December 2013 marked four months of living in Cambodia. It was a teammate's birthday and his students had brought him a store bought ice cream cake filled with an assortment of fruits on top. One of those fruits just so happened to be grapes, so we knew it was a pricey cake! After singing 'Happy Birthday' in the most unique tempo, we took a group photo and proceeded to bring the cake downstairs. Being the smart Americans we were, we thought it would be best if we cut the cake before everyone got downstairs. With a group of at least twenty people in Cambodia heat, we wanted to make sure everyone's slice of cake looked presentable to a certain degree before turning into liquid.
The students were pissed. They had yet to pass the cake around to take photos with it (without the birthday boy, of course!). You know, just photos of them...and the cake.
Most Khmer students don't like cake. They buy birthday cakes so they can take photos with it.
Yesterday, one of my students got up during the middle of class and turned off all the lights in the classroom. Before I was able to question the absurdity, a student walked in with a birthday cake and the class began to sing. After the pictures and passing around of the cake for more individual photos, the cake just sat. It sat on a desk in the middle of the classroom, and, sat.
After class ended, that cake, sat.