“So, whatcha do this weekend?’ a colleague asked making friendly Monday morning talk. “Oh we went to Stockton.” I replied nonchalantly. “Really? Willingly?” he asked with a look of confused disgust. Then finally he sputtered out “but . . . why?”
Why it was Cambodian New Year, silly! Browsing about looking for things to do this weekend I came upon a listing for a New Years celebration at the Wat Dharmararam, a Cambodian Buddhist Temple. What a better way to celebrate Easter?* The place was a complete trip. Probably close to 20 hand painted huge Buddha statues depicting the story of the Buddha’s life. Not to mention hundreds of Cambodian families sitting on the ground in the shadows of the statues with Asian pop music was blaring from the stage. It truly felt as if we were in a foreign country.
As the boyfriend and I made our way along the statues we noticed that all the signage was in Cambodian with nary an English translation in sight. We went up to the information booth to see if they had a hand-out or something that could tell us in English what we were looking at. A kindly young American monk stepped out of the booth and offered to be our tour guide. We spent the next 45 minutes walking around the grounds as Boo, our new monk friend explain Buddha’s life story, his own life story, and amusing tales of being the only non-Cambodian monk in the monastery.
We ended our tour in the Temple, which doubled as a dining hall. Unlike some of the other Buddhist temples I’ve been in, this was not particularly ornate, nor at all formal. Again, there were many Cambodian families camped out on the ground eating. Eventually, an elderly Cambodian monk took to a throne-like chair. “He’s going to give a talk now.” I got all excited and prepared to find myself a seat, until Boo stopped me with a simple question, “so, how’s your Cambodian?” Riiiiight. So, we hung out a bit longer to soak in the festive vibe amidst all these amazing statues – some gaudy, some scary, and some incredibly serene. It was a good day.
* I really don’t do Easter. I mean why should I? I’m not Christian, I don’t have children and I don’t get a day off of work for it, so the point is . . . ?