Playing Santa in Phnom Penh

Its beginning to feel a lot like Christmas… in a very weird way.  Bustling streets have lights on the palm trees, and shops play christmas tracks all day. Even my 6 year-old, ESL, predominantly Buddhist munchkins know the words to “Jingle Bells.”

I sort of got to play the role of Santa this past week (sans the beard and belly, fortunately.)  My grandmother, Roro, sent money for me to buy books and other supplies for the kids at SSD orphanage. Its incredible how much $50 was able to buy! Books, books, books, as well as crayons, coloring books and color-your-own animal masks, which were an instant hit. I sat with them and read them The Little Mermaid while they colored. Check out the pictures I posted below!

It was so heartwarming how thankful they were for these gifts – gifts that would be overshadowed by expensive, hi-tech gadgets back in the US.

It’s going to be weird, being in Cambodia for Christmas. I come from a wonderful, big, loud, Italian family, and we celebrate every Christmas by getting together, eating, drinking and swapping gifts aided by a family member dressed in a Santa suit.

But even for my family back home, Christmas is going to be very different this year. This is going to be the first Christmas that my Nana is not with us: she passed away last week, at the ripe old age of 104. For the past 23 years, I have been lucky enough to have my great-grandmother in my life. She was a smart, sharp woman who spent her days reading, and who loved her family immensely and prayed for them every night before bed. She spent her entire life caring for her family, reading and learning languages – she even continued to study Italian up until this year! She was strong and determined, and in the past decade naturally fought off lung cancer and created her own heart bypass when it seemed her body was failing her. She was an incredible woman, and I can only hope to live a life as long and rich as hers. We love you, Nana.

Nana, blowing out the candles at her 104th birthday party.

Reading and coloring at the orphanage.






Merry Christmas, from Cambodia


3 thoughts on “Playing Santa in Phnom Penh

  1. Beautiful words and thanks for the photos. Nana did not have lung cancer. A few years ago a mass was detected on an dray, and we went for MRIs and it was still detected. The pulmonologist wanted to do an biopsy and we refused. Even Larry Brotman thought it could be 95% cancer but he said no to biopsies .2 years later, she had an xray for bronchitis, and nothing showed up, so we are concluding it was part of an infection. Something to be said for not doing anything at that age.

    Sent from my iPad

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