I've just spent an amazing couple of hours celebrating Chinese New Year with a family I had never met before!
I was feeling a bit low when I went out as electricity had been off all morning and that means no running water too. My spirits were soon lifted.
Here in Cambodia most things happen outdoors and everyone can see what's going on. As I was passing a house I stopped to watch the children drumming and dancing in a dragon costume. Their grandfather was burning brightly coloured and shiny paper as an offering to the ancestors. Once the offering was complete I was invited to step inside the house as they lit the firecrackers – lots of crackling followed by a loud explosion. A lovely young man then demonstrated that he speaks English by asking me to eat with them.
I felt very comfortable joining them. The lady of the house told me she had 9 children, of whom 5 were present along with some of her grandchildren. I think she'd prepared enough food for all of them, it was a real feast. Chicken, duck, pork, black mushrooms and a huge variety of vegetables with noodles and, of course, rice.
Throughout the meal, people came, had a drink, and left. The children didn't eat with us. They played scissors, stone, paper or drummed and danced around. Conversation revolved around family members, a forthcoming wedding and was interrupted many times by a call for 'Cheers!'
As I was leaving, Madai begged me to wait while she prepared me a bag of fruit - as if she hadn't given me enough. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of this family. My fridge is already well stocked with fruit so on my way home I passed by the college where I knew I would find grateful recipients.
To finish things off perfectly, the electricity was back when I returned.
This was my second welcoming of the New Year. I spent our New Year at a party in Siem Reap - a more riotous affair than today. So whether International or Chinese, I'd like to wish you a
Happy New Year