HAMPTON, Minn. – The Buddhist community anchored by an ornate temple complex here in the Minnesota farmland is trying a new way to ensure its faith and ancestral culture stay vibrant for future generations — an open call for the sacred dance troupe.
Founded by refugees fleeing the Khmer Rouge regime, which sought to eradicate most religious institutions, Watt Munisotaram and its troupe hope that teaching young children sacred dance will strengthen their ties to both Buddhism and Cambodian traditions.
The connection is stronger when I dance,” said Sabrina Sok, 22, a Wattanak Dance Troupe leader. “The thing that stays in my head is this dance form almost disappeared with the Khmer Rouge.”
During their 1975-79 regime, the Khmer Rouge caused the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million in Cambodia. Hundreds of thousands fled, first to neighboring Thailand and later the United States, where Southeast Asians are one of the largest refugee communities.
They carried this sacred dance tradition with them. On a frigid early February evening, Sok rehearsed for the upcoming Cambodian New Year holiday with fellow troupe leader Garrett Sour and his sister Gabriella, whose parents were among those refugees.
Practice used to be held at the temple, whose golden spires outshine the red barn roofs and silos in the snow-covered fields about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of the Twin Cities. But it was recently moved to a Minneapolis studio to make it easier for families to participate.
While recruitment was by word of mouth, this winter’s enrollment — open to anybody eager to learn the dance form — brought in the highest number ever after being posted on the temple’s Facebook page.
Clothed in traditional thick silk shirts and pants from Cambodia, the three dancers sinuously stretched and bent every part of their bodies, from joint-defying toe curls on up. Each movement helps tell ancient stories about gods, the cycle of life and other spiritual tales that intertwine elements of Buddhism, Hinduism and Animism.
“We’re never ourselves, we’re just physical embodiments of higher spirits,” said Garrett Sour, 20, as he meticulously coached the poses, urging a smaller step here, a deeper calf tilt there. “Dance was seen not as entertainment but a medium between heaven and earth.”
The marketing student at a Twin Cities university started dancing when he was six and has learned Khmer to better delve into the sacred storytelling. He will be one of the teachers for the incoming dancers – about 20, which nearly doubles the troupe, and most of them younger than teens.
“For me, to see the kids perform these traditional dances is verification they cherish and take seriously our tradition and our religion,” said Garrett’s mother, Sophia Sour, who has long been a volunteer at Watt Munisotaram.
In the temple’s ornate higher room, where the ten monks in residence chant and meditate daily surrounded by sacred books and large Cambodian-made paintings of Buddha’s life, the Venerable Vicheth Chum also highlighted the importance of what he called “blessed dance.”
Very important to have, and to keep our ancestral tradition even when moved to (Minnesota),” said Chum, who came to the United States more than 20 years ago from Cambodia. “Buddhist teaching is practice for peace and happiness, no matter the nation.”
Monks at Watt Munisotaram – which roughly means the place to enjoy learning from wise men – practice Theravada, one of the oldest forms of Buddhism rooted in Southeast Asian cultures.
During the Khmer Rouge regime, and the communist Vietnamese rule that followed it, religious institutions were targeted by violence and repression, but Cambodian refugees kept traditions alive, said John Marston, an expert in Cambodian Buddhism at the Mexican university Colegio de Mexico.
Dance in particular, which dates back nearly 1,000 years and was linked to the royal court as well as temples, has become “a marker of Cambodian identity” in the U.S. diaspora, he added.
Erdogan unveils Turkey’s first astronaut on election trail
Turkey’s first astronaut will travel to the International Space Station by the end of the year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Saturday after an illness forced him to cancel several days of appearances.
Air force pilot Alper Gezeravci, 43, was selected to be the first Turkish citizen in space. His backup is Tuva Cihangir Atasever, 30, an aviation systems engineer at Turkish defense contractor Roketsan.
Erdogan made the announcement at the Teknofest aviation and space fair in Istanbul, the president’s first public appearance since falling ill during a TV interview on Tuesday. He appeared alongside Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, and Libya’s interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh.
“Our friend, who will go on Turkey’s first manned space mission, will stay on the International Space Station for 14 days,” Erdogan said. “Our astronaut will perform 13 different experiments prepared by our country’s esteemed universities and research institutions during this mission.”
Erdogan described Gezeravci as a “heroic Turkish pilot who has achieved significant success in our Air Force Command.”
The Turkish Space Agency website describes Gezeravci as a 21-year air force veteran and F-16 pilot who attended the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.
Wearing a red flight jacket, Erdogan appeared in robust health as he addressed crowds at the festival. Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 14, and opinion polls show Erdogan in potentially his toughest race since he came to power two decades ago.
Turkey is dealing with a prolonged economic downturn, and the government received criticism after a February earthquake killed more than 50,000 in the country. Experts blamed the high death toll in part on shoddy construction and law enforcement of building codes.
While campaigning for reelection, Erdogan has unveiled a number of prestigious projects, such as Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and the delivery of natural gas from Black Sea reserves.
Israelis rally for 17th week against judicial overhaul plans
Tens of thousands of Israelis protested judicial overhaul proposals Saturday in the 17th weekly rally against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s governing coalition.
The demonstrations have been ongoing since the beginning of the year, and organizers plan to continue, despite Netanyahu delaying the changes last month. The leaders of the mass protests want the proposals scrapped altogether.
“We are just getting started,” read a banner that demonstrators held at the main protest in Tel Aviv, Israel’s economic hub. Smaller demonstrations were reported in several parts of the country.
Spanish Prime Minister and Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez voiced support to the Israeli antigovernment protesters in a video message aired on a large screen in Tel Aviv.
We as Socialist International have always fought for freedom, equality, justice, and democracy. Yet, as many of you know, these are values that we cannot take for granted,” Sanchez said.
Protesters argue the proposed changes threaten Israel’s democratic values, hurting a system of checks and balances and concentrating authority in the hands of Netanyahu and his extremist allies.
They also say that the prime minister has a conflict of interest in trying to reshape the nation’s legal system at a time when he is on trial.
Such changes would result in weakening the Supreme Court, giving parliament, which is controlled by Netanyahu’s allies, authority to overturn its rulings and limiting its ability to review laws.
The protest gained support from the military’s elite reserve force, businesses, and large sectors of the Israeli community. But on Thursday, tens of thousands of right-wing Israelis who support the legal
‘Total nightmare:’ As Florida insurance companies go insolvent, homeowners pay the price
Seminole county couple has three-year open claim because of insolvent insurer.
What happens when your property insurer goes out of business?
It is happening quite a bit in Florida and is leading to all policyholders paying more.
The Florida Insurance Guaranty is adding a 1% assessment to policyholders starting in October to cover claims for insolvent companies.
A Seminole County couple has lived without a fully functioning kitchen for three years because their insurer went out of business.
Sandra Braga Alfonso said what started as a leak under her sink has turned into a three-year nightmare.
She said there was already a fight with her insurer to pay out the claim, but then the company went under and it got worse.
Alfonso has a fridge and an oven but is missing lower cabinets, a stove, her normal sink, and a dishwasher.
“It has been a total nightmare,” Alfonso said.
It started in December of 2019 with a leak under her sink, she said.
She eventually discovered water in all her lower cabinets and in the sheetrock behind the cabinets, she said.
“The insurance company gave us approval to rip everything out that was damaged and now they don’t want to pay to put it back in,” Alfonso said.
The insurance company cut a check for $4,800, she said.
Of that $4,300 went to water mitigation to prevent mold. That left about $500, not nearly enough to replace her kitchen, she said.
“We’ve tried to settle, go to mediation, everything,” she said.
Finally, Alfonso and her husband filed a lawsuit against her insurer, but after two years of hearings and motions and waiting for a court date, her insurer went out of business.
She was with Capitol Insurance, but according to the Florida Department of Financial Services, Capitol was merged into Southern Fidelity, which is now one of 14 companies in liquidation.
“I’m over it. I just want my kitchen. I just want to be able to live again. I love to cook, and I can’t,” Alfonso said.
In the last year, Florida lawmakers have had three special legislative sessions to deal with Florida’s property insurance crises.
News 6 asked Alfonso if she thinks anything is being done in Tallahassee to help consumers with their insurance issues.
“No, it’s all for the insurance company,” she said.
One of the biggest moves made in Tallahassee over the last year is the legislature doing away with what is referred to as “one-way attorney’s fees.”
That means if you sued your insurer over a claim and won, the insurance company had to pay your attorney’s fees. Without it, Alfonso said she would never have been able to sue her insurer even though in her case, it didn’t do any good.
No. My husband’s retired. He’s on disability and he’s retired we’re on a fixed income,” Alfonso said.
Alfonso has now turned to the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association, which handles the claims of insolvent property and casualty insurance companies.
They are still negotiating the amount it will take to fix her kitchen — more than three years later.
“I owned my first home when I was 20-something years old,” Alfonso said. “I’ve been paying my insurance premiums since I’m like 25, never filed a claim and look where I am now,” Alfonso said.
News2 years ago
Kareem Chenheu: Hot New Talent Dominating The Market
News2 years ago
Apocalyptin Author Anna Parkman – Mrs. Florida In This Year’s Mrs. USA Pageant
Sports12 months ago
McDaniel Discusses Coaching Staff Moves
Florida1 year ago
True: Nothing Says Miami (government) Like Billboards
Entertainment2 years ago
Super slick singer van hechter tells all about unpcoming new single ”Love in Miami”!
Business2 years ago
WorldStaff USA: The Top 5 Benefits of Hiring an Employment Agency
Entertainment2 years ago
JLGSTEPA arrives with his new song “Cerveza” Ft Reventando Cráneos
News2 years ago
Rueda Empire: The successful Music Producer