Minority Report

Trip Start Oct 30, 2012
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Trip End May 30, 2013


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Flag of Cambodia  , Khêtt Rôtânôkiri,
Friday, November 30, 2012

I fear this won't be a very exciting blog entry.

I seem to only be able to think in point form. I'm a little distracted as of late (with Brian's illness). Although I'm trying to go out and see a few things while we're here, I'm not enjoying them the same.  A lot of this entry is going to be taken from various writings I found online.

Ratanakiri is sparsely populated; its 150,000 residents make up just over 1% of the country's total population. Ban Lung itself only has about 25 000. Residents generally live in villages of 20 to 60 families and engage in subsistence agriculture. Ratanakiri is among the least developed provinces of Cambodia. Its infrastructure is poor, and the local government is weak. Though the official language of Ratanakiri (like all of Cambodia) is Khmer, each indigenous group speaks its own language. Less than 10% of Ratanakiri's indigenous population can speak Khmer fluently. However, schools are being built now where they can attend to learn. Their native languages are spoken only, so by learning Khmer they will also have a written language. The Kreung minority makes up 16.3% of Ratanakiri`s population.

These tribal groups are mostly rice farmers, either working their rice paddies, or growing upland rice using slash and burn agriculture methods. They are also Animists, not Buddhists, and have a very different world view from their Khmer neighbours. Most tribes engage in sacrifices as thanks at the end of a harvest, or to ensure a prosperous yield. The most popular is the buffalo, where a separate area is set up by the central meeting house. I also saw these set up in cemeteries next to wealthy people's graves as well as small raised areas (for chickens, etc.) that were in the rice fields.

A ceremonial 'tree' is central to a 'buffalo-stabbing festival.' More of a private party, the ceremony is a classic part of most ethnic minority cultures found in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. Bamboo poles are decorated with wooden and woven grass ornaments. Animals (usually a buffalo, but not always) are tied to the posts and ceremonially slaughtered as an offering to gods. The ceremony is a sort of thanksgiving, often for a successful harvest. The ceremony is accompanied with music (typically gongs and gourd or string instruments), and drinking copious amounts of rice wine in jars. We also saw some smaller sacrificial areas in the rice fields – almost a basket on a stick. This is for smaller sacrifices
(poultry, fowl) – one for each family's section.

One hour of driving down rough dusty roads (standard). The plants along the side of the road were so thickly covered in dust it looked as though they had been painted with milk chocolate. (Any clothes I
hand wash need to be washed at least 3 times as the water pours out of them like chocolate milk still after the first 2 washings). Then it was a hr boat ride to get to the Koh Piek village. This was my first time in a long boat and I really enjoyed it. Being so low down in the water and feeling the wind rushing past you all while surrounded by beautiful landscapes...we'll have to look into some boat rides along the Mekong when we're in Laos.

Sacrificing aside (they actually close off the villages now so they don't turn into a spectator sports), I enjoyed my time in different villages. The quiet and simplicity of their way of live (although very hard) appealed to me. I was thinking that our dream of self-sufficiency was just that: a dream, but here I've seen it working in ways that have been unchanged for centuries. Mind you, they don't need to worry about Canadian winters...
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