Sunday, March 28, 2010

My neighbour's wedding is killing me

I am cranky. I have had to get up at 6am for the last 2 days. My neighbour has a wedding.

In Cambodia weddings last for three days and start at 6am. Last night, the first day, celebrations lasted until 12:30am. It resumed at 6am today.

I have no problems with people getting married. My problem with Cambodian weddings is the noise. You will not understand until you live next to a neighbour who hosts a wedding party. The celebrations, from monk chants to Cambodian traditional music to Cambodian hip hop (for the night time party) are broadcast over loudhailers and giant speakers. The music and chanting is incessant. There literally was no break yesterday. I now know what people mean by music torture.

One prisoner at Guantanamo, quoted in The Huffington Post: "It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, and because after a while you don't hear the lyrics at all, all you hear is heavy banging."

Sgt. Mark Hadsell of the U.S. PsyOps teams in Iraq: "If you play it [heavy metal] for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That's when we come in and talk to them."

Of course traditional Khmer music is nothing like heavy metal [but it should be noted even songs from the children's show Barney have been used in music torture]. Personally I like traditional Cambodian music because it is happy. But listening to any music at deafening levels kills its charm. Eventually I had a headache from the boom boom boom of Cambodian pop songs blasting out of my neighbour's giant speakers late last night.

I had considered going over to politely ask if the neighbour could soften the music. But I can just imagine it, because this is the response I often get, though in not so many words: "This is our tradition, our culture, our country. If you don't like it, you can fuck off."

Fair enough. Yesterday was one of those days I considered fucking off, taking my work to a place with a more modest traditions (I thought of Nepal yesterday).

By the way, I do not believe it is Cambodian "tradition" to use loudhailers and giant speakers. Don't tell me this is how things were done in the past.

I am sure Cambodians living overseas do not take this "tradition" with them. They would get arrested, because developed countries have rules against noise pollution. The point is there is the tradition, and there are the peripherals, which can easily be dumped without affecting the tradition. An example is the ban on fire crackers during Chinese New Year, because of the fire hazard. It is peripheral to the celebrations. I'd argue so is using loudspeakers in Cambodian weddings.

Fortunately, unlike prisoners at Waco or Guantanamo, I can escape and leave my house (I considered renting a room in a guesthouse just so I could get some sleep). I may just have to. I have been reading books about being positive. So here is me being positive: I am glad that at least it is not a Cambodian funeral, when celebrations start at 4am!

Update: I left the house after writing this post to get away from the noise and what do I find? Another wedding at the Old Market, near the Bloom shop! Sigh. It is wedding season (it goes on all the way until Khmer New Year in April). I had an interesting chat with a friend who works near my shop. Socheata, 23, told me she does not like the loud noise either. The wedding at the Old Market was especially noisy last night she said. I told her this morning, while shopping at the Old Market, I noticed shopkeepers and customers were agitated because they could not hear each other.

I asked why is it so loud? And she said it is "tradition". But when probed about how things were done traditionally, she said the noise is only a recent thing. Now that people have money, they use technology to broadcast the celebrations. But why do they need to broadcast? She said it was to show off.

Ah. As I had suspected. There you have it from a Khmer, not from a "judgemental foreigner". Socheata said poor people do not hold weddings like these. Only the rich who want to advertise the fact that they have money to hold big weddings that last all day and night. Socheata said she herself does not like the noise and will not have such a loud wedding when her time comes. Yay for the younger Khmer generation!

4 comments:

ammieoy said...

This reminded me of living in Cambodia. I once came home to find speakers larger than me either side of my gate and music loud enough to cause physical pain. Very unpleasant!

Just like your experience, a Cambodian friend told me it was merely to show off that they had enough money to make so much noise.

Anyway, I enjoyed looking around your blog... Miss Cambodia so much.

Diana Saw said...

Hi there ammieoy, my posts are fed into Facebook as notes and listen to what some other barangs had to say:

Melissa: hahaha... oh gosh. this is the infamous cambodian wedding. i heard it gets worse in november after the rice harvesting? no?

Joanna: I feel you, gal. I totally understand. Been having some weddings on my street recently. All trying to get married before Khmer New Year and before the rainy season.

But yeah at least it's not a funeral. I hate khmer funerals because the monks start chanting early in the morning and they chant nonstop into the mic. Normally during funerals, I move out to a guesthouse for a few days. An absolute necessity in order to preserve my sanity.

Monika: Oh I feel your pain! I was once stuck in between a wedding and a funeral.... that is pain!

SeekingHuda said...

Hi Diana,

Im an avid reader of your blog:) Haha...when I was in cambodia and heard the cambodian wedding music, I thought it was lovely. Didn't know it would actually last for three days!

Huda Lee

Diana Saw said...

Hey Huda, yes 3 days. I am listening to yet another one today! :)

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