Alternate title: How (not) to attend your first village funeral.
As the year progresses and we continue to travel to new places, I really try hard to pay attention and improve my cultural IQ by absorbing things around me. I usually feel super accomplished when I master a handful of new cultural nuances. For example, in Cambodia the symbol for marriage is placing two thumbs next to each other out in front. Two people married.
When we’re walking the streets and people come up to us with a thousand questions in Khmer, if nothing else I can easily answer that Jeff and I are married by holding my two thumbs up together. Everyone then says, “Ohhhhh!” holding their own thumbs up to represent our marriage. (Don’t get me started on the symbols for, “Are you having a baby? No? You just like to eat a lot of rice? Oh.”) Conversely, the symbol for separation or divorce or even just to communicate that Jeff is going to Phnom Penh in an hour and I’m staying here, would be me holding two thumbs up next to each other, then drawing one thumb away in the direction of Phnom Penh. We also learned that a giant tent in the middle of the road means a wedding. Easy. I’m totally upping my Cambodian IQ, here.
It would make sense, then, if we were walking through the neighborhood and saw a giant tent in the middle of the road plus a group of people preparing a feast, that we might stop, hold our two thumbs together and say, “Wedding?!” with the excitement and joy of effective communication.
We did this. Proudly. (We are clever, you know.)
Imagine our surprise when they all looked at each other with confusion, looked back at our smiling faces, looked back at each other and then said, “No! Died!”
Note to self: tents in roads can also mean funerals.