Tradition (Khmer-style)!

Note to self (while in Cambodia): Weekends are not for sleeping in; they are devoted to weddings, with all the pomp, circumstance and insanely pumped-up music. Oh, and they typically begin at the godly hour of 4 or 5 a.m. Yes, way, way before sunrise.

Alas, nobody warned me about this time-honored tradition. So, imagine my surprise when I was shaken awake in what felt like the middle of both nights, to the sounds of out-of-tune synthesizer, badly tuned drums and a singer’s voice that can best be described as mimicking a violinist wreaking havoc on his single-stringed instrument.

What to do at 5 o’clock on a Saturday morning, nowhere to go, nothing to do but listen to the howling dogs (those who live in Barking Dog Alley just behind my guest house room), probably screeching against all the marriage music mayhem?

Perhaps it was not a coincidence that the movie I watched last night, just after sunset, in the sweltering heat, underneath the buzzing fan was The Fiddler on the Roof. It is undeniably surreal to watch this classic Oscar-winning film with subtitles, wondering all the while: how do they translate names like Tevye and Yentl into Khmer? What did they do with all that Yiddish?!

This afternoon, yet more weddings were being set up and dismantled – one on the side of a highway – with yet more ear-splitting sounds and ostentatious decor and costumes.

Tradition. Whether in the shtetls of the Ukraine or along the dusty roads of Cambodia, old habits die hard.


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