So today is Chinese New Year in Cambodia. Most of the stores and businesses are closed for 3 days. I didn't realize how big a holiday it was here. However, those of us in the NGO world are working.
Prior to the New Year celebration, Chinese families apparently give their homes a thorough cleaning. It is believed that the cleaning sweeps away the bad luck of the preceding year and makes their homes ready for good luck. Yesterday when I was out for my evening walk, I saw many families burning paper. More than likely, they were probably burning Joss Paper which is also known as ghost or spirit money . These are sheets of paper that are burned in traditional Chinese deity or ancestor worship ceremonies during special holidays. Joss paper is also burned in traditional Chinese funerals.
Even though I look Chinese, our family never followed such practices so this is all a foreign concept to me. Nonetheless, when I was walking today, one of the granny beggars that I often see wished me a Happy New Year! Over here, people are quite confused at my ethnicity. Last week I attended two weddings and was asked again and again if I am from China. I told them I was from Canada but decided it would be too complicated to explain to them that I am 6th generation South American Chinese. Each time I said I was from Canada, they all had this confused look on their face. It got even more confusing when I said I only speak English and now I can speak Khmer! Its actually kinda fun to keep people guessing.
All this to say, my ethnicity also raises questions as to why I would come to Cambodia if I lived in Canada. Most if not all Cambodian view anyone from the West as having a lot of money and an amazing lifestyle so why give that all up. They also find it quite odd that I would leave my job and family and move here as a single person. I have noticed what a wonderful open door this has given me to share of my faith in Christ---that He has called me to live in Cambodia and to leave my family. This is a hard concept for Asians and especially Cambodians to understand given the importance that this is a very community oriented and family oriented culture. They have a hard time understanding why someone would want to live on their own. Even my Khmer Christian friends have found this quite odd because for them, it is normal to live with both their immediate and extended families in one place. Part of the reason for this is that it is just too expensive to live on their own. And so when I explain that many Canadians move out and even some Asians live on their own or share a place with their friend, its amazing to see their reaction. This is just unheard of on this side of the pond but nonetheless, it leads to some good cultural discussions. My loak crew once asked if I was afraid to live by myself and I said ''no, I quite enjoy it, I enjoy the freedom of doing whatever I feel like and if God has called me to live here, I don't need to be afraid.'' He smiled.
All this to say, one of the benefits of being a Canadian Chinese here is the opportunity to talk about Christ. So would you join me in prayer that as I continue to interact with many Khmer and as questions are asked about why I would come here and what I am doing, that God would anoint my lips so that I will be able to explain the hope I have in Him and the hope He wants to give them.