Friday, April 26, 2013

The Ouk Family

The Ouk family we knew before April 4th, 2013
The growth of our Ouk tree.
The first family members we saw (from my dad's side). We met in hallway of our hotel. Dad is in the lime green shirt and his oldest sister in his arms.

Dad's family in front of Angkor Wat
Me and Saran with a few of our cousins at Angkor Wat
Dad's youngest brother mentioned in the "Haunting of the Khmer Rouge" post
Dad jumped in the Cambodian folk band at Angkor Thom
Uncle Noe shows musical talent runs in the family and sings with the band (like dad who sings in two Cambodian bands back home)
Uncle Noe
Military in the family
Mom's side. Cousin, auntie (mentioned in "Some Cultural Experience" post, Dad, cousin, cousin, Mom, auntie and uncle.
More cousin's and second cousin from my dad's side in Takeo. Lady in green is dad's youngest sister.
In the back of the truck with cousins
Round Baby eating a round fruit

Round Baby staring at momma

Round Baby in clothes

Round Baby and Saran. Mom's sister in red and cousin in blue.

Round Baby and his round head

Round Baby and me
I call him "The Round Baby." One of my cousin's son. He's the round baby because his head is round, his eyes are round, his face is round...just a darn cute baby.

Unfortunately we don't have down all our cousins, aunts and uncles' names. We often just call each other uncle, aunt, brother or sister and we all respond. There are so many more cousins we met but didn't get all their photos. Now that we found everyone, a trip to get to know everyone is next! :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

On the road again and again

We didn't get to stay at Battambang for the 3rd day of New Year, since we needed time to head down to Takeo to meet other other aunt (from dad's side) and have a couple days at Sihanoukville, taking a break from meeting famy and time to take everything all in.

The ride took about 7 hours and we didn't get to our aunt's place until 10 that night. No worries, we were greeted again with an entire table of food. We know we're related :)

The next morning we spent a few hours only with them. Not every family member was there since many work and had to return home. Though with the few that waa there, I can really see the resemblance. A few cousins looked more like my sisters when you place us next to each other. I can't wait to upload photos.

We were really sad that we only had a short time with this family. They're more modernized and was able to connect with us more than the family in Battambang. A few are educated, know some English and have facebook. :)

One of our cousin volunteered to take us to Sihanoukville. On the road again and another 4 hr drive from where we were. He's an auditor for the government and have had travelled quite a bit. His plan for our next travel is to tour all of southeast asia in one swoop. If only it was that easy.

But yes, this has gotten Saran and I thinking about our next time here with our brother and sister, who couldn't make this trip. We're already thinking of the schedules and routes. Don't worry Saren and Rutta, by the end of this trip we'll be experts ;) Just need another 30 yrs to save up. Just kidding.

Next in Sihanoukville, hopefully a relaxing moment before returning home.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2nd Day of New Year

We woke up early and went to temple to give the monks our offering for New Year. Now that we have their blessing, we can go out and play.

Back at my uncle's house all the kids prep for our trip to the mountains. Food and beverages were preped and ready to go. Water bags were also preped and ready to go.

During the New Year, people celebrate by throwing water bags (like water balloons) at each other. Baby powder also becomes ammunition, mostly spread across the victims faces and head.

My uncle's truck carried majority of the neighborhood kids, our cousins, and Saran and myself. Some sat on the side, a few in the center with our water bags and powder, the rest stood next in the back with the back open to allow more room for people to stand. Crazy? Yes it is. But no one fell off or even flinch each time the truck took off.

Sruh said "during New Year, we don't wait til we reach the destination to play, we play on the road," as we took off and headed towards the mountains.

Saran and I sat on the leftside of the truck and had a water bag in each hand, watching and waiting for the action. It wasn't until we left the city to get some action and boy did we. Everyone was prepared. People knew everyone was heading to the mountains, so every resident on the way there stood waiting along side of the raods fully loaded. Many exchange their cars for trucks like our uncle's for easier participation. Even some motos we equip with the water bags.

We were just getting into the countryside and right away our cousin spotted our first victims standing on the road. We knew they were equipped so at the same time we took aim and cover. I took cover and then threw and popped my uncle who sat across from me right in the chest. Everybody almost fell over laughing at the situation. My uncle later switched with his son and drove the truck instead.

Crossfires continued with trucks vs people on the road, other trucks, car with moon roofs and motos. Saran and I took a lot of hits since we sat on the side of the truck closest to oncoming traffic. We also popped a few people. I took cover when I saw kids that were aiming for pain. They throw with all their might, whoever took the hit is in for pain.

The sport is pretty dangerous, acrually, very dangerous. There's no rules or regulation. Both Saran and I got hit in the face. Some one pitched a water bag at, what felt like, 100 miles per hour and it just swiped my cheek and ear. I had to touch my ear to make sure it was still there. The side of my face felt like it got rug burn, still stings this very moment.

Saran got a pretty good hit in the face. I can't imagine what would happen to her left eye if her sunglasses wasn't there to protect it. All I heard was a loud pop behind me where Saran was. Once I looked over I saw right below her sunglasses her cheek was pretty pink. I figured that was where she took the hit. Once we got to our destination, she had her sunglasses off and I saw that it was no longer pink, but a purple oval on her cheek and another purplish circle on her nose where her sunglasses sat. I'm pretty sure without her sunglasses that could have been a black eye. Definitely fun, but also very dangerous.

Once we got to the place. It was packed! Everyone from Battambang was there. It was a huge park with a large lake, hundred of food vendors and thousands of people. We rented a hut right on the shoreline looking over the lake. Our army uncle had been there first thing in the morning to hold the spot. It was amazing to see all these people just having a ball.

The lake though has story behind it. You can say it was manmade just not on purpose. This was actually one of the lacations the Khmer Rouge had a hold of. My dad was one of many who slaved in the area. They manually dugout the land over long hours and very few breaks. The ground that was dug up was used to layout roads. Evidence of my father's hard work during the Khmer Rouge lay in front of us.

Monday, April 15, 2013

New Year celebration begins

Happy New Year or straight translation, 'Hello New Year!'

April 14th, the first day of New Year and the town looked abandon. Only a few vendors were out here and there. Even our family members were resting at their homes. They decided the 2nd day of New Year the family (most of dad's side and some of mom's) will gather and celebrate.

That did not mean the first day was wasted. In the afternoon, we played volleyball in the hot-dry 90 degree weather with our uncle and cousin. We thought we were so so players (Laurel, Saran, my dad and I), but I think now we know where we stand in volleyball. We loss both games but were close in points.

Later that night we hungout at our uncle's house. The neighborhood was jammin'. There was a dj that had an old dell laptop hooked up to 7 different basses, big and small, all stacked up together. The entire neighborhood gathered around my uncle's place to dance, play games and just hangout underneath the stars.

It was fun. We participated in a few games. Tug-o-war, boys vs girls. Saran, Laurel, Sruh (the hair stylist cousin), myself along with a few other girls in the neighborhood showed the boys they couldn't mess with us. The girls won!

Another game we played, straight translation, grab the branch. How it's played: there's two teams (equal number of players on each side). Each player is assigned a number. The teams face each other and stands behind a line equal distance from the center where a small tree/bush branch gets placed. When a number is called, each player with the assigned number runs towards the branch and tries to bring back to their home base, crossing the line without getting tagged by the other team. It may sound confusing, but all games are better played than described.

We all had a ball hanging out with family and friends. Unfortunately, another farewell to Laurel and Susan who'll be leaving for Sihanoukville the next morning and won't be able to continue the New Year celebration. They'll be missed.

Day two we head to the mountains and lake to pinic with the rest of family and more.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

In need of more time

We were at a market yesterday to do a little shopping. Our cousin Sruh, who did our hair, brought us to a clothing market. A few fruit vendors sat outside the market though there were mainly clothes and shoes. Hair salons popped up between booths here and there as we weave our way next to someone getting their hair wash in an isle just large enough to get two people to pass through.

I find markets fun because you get to bargin. It helped quite a bit to have a local who knows the vendors. Sruh helped me bargin a bit. It seemed like the vendor didn't want to discount at all knowing I was from America, Laurel and Susan again couldn't get passed as a local. Lol. Though my cousin told the seller I was her 'cousin by birth' the lady went from speaking sales to speaking friendly. And once I started speaking Khmer, she felt somewhat of the local connection and discounted my purchase even further.

The seller told my cousin and I we look alike and that she can see how we're related. At first I thought nothing of it since I was trying to get a good deal. Though a split second after, I felt a bit weird. I've know Sruh for a few days now. But at the end of the day I still know her less than some people I care to know back home. Sruh although family, still a stranger that I look similar to.

The days are going fast. Meeting family is one thing, though getting to know them in the time we are here is impossible. I wish we had more time. The time we have to meet family, take in the culture, discover more about who we are and just getting some relaxing vacation time is already close to impossible. Finding time to spend with family leisurely might have to be another trip since everthing is rushed and with New Year, the holiday will consume our time just to celebrate.