Ok so first of all I am pretty sure I accidentally published this post with only the first few words of the title so I apologize for anyone who just received MULTIPLE bongs and midgets emails - but I digress/got your attention.
Bong in Khmer is a term that refers to either an older sister or older brother - Bong Srey and Bong Pro respectively. The term is not limited at all to family members but is a common term for friends of a given age. Point is - we have lots of bongs in Cambodia - older sisters and older brothers in our neighborhood or people around town we have gotten to know. Some of our bongs serve us breakfast, some of our bongs make our drinks, and ONE of our bongs sells us our DVDs. Bong Srey Leak (pronounced 'Lay-Ahk') - aka Princess Leak aka Big Mama as she likes to call herself. Now of course this relationship has been built around the frequency that I have stopped by to buy DVDs since moving here - but the majority of time spent with Leak nowadays is nothing short of straight chilling.
What sparked the idea for this post today was the several hours I spent sitting with her in front of her shop just a few hours ago. We usually talk a little bit about movies and a lot a bit about life - there is most often eating involved with these visits. Today we consumed an entire watermelon and a plate of pork rice cakes as we chatted. We talked about the process of applying for a visa for her and her husband (and their soon to be son) to visit America in a year's time. Leak is due in May - hence the name Big Mama. We also talked about the similarities that exist regarding the Boston/New York rivalry and the way some Thai people feel about some Cambodians (and vice versa).
"It start like back in history between the governments," Leak said and then paused, stared off into the distance, and spit a watermelon seed as far as she could. "but government is government and people is people!" she finally said with a smile.
I doubt she could hold any prejudice against anyone in the world be they Khmer, Thai, or even New Yorker (maybe after a few more chats we will settle that up though).
We then talked about a few different news stories she had read that morning - one of which she found to be the funniest thing she had ever heard. Now her english is great, but certainly not perfect - she is constantly asking me to explain different words she doesnt know - but I generally got the gist of what she had to say.
"How do you say like a small guy?" she asked, holding her hands out in front of her with one above the other a couple feet apart.
I offered some attempt at political correctness "A little person."
"No but like the word?"
"Ya that one. Well he had like a wife who was like normal size and he was getting jealous whenever she would see her with like other people normal size so he like try to divorce her but like..."
She erupted into laughter and was unable to further explain any part of the story. Now I don't know why the word 'like' has become such a part of her vocabulary and I don't know EXACTLY why she thought it was so funny but I do know it was the highlight of my day. Leak embodies and in the most classy and humorous way flaunts the genuine joyfulness that nearly all Cambodians have within them.
Going to try to post some pictures from my ipod (and a video if it works) but more to come soon everybody. Much love from Cambodia.
Moving like Bernie (see youtube).