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13 Nov 2011

What's in a Name? (Rattanakiri Part Two)

I think Ratanakiri might be my second favourite place in Cambodia so far, second only to Kratie of course.  Despite the long bumpy journey I've now been there three times and loved each visit more than the last.  This time we were with Gilly's parents and we hired a local Tampoun guide to take us around.

Because I had already made friends with some of the community when I visited in September I asked our guide if he could take us to visit them.  First up was a basket maker (see picture above, more about him here).  He was pleased to see us and very happy that I'd bought a print of a photo I'd had taken with him back in September.

The meeting house in the basket maker's village. 

We then travelled a short way to another village which is home to a number of weavers, it's quite amazing to watch them at work and I still can't figure out how they keep the designs in their heads.

One of the weavers is the wife of my namesake Sam who we had arranged to visit on our tour.  She pulled out this piece of kit (above) to show us how she makes her pieces from scratch by first spinning the cotton picked from the tree.  The video shows her doing this, although it wasn't working as usual because the cotton should really be dried first before spinning.

 Some finished pieces on display.

After a while learning about the spinning and weaving, Sam came home and unexpectedly invited us all in to his home for lunch.  He also gave us a demonstration of this musical instrument which was hanging on the wall.

In addition to buying a number of woven pieces from Sam's wife, we were also presented with some as gifts from the family.  When you consider that each pieces takes 5-7 days to make, their generosity becomes apparent.

However, perhaps most interesting was a conversation along the following lines (Sam's full name is Yung Sam):

Yung Sam: How old are you?
Sam Roberts: 33
Yung Sam: We share a name so we are one family.  You are much younger than me so that means that you will become my son and I will become your father.
Sam Roberts: That's very kind of you.
Yung Sam: Tonight we will have a ceremony to become one family and to inform the spirits.
Sam Roberts: OK, see you then.

The appointed time for the adoption ceremony was six o'clock that evening...

We then left for the lake (see part one), only to return later.  We spent a lot of time discussing the forthcoming adoption and the possibility of it being quite serious became apparent when our guide informed us that my 'father' had organised free entry into the lake for us all...

All smiles after lunch. 

 Sam & Sam.

We were joined in the evening by two other VSO volunteers, Janet and David, while Gilly's parents took some rest back at the hotel.  We weren't quite sure what to expect, but first up was some food.

Gilly, David and Janet at dinner. 

The generator had been turned on for this special occasion and that also meant that the TV was on.  All the children from around the village were soon camped out on the other side of the room, completely absorbed by the film and largely disinterested in the ceremony happening with the foreigners across from them.

The first part of the ceremony involved us stirring the freshly prepared jar wine with reeds and making our wishes for the future out loud as we did so.  Following this a number of short white threads were dipped in the wine.  We then took turns to tie two threads around each other's wrist as a symbol of our families joining together.

(Yung) Sam's daughter tying her thread around my wrist.

 (NB. It was dark and the mobile phone has a torch to light the tying.  Most of the light in the pictures is from the camera flash.)

Janet also receives a thread from Yung Sam's wife. 

Gilly receives. 

Gilly gives. 

 Finally I tied my threads around Yung Sam's wrist.

As with all Tampoun ceremonies we drank jar wine.  We took turns to pull the liquid from the jar into our mouths through a bamboo reed and rubber tube attachment.

An early hit. 

Janet's turn. 

David, you're up! 

Gilly glugs, although not really as she was faking it because she had to drive me home... 

One by one everyone dropped out of the circle leaving just me and our guide/interpreter.  I felt like I couldn't drop out so I was the last to sip from the jar.  It was struggling to find space in my stomach by the end and let's just say that the next morning this space was quickly found again, probably something to do with the quality of water used to make the wine...

The real significance of the event became very clear when Yung Sam and his wife insisted that I called them mother and father.  An unforeseen consequence of our families becoming one is that both Gilly and I now have five more sisters and three more brothers!  It also looks like we'll be getting an invite to the wedding of the last unmarried daughter/sister next year.  Gilly's (actual) Dad pointed out that there is currently a problem with the efficiency of the adoption agencies in the UK, perhaps they could learn a thing or two from the Tampoun!

It was a very touching ceremony and we were taken back by the kindness and generosity of the family throughout the day.  It is strange to think that if I wasn't called Sam then this would never have happened.  In Tampoun culture, there's more to a name than you might think...

1 comment:

  1. Hi you two!
    Wow, what a great story, it must have been an interesting evening. It's quite nice to see how quickly people feel attached to each other, André already has two sons as well... (I'm usually at work, so apparently I'm not their mother, hahaha). Not with a nice ceremony though!
    Good to see the picture of your parents, now it's easy to spot them in BAttambang,hahaha. Looking forward to meet them this evening!