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Monday, September 04, 2006


Khmer cakes & communication

Regular readers of this blog may remember that at Khmer New Year and earlier, La had taken me to visit his village about 11 km out of town. The first time we stayed in the house of La's cousin.

Since then the cousin's niece, Seinee, who lives next door to her, became my student. Seinee would often ask, 'My family want to know when you will come to visit again.'

I was unable to accept the invitation prior to rearranging my schedule. This weekend I accepted the offer.

It was my choice to go without La because I wanted to communicate directly with these people. I rode out Saturday morning by myself. It took me about an hour and a quarter to get there. No hassles.

When I arrived I rode into Sienee's yard and was greeted by her family. After a while she took me to visit another house in the row (The row is all family.) where they were popping rice like popcorn in a big wok over an open fire. Some of this was being eaten directly and some was being pounded to be made into flour for making Khmer 'cakes'. The cakes were quite simple. They got some palm sugar, which is liquid, and boiled it to reduce it to a syrup (or more like treacle). When that was thick enough they mixed in the popped rice flour and moulded it into rough egg shapes. When these cooled they were ready for eating—Khmer cakes.

While we were eating the cakes, Seinee said that her aunt had asked why I hadn't come with La and Sokun. I said I was happy to come alone. She said that her aunt wants to talk with me and needs La to translate. I said that I thought that she (Seinee) was doing a good job and that it was helping her to practise English. But they didn't accept that. Next they're on the phone to Sokun and La. The upshot was that La ended up staying overnight with us and what happened? Well, communication between me and the aunt ceased. Perhaps she was asking La questions and he was answering on my behalf but he was not referring the questions to me. It was a two-way, not three-way conversation.

Anyway, while the rest of them were busy La did take me for a walk a couple of times. The rice fields are currently a beautiful range of greens—just beautiful. And in the late afternoon I was able to get some lovely sunset shots.

Sunday morning Sienee came into town to visit her grandparents. So I had her company on the return journey. She said to me, 'My aunt wants to know when you will come back again.'

'When I can speak Khmer a little better,' I answered,


And, as you probably know I'm working on it.

I have spent a lot of time this week recording both Vanna and Pierot reading dialogs and monologs for me in Khmer. This is stuff that I want to learn. I am now working from two text books. But they say, for example, 'I come from France' and I want it to say 'I come from Australia' and other stuff that's relevant to me.

Actual progress in learning has been slow this week but I now have a lot up my sleeve for practising in the future. I still have a bit more to record and in due course there will be more still but I expect this will keep me busy for a while.

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