Thursday, July 09, 2009

Cambodian Manicure and Pedicure

Some of the Bloom women had a wedding invitation in April. It was a Saturday and I was in Phnom Penh to see them. As I sleep in the workshop when I am Phnom Penh (there is a small room upstairs), the four of us, Kamhut, Chanthy, Borath and me, hung out together. We work only 5 days a week at Bloom so the other women like Neang and Edany were not there.
In the morning we went to the market where I got them all earrings. (This includes the other women sewers who were not there. I was told in Cambodia you have to be fair to all workers, otherwise they get jealous of one another. I think it's true of any country, but Khmers tend to get jealous over more petty items, simply because things mean a lot more if you are poor). Back in the Bloom workshop in the afternoon, the women decided to do their nails. Later, after the manicure and pedicure, and a shower, they will all go to a beauty shop to get their hair and makeup done. I was not around to see that as I had a dinner appointment. It would have been nice to take photos of them, all dolled up.
Kamhut painting Chanthy's nails. Later Chanthy will do mine and Kamhut's too.
This is Chanthy. Chanthy had actually stopped working at Bloom for about a month by the time of this Saturday in April. She was due to be married in June. You may wonder why getting married means you have to stop work, but it is common in Cambodia. The woman will have to stay home and have kids and cook and clean for her husband. In Chanthy's case, she tells me it is her father's idea for her to stop work, even though she says she'd like to continue and she misses her friends at Bloom. She kept hugging me to tell me "kynom srolaing Diana" ("I love Diana"). I like Chanthy too, and wish I could continue to help her with some financial independence, but what can you do. We were just glad to be able to see her again as Chanthy's dad does not allow her to go out as much since she is getting married. Later, her fiance came to the Bloom workshop as Chanthy wanted me to meet him. I found him to be a very nice, shy, young man. I really hope he will be good to Chanthy. Check out Chanthy's T-Shirt. She does not know what it says but I totally agree!
The manicure and pedicure always starts with a trim, using these metal clippers to remove cuticles. I have a phobia of them because the one and only time I did a pedicure at a shop, the girl cut too deeply. It was sore even though I didn't bleed. Fortunately a Western friend had made sure I bought my own cuticle trimmer for USD1, for hygiene reasons. But on this day, I gave into Chanthy after she assured me she would not hurt me and the trim would make my nails look nicer. We all used the same clipper as I was embarrassed to tell the women I did not want to share the tool. Probably not a good idea in case of cuts, so do take your own if you want this done at the shops.
Then comes painting the nails. This is Kamhut painting Borath's nails. She holds up each finger to paint them one by one. They do two coats, letting the paint dry on all the fingernails before doing a second round.
I asked Kamhut to take a photo of her hand and mine after Chanthy had done our nails. She thought I was funny wanting to keep a photo of this. It's something Cambodian women do all the time, so it's probably nothing special to them. At the markets, it costs less than USD1 per manicure/pedicure and if you cannot afford that, you can buy nail polish for as little as USD0.25 and DIY. But for me, I had such fun on this day I wanted to remember it. The women are so sweet and charming. And very child-like in a way. I find it difficult to not be happy around a group of Cambodian women. As my American friend who recently helped out at a clinic for pregnant women said, "You know when I talk to the women, they embody everything you love about this country, they're so sweet."
Sisters! All with pink nail polish. Again the women thought I was mad. They also kept saying "your hand is so white!". It's not - I'm sure it's just the flash or something. I admire their hands much more - these are hands that can do many things like cook and sew. My typical Singaporean woman's hand can only work with computers. When I first arrived, Cambodian women were amazed that I could neither cook nor sew.


sophak said...

Interesting post. Love the nails. Btw, though I do not know Chanthy, I wish that she will be a happily married woman. Congrats to her.

Diana Saw said...

Thanks Sophak. I will pass on your regards to Chanthy. I had to miss her wedding unfortunately but sent some money with one of the Bloom women. I hope to be able to update readers on how Chanthy is doing.

Anonymous said...

hahaha good ta


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