I Learned a Lot (and Linga!)

A good example of a reasonably priced meal is when you can eat a delicious lunch of shrimp amok (a spiced Cambodian coconut milk dish with garlic and shallots) capped by a mango milkshake for lunch, and then are forced additionally to have three adult beverages in order to meet the credit card minimum of $10.

“It is happy hour,” said the waitress at the Paper Tiger.

“It is one p.m.” said I.

“It is always happy hour,” she replied.

And so I caved.

I had had a productive morning at the Angkor National Museum getting brainy and answering long-held questions like “what was seriously up with all those penis carvings on that Thai beach in 2013?” (see archival exhibit A here:) 


I decided that the discovery had earned me a quaff or three.  

So, here’s what I pondered over my gins: the Hindu religion is similar to Catholicism in that people are supposed to believe there is only one divine entity, but it’s sort of also split into three parts.  Catholics have the father, son, and holy ghost, one of which we’re supposed to eat on a weekly basis, and Hindus have Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.  

As the story goes, Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about who created the world when this fiery shaft of light appeared.  It went so deep into the underworld and so high into the heavens that B and V each traveled over a thousand years in opposite directions in search of an end, but couldn’t find one.  Then Shiva appeared from within it and was like, “without me, neither of you creates anything.”  This phallic shape, then, came to represent fertility and how life cannot begin without that precious seed.  In Hindu artwork, it’s often set into a base with a trough from which water can flow and feed it.  

So there’s a female aspect, too.

Interesting, right?  I liked the museum.  Turns out Cambodia has this fascinating history of which I had zero knowledge pre-Pol Pot, which is a shame because the first two thousand years are filled with all the art, architecture and mythology of ancient lands… and Pol Pot?  Well, he was just an extremist maniacal asshole. 

For hundreds of years and through the building of Angkor Wat (literally “the temple of the capital”) this vast kingdom covered modern-day Cambodia, plus much or most of Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and even into India and China.  

So why did I never learn this stuff?  Worse, why have I never taught it?  As a direct result of Pol Pot’s atrocities, I have ethnically Cambodian students every year.  They were really excited when they found out I’d be going to “their” country, and there’s no question about them being eager to learn and connect.

It makes me want to reach back a dozen years, to when I realized that nobody gives a damn about social studies and I can teach the vague standards with any content that engages my students.  

I probably won’t tell them about the penisy stuff, and maybe leave the booze prices for their college economics.  Ancient Asian history, though? 

We’re hittin’ that.



5 thoughts on “I Learned a Lot (and Linga!)

  1. Colleen says:

    Very interesting!


  2. Great post! As Westerners, we come to the world with such arrogance – we are taught a version of history that still presupposes that we are the logical outcome of everything that matters from the past. But what if we are just walk on players in the larger arc of Khmer history? I had a similar sense of awe after my visit, and have taken to teaching more about Cambodia’s frankly incredible past with a lesson I wrote up myself, because there is very little out there – https://openendedsocialstudies.org/2016/06/24/angkor-and-the-khmer-empire-splendor-and-ruin/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    carolineadele11, thank you ever so for you post.Much thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous says:

    carolineadele11, thanks so much for the post.Really thank you! Great.


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