Vebol is one of the great un-sung heros of the Spitler Foundation. He could so easily go unnoticed, yet his presence is vital to the running of the schools. Vebol is a man of many talents: administrator, gardener, pump engineer, painter and decorator, gardener, cyclist, tuk-tuk driver - and, occasionally - teacher.
One day Vebol called me to say he would not be at school, saying, 'I'm busy,' a very common expression used by Khmer people. He has beginning proficiency in English so our conversation was a bit light on content.
But, I pressed to know what he was doing. (None of my business, but I asked anyways.) He said he was busy with his wife. "Oh! I didn't know you were married!"
"Yes, baby." He said.
He needed to run, so the conversation ended. Later, I found out from Sarin that Vebol was quite busy, but his wife was a lot more 'busy'. She was having a baby!
So, Vebol was sorry he couldn't make it to work, but he was in the hospital with his wife, who was having a baby!!
After the baby boy (healthy, mom heathy and good...btw) arrived, I got another call from Vebol. I congratulated him and his wife on their new arrival. Naturally I asked, "What's his name?" He said, "Oh, no name! You name the baby!" Okay?"
I said, "What? You want me to name your boy?"
"Yes, you tell me his name!"
Totally perplexed, confused, and frightened by the prospect of this task, I set out to find out what's up...
Was this for real?
Well, babies are often not named for days or even a month until there is a blessing ceremony with the monks.
The monks give a name to the baby, but the family also can select an additional name. And tradition provides the child carry the parents' names in some form too.
It is popular and a bit of a badge of honor to give the child a Western name too. So, it turned out, that apparently was my task.
So, off to Google I went. Naturally.
Hmm, popular names...let's see....oh here's a list of 500 or so names..
Oh, and it better be easy for the Khmer person to pronounce.
And, easy to yell too...just in case.
No final consonants...no consonant clusters or blends...no difficult to pronounce vowels...
Keep it short...
I was panicked with responsibility! In the meantime, the naming ceremony came and went at the Pagoda. He received the name Visna (meaning 'destiny')...the parents also gave him the name "Joe" (which PM Hun Sen carries as a name...didn't know that.)
So, I thought...Dang! I missed the opportunity...and insulted the family.
But no! What they wanted was a 'nick name' a Western nickname to call the boy..."So what name is it?" asked Vebol.
I gave him 3 choices and he immediately latched onto the last one: "Sammy"
Big smiles all around.
The next morning, Vebol calls (11AM), inviting me to a party, for Sammy. I was AVAILABLE, of course. It was a happy celebration, and Sammy was a trouper most of the night.
Welcome to the world Vebol Joe Visna 'Sammy' (and a few other names, I think!).