Meeting Mr Setha

We sit in the living room of our Khmer teacher’s house. The ceiling is high and floor is tiled white. Our teacher has pulled together a row of seven chairs, upon which we sit, facing the discoloured whiteboard.

“Learning Khmer language is more than the words. You must learn culture also,” he begins today’s lesson, our last of six. “You must want to know about Khmer New Year, no?” His eyebrows go up with the inflection of his question.

We all nod our heads in agreement. It is two weeks until the three-day celebrations for the New Year and we are eager to know its history. “Long ago, it is Brahma, Hindu God of Creation, that holds the earth away from the fires of the sun,” he informs us.

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