I have been blessed three times so far in Cambodia and have now started giving off a saintly glow – either that or my antiperspirant’s stopped working.
The first time was on a food tour, where we stopped for a blessing on our way to the food market.
It must have worked because I ate all sorts of things that we would deal with in England by getting out the Pest Control Department, rather than by getting out the deep fat fryer, and I survived relatively unscathed.
The second time was an altogether different affair. We went to the Pagoda near the school in our lunchbreak, with one of the Khmer staff to act as interpreter. We sat on the floor in front of an elderly but very jolly monk –
and gave him our offerings –
which he is putting towards a new roof for the Pagoda – are religious buildings the world over in permanent need of re-roofing?
He checked it carefully, just to make sure we weren’t pulling a fast one.
Then he tied a red braid around everyone’s wrist … a sort-of ‘I survived a water blessing in Siem Reap’ bracelet.
And we all went outside – past an ominously large water pot –
and sat on the steps.
We were advised by our interpreter to start praying, and as we did so, the jolly monk started chanting and hurling bowls of water over us.
and we got wetter …
and wetter. He had a very good aim and excellent stamina for someone his age; he kept going for a good five minutes until finally, even he had to admit that we couldn’t get any wetter.
I then travelled back to school on Leung’s motorbike and made him and his bike extremely soggy. But when we got back to school and walked in with clothes clinging and a puddle forming whenever we stood still, none of the children batted an eyelid; they’re so used to going out of the classroom and tipping water over themselves that a dripping teacher is no more remarkable than a dripping umbrella would be at home.
I was much more apprehensive before my third and final blessing – previous experience being such a marvellous tutor. I removed my camera and as he started chanting, I sat and flinched, waiting for the dousing. But he got out a sort of whisk and flicked water at us in a desultory fashion, and I escaped with a slight dampness around my head and shoulders – much more practical, but somehow less satisfying.