Traditional weddings in Cambodia truly test endurance

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The couple engaged in numerous rituals, this one directly in front of their parents.

The bride, bridegroom and their families arose around 3 a.m. on the day of the wedding to prepare for formalities starting approximately 7 a.m.  Preparations included the professional application of layers of makeup and the creation of elegant hairdos.

The key figures didn’t sleep again until sometime before midnight the same day following an elaborate dinner attended by a throng of 640 in a catering hall.

They also were up late the previous night, when 260 of their closest friends and extended family members joined them for a night of celebrating the upcoming union at tables set up under a tent on the street in front of the bride’s home in the Phnom Penh district of Stung Meanchey.

Little did I, who had to leave home for the wedding at 6 a.m., appreciate Continue reading

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Weddings in Cambodia usually grounded in tradition

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Since this is nothing more than a photo that I have plucked from the Internet, I have no idea who these wedding participants are.  But the bridegroom’s family certainly looks happy.

One of my Cambodian “nephews” — I am merely close to the family of five — has been talking for several months about marrying a young women with whom he works.

Like many prospective bridegrooms, “Socheat” is full of anxiety about spending the rest of his life with someone.  But he is going ahead with the planning because, he says, the bond will make his parents, her parents and her happy.

Whether he is truly in love with “Sophea” Continue reading

For many Cambodians, giving birth is perilous journey

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Far too many Cambodians live like this in the provinces, even within Phnom Penh limits, with few having either the means for or access to (or both) maternity healthcare that normally is appropriate.

This post is published verbatim with the permission of Banyan Blog, where it originally appeared. The writer’s insights are always worth reading, and I highly recommend the blog as well as its Twitter feed. The source of all but one of the photos, which I have added to the Banyan Blog post, is Kuma Cambodia, funded by a Norwegian association that goes by NAPIC.

One of the most dangerous moments in a woman’s life is giving birth, especially when access to quality medical care is not easily available.  In Khmer, the term to give birth is called “ch’long tonle” which means to “cross the river”. The elders use this phrase to describe the dangerous journey of crossing the river, which was oftentimes difficult and dangerous. Some would make it, others would drown. The phrase is appropriate in describing the perilous and uncertain journey of childbirth.

According to UNICEF, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate is 170 per 100,000 live births (2013). While the rate has improved significantly since 1990 (1,200 per 100,000), it is still one of the highest in the world. The biggest challenge is Continue reading