It is a delicate dance.
Cambodia haunts you as it inspires you. Next door to the abundantly gardened retreat of our home a hotel is being built. According to locals it is owned by a woman who has to start and stop the construction in order to raise the funds to complete it, and this has been going on for years. When we first arrived it was silent but now it is bustling 24 hours a day with workers and their families.
They live onsite, working late into the night and I listen to them chatter when they gather to rest and cook their food. I listen to them singing and laughing. And I listen to the sounds of their labor. I worry for them as they balance themselves in precarious positions and am astounded by their ability to work under their circumstances. At first, the men deflected their eyes when we saw each other but now, thanks to the women who mutually greet me with smiles and bows, we are more comfortable.
I am privileged in this land and I am an elder female barong (foreigner). We know little of each other’s lives and the gap between us seems monumental. Yet, gaps can lesson and each day we bow deeper. It is a delicate dance.
The traditional Cambodian greeting, known as som pas, is made by putting your two hands together in a prayer-like gesture in front of the chest with fingertips pointing up. Give a slight bow with your head.