April 8, 2009

The Rehearsals, Silver Spring, Maryland

See a multimedia version of this story at this link.

These last weeks - and still now - at Vatt Buddhikarama, the Cambodian Buddhist temple of Washington DC area in Silver Spring, Maryland, artists (dancers, musicians) have been busier than ever. The Cambodian New Year festivities of mid-April are always a big time for the Cambodian Buddhist Society Culture Group.
But this year, an extra project is bringing the whole troupe a bigger challenge: a fundraising performance to help fund new teachers and art programs at the temple is planned at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center of University of Maryland College Park on June 27. The performance – titled “Agangamasor” - will tell the prelude to the “Reamker”, the Cambodian adaptation of the Ramayana, the famous Indian epic tale about the gods and struggles between good and evil.

Renowned Masters of Dance or Music, skilled adults or teenagers who have learned and practiced for many years, and children who are at the early stage of their practice, they all come every Sunday (sometime doubling on the Saturday as well) to rehearse, get better week after week, and most of all be ready for the New Years festivities or for their big performance of June 27.

April 7, 2009

The Liquor Store, Washington DC

See a multimedia version of this story at this link.

At the intersection of North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue in Washington DC, just a mile and a half (2,5 kms) from the Capitol building, there’s a liquor store. Nothing exceptional except that the business is owned and managed by a Cambodian family.
The Pich family arrived in the United States in 1988 after some years in Thai refugee camps and 6 months in Philippines before reaching the US. They have been based in the DC area all these last 20 years, and have bought this liquor business from Korean people in 2006. The two boys of the family, Mak and Pron (aged 25 and 29) managed the store, Monday through Friday, from 10am to 10pm. Their parents work in a hotel downtown and regularly come help and keep an eye on the accountancy.

This area at the intersection of North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue is not the safest place in DC. This is where the North East neighborhood starts, on the way to Florida, New York and Rhode Island avenues. The ghetto, a lot of hanging around in the streets, evidently some drug dealing and insecurity.
Pron and Mak are separated from their customers with thick windows. The money is checked before anything is delivered… Calling the police to get rid of excited customers is not rare. Still it’s a business, and even during these hard times, the sales of beer, wine, soda, hard liquor and lottery tickets constantly bring people into the shop. The two boys don’t have much time to be bored...