Yesterday Dave and I attended the wedding of Ty and Kot, two graduates from EGBOK Mission — a school romance we didn’t even know was happening under our noses last year. We met Kot soon after her arrived from her village. It’s been stunning watching her own transition from villager to student and now bride. Ty was a standout -– always volunteering to help “teacher” set up the projector or get supplies for a class. This wedding highlights how EGBOK helps make life-shifting events happen as our students find opportunity, hope and bright futures for probably the first time in their lives. It was definitely a day of celebration.
The wedding took place at Kot’s home in a very poor, rural village one hour’s drive from Siem Reap. As per the local wedding tradition, the bride, groom and bridal party changes clothes every hour throughout the day-long celebration — less depending upon the wealth of the family. We witness two spectacular clothes switches from bright blue to emerald green. A whole village attends a wedding, but not in the way I expected. Extended family members and neighbors sit on the outskirts of the festivities and eat at another time. Young children collect empty cans in hopes of earning money without ever cracking a smile. Whenever I glanced around, I’d either see a child picking up a can or spot a hungry dog scavenging for scraps at my feet. Attendees dressed in their best clothes while those on the periphery donned every day clothes.
EGBOK staff and alumni ate and drank enjoying the various courses. We were trying not to go deaf as we listened to pounding bass-driven Cambodian music blaring that made conversation nearly impossible unless you shouted in your neighbor’s ear.
No matter the decibel, whenever I hear music, my body automatically begins to twitch and shimmy, even when sitting. So there I was in default mode when I noticed a far table of Khmer guests smiling and laughing as they watched me unconsciously boogie. Not being deterred, I returned the smile, shrugged my shoulders, and continued what came naturally.
A few minutes later, one of the women came up to me, indicating I was to dance with her. Nobody was dancing but under the hot sun we found space for a dance floor. The crowd watched — most with amusement but some showed no expressions at all. After I mirrored my partner’s moves and she appeared pleased, we danced and danced. Soon, other people joined us when suddenly I found myself in the middle of a circle of people, dancing with an older Khmer man, missing one eye and smoking down his cigarette without ever removing it from his mouth.
He was gettin’ down with arms flailed in the air, body bent, hips shaking and not once did he break eye contact. I did the same and together, we cut quite the jig. We kept at it until my initial dance partner had had enough, shooing him away so I could continue dancing with her again. When it was time to leave, the woman would have nothing of the sort happen. She grabbed my arm and urged me to stay. Just one more dance she insisted…so we did.
Some other photos of the event: enjoy!