Cambodian and Lao New Year


It turns out that in Cambodia and Laos, farmers celebrate the New Year in April, right before the rainy season. The tradition is continued in America, so at SEDC, we are having a Cambodian/Laos New Year celebration on Friday. We also hosted a Cambodian Poetry & Smot (Cambodian chanting) presentation two weeks ago, and every weekend this month, there is a celebration at either the Cambodian or the Lao temples. I'm dressing up on Friday in a traditional Lao costume lent to me by a coworker.

So I've been writing press releases and updating the SEDC website and Facebook page with information about the various New Year celebrations that are occurring throughout Rhode Island. I'm also recording video of the different New Year celebrations to post on the SEDC website.

One of the press releases that I wrote stands out in my mind, so I attached it to this field report. It's about a poetry book written by a Buddhist monk that was discovered among his possessions after he died. The book describes his journey out of Cambodia when he was fleeing the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. He had to climb over a mountain, Mount Dangrek, to escape into Thailand. Many people died on the trail because Thai soldiers pushed them off the mountain, and they fell down into a field of land mines. Those who had silver and gold survived; they could bribe the villagers into leading them safely through the minefield. The poor died.

Seney Chang, a research assistant for the Providence City Council, told me that her sister went on the Mount Dangrek trail in her place. She was told that her sister's body was left covered in leaves by the side of the road because there was no time to bury her.

We had an incredible turnout at the poetry reading. Every seat was filled; in fact, we are beginning to outgrow our space in this building. Two traditional Khmer (Cambodian) musicians played performed at the reading. They traveled all the way from Cambodia to share their skill with us. Smot, or Khmer chanting, expresses mourning and grief. It was necessary to do this out of respect for those who died during the genocide in Cambodia.

This spring, I plan to open the computer lab for public use. I also plan to organize computer classes and help with resume-building and the job search. I hope that we will be able to take the seniors on a trip to a strawberry farm. SEDC did this in the past, and they said it was a wonderful experience for the elders.

Cambodian Refugee Poetry Reading Press Release.doc51 KB