I say quietly, “Sok-sa-bai, own?” (How are you, little sister?), she smiles briefly, before her brow re-furrows and the look of concerned fascination returns.
When I say quietly, “Sok-sa-bai, own?” (How are you, little sister?), she smiles briefly, before her brow re-furrows.
Gillian Rhodes is spending eight months in Cambodia to teach choreography workshops and produce an evening that shows the fusion between contemporary and Cambodian classical dance. In the meantime, she’s alone in a country completely alien to her – her last time abroad was in Paris. Here’s an account of her first day in Phnom Penh:
Markets, Khmer, and Tuk-tuks
by Gillian Rhodes
How should I begin? With what, doing where, going how? I don’t usually have expectations about things, so I can’t exactly say it’s what I expected, but it is…It is, as expected, nothing like anywhere I have ever been.
Often you’ll see the moto taxis with one or two people sitting on the back. (photo © Axel2001 | Dreamstime.com)
Let’s start this way: the roofs are colorful. Flying in, it’s a mess of color: green of the trees, brick red, deep blue roofs, white, everything else thrown in for kicks. On the street, you don’t see the colors of the roofs, but it’s still a mess: umbrellas, carts, restaurants without front windows. The streets are packed with motos and tuk-tuks and a few cars, and nobody seems to care which side of the road you drive on. The motos weave in and out of everything – often you’ll see the moto taxis with one or two people sitting on the back. And if you walk down the street, the drivers – moto and tuk tuk – will offer rides incessantly.