Yesterday, I had inquired at the front desk about a nearby Catholic Church. After switching to Chinese to make sure my question was understood, a woman told me that there was a church nearby and that someone from the hotel would be going, so we could go with her. A few more questions, however, revealed that it was the Church of New Life – so, not Catholic. I did some Googling, pulled up the address of a Catholic church, and asked her to help us get there in the morning. We set the departure time at 7:30, giving us enough time to get there before Mass at 8.
This morning, we were woken up at 6:45 by a phone call, telling us we were leaving at 7 instead. We were rushed out the door into a waiting tuk tuk, and then we were joined by the tuk tuk driver’s wife. These were all warning signs that something was wrong . . .
But I didn’t notice anything until we pulled up at New Life Church. We were then faced with the awkward situation of explaining to our driver, his wife, and their son that we were at the wrong church. Luckily, I had the address of the Catholic church written down, and we still had time to get there.
This was perhaps the strangest Catholic church I’ve ever been in. There were no pews, just mats on the ground. Following the people in front of us, we took off our shoes before taking a seat.
There was a lot distinctly Catholic in the church – the Stations of the Cross, the crucifix, the tabernacle, the altar. But the tabernacle was distinctly stupa-like, Jesus was Asian, and there were chairs behind the altar.
Mass was in Khmer but we followed along generally. We sat throughout the entire Mass, and the priest sat during the consecration! That part felt really strange. Also the part where the opening hymn was to the tune of Jingle Bells . . .
The priest was French, by the way. He’d been in Cambodia for 17 years, and as far as I could tell spoke awesome Khmer. It was our first time hearing a foreigner speak Khmer!
After Mass, we did a little bit more shopping then went back to the hotel to meet up with our group for lunch. We lounged forever over our meal, then retired to the hotel café for disappointing drinks and more conversation. We had a late dinner around 8 at a restaurant we found nearby. We ordered a few dishes that we knew we would like, then ordered one of the “mystery” items that wasn’t translated on the menu.
It turned out to be a traditional Cambodian dish – pig intestines and peppercorns.
Yum . . .