I've been really lax about updating my blog. Can't promise this will change (mostly because I always do and it never happens, so we know what good it does) but this particular story has been nagging at me. It was just begging to be retold.
My Khmer teacher and I were talking about the Mekong dolphins. They live in the Mekong river and can often be seen in the northeastern Cambodian province of Kratie. He asked me, "Do you know where the dolphins come from?"
"No," I said.
"Well, a long time ago, there was beautiful Cambodian girl. She was the most beautiful girl in her province and her parents were afraid that she would be stolen away so they kept her in the house. Because she was never in the sun, she had the most beautiful white skin."
(I'm jumping in to say that Cambodians—and Asians in general, actually—are obsessed with having fair skin. Women here would wear sweaters and gloves to keep the sun from marring their skin, even in 90-degree weather.)
"There was a giant snake who lived in their village that everyone believed was a magic snake. It was very big and beautiful. So the girl's parents decided that she should marry the snake."
And I thought, "Woah, this story got weird quick."
"So they got married, and the parents made the girl sleep in the same room as the snake. But the snake was hungry in the middle of the night and he ended up swallowing the girl whole."
"What the fuck does this have to do with dolphins?" I wondered.
"In the morning, the parents found the snake with a giant stomach and they realized that their daughter had been eaten. So they took a knife and cut the snake open. And the girl was still alive!"
"Oh, good..." I said.
"But the inside of the snake had made her dirty. Her skin was very black and no matter how much they tried to wash her or clean her, they couldn't get her skin to be white again. So her family disowned her as she couldn't be married anymore. She was very sad so she went to the Mekong River, put a bottle over her head, and then walked into the water."
I was stunned silent.
"And that's why we have the Mekong dolphins! That's why the dolphins have heads that look like bottles," my Khmer teacher finished with a smile.
"Wow. That wasn't what I was expecting," I said, totally traumatized.