Reflecting on Cambodia from Laos

BillyCambodia meant many things; a new land, a new culture, and a new people. The part I will miss most deeply is the relationships formed with the many people with whom we had the chance to become acquainted and even build meaningful friendships. Sunday was our last real chance to say goodbye to those who helped make the trip a memorable one. At church on Sunday morning the congregation honoured the Belmont group by presenting us with beautiful Cambodian silk scarves not only to commemorate our time in Cambodia but also to commend the work we’d performed. The irony of the situation was that the exchange occurred inversely; those truly deserved of commendation were the ones who accepted us into their lives whole heartedly and showed us an unforgettable time.
After church we had some free time to roam about the city, tie up any loose ends, or just relax. Emily and I decided to sneak a gander at the National Museum. The short tuk-tuk ride was well worth it – I’ll definitely miss those little motorized wagons, the put-put of the engine, the wind (or dust) in your hair, and the many sites captured en route. Once we had made it to the museum Bounchanh, who had hitched a ride to Art Street, hopped out of the tuk-tuk and promptly rolled his ankle leaving a doozy of a bruisy in its wake. The museum was rather unassuming from the outside; an old temple with a well-manicured garden housed the treasures within. Once inside, it was evident that space was at a premium because there were dozens of statues of Buddha, essentially sitting in one another’s laps. Upon further inspection we saw many bas reliefs, statues, and various other priceless artifacts, the majority of which had been salvaged from the temples at Siem Reap. In the courtyard were four placid fish ponds, stocked to the brim with an assortment of colourful fish. The trip was capped with a walk to the souvenir stand where we picked up a couple of iced coffees, our newfound obsession, and then it was back to the hotel to prepare for the pot-luck dinner.

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Experiencing Cambodia

ChristineWaking up early to exercise in Cambodia has become one of the most enjoyable parts of the trip. People are able to participate in the morning routine of running, walking, dancing to music, or any other type of exercise. Furthermore, it helps everyone to get ready for the day. This morning I had the opportunity to see monkeys as they ran around looking for food.
Today I was in the operating room with Emily, and we were able to watch doctors perform a thyroidectomy. This surgery helped me review the concepts I have learned from my nursing classes this past semester, such as the risk of people developing hypothyroidism after their thyroid is removed. The doctors were very helpful in explaining the most important precautions for the particular patient too, such as hemorrhaging as a complication of HIV and multiple surgeries. The second surgery involved the doctors removing a gallbladder. For this surgery, I inserted my first NG (nasogastric tube) tube! Even though we left before the gallbladder was removed, participating in the preoperative care of the patient was exciting.
It is hard to believe that our time in Cambodia is near. We have all learned a lot—culturally, socially, and educationally. This trip is a memory we will never forget!

Same Same, but different!

SusanI sit in Seoul Korea on our way back home and finally have the time to write my blog entry. We are all doing well and are looking forward to being reunited with our families and friends.
In Cambodia there is a saying “Same, same, but different”. The Khmer word for different is psame psame, but the “p” is rather silent. When we say “samething”, most Khmer people hear same same which means different. When we here them say psame psame, we think they are saying “samething”. So when you see all of us wearing our “same, same, but different” t-shirts, you will be able to laugh. Cambodia after 5 years is the same same, but different. The streets are getting a facelift and buildings are going up, but the people are still the same on the streets. Children continue to be homeless and poor without appropriate healthcare, hygeine or nutrition. My blog about our village trip that we took on Saturday.
Several people donated money for us to do some good while here and good we did. Several of us made a trip to the Orrusey Market which was quite the experience. Thankfully we took 3 of our Cambodian friends with us to help with translation. We bought school supplies (807 writing books, pencils, rulers, sharpener, eraser and bags), shoes, large book bags for honor students, toothbrushes, tooth paste and more for 269 children in a village in Kandal province about 1 hour or so outside of Phnom Penh city. Additionally, we brought rice, soy and fish sauce for the poorest of families that was to be determined by the school director. We packed our supplies and our lunch and loaded the bus with 17 of us plus several of our Cambodian friends from church and the hospital.

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One Week at the Hospital Ends

SouriyavongToday marked the completion of our first full week at the hospital. Sadly, it is also our last day at the hospital. Nursing and pharmacy students both had a very busy week ranging from HIV home visits and mobile clinics to nursing check-offs and genocide museums. It has been a challenging week both physically and emotionally.
At the Choeung Ek Genocide Museum, skulls of victims were stored in a pagoda-like monument. Victims included children and adults. I was prepared to see pits where victims were buried in mass graves. However, I was not prepared to see bones that were still scattered on the ground and clothes of victims strewn about the pits. It was hard to fathom and digest the atrocities that occurred here and amazing that the Cambodian people were able to recover.
Our time at the hospital came to an end but we still have a few activities planned for the weekend. On Saturday we will visit a small village outside the city of Phnom Penh. We will donate school supplies to students and food to poor families. The school in the village does not have a functioning bathroom. The current bathroom has been broken for some time, but with the donation from Belmont the school will now have three functioning stalls. The well, which was a source of clean water for the school, has been neglected and required repairs. This well will be functional again thanks to the donation from Belmont.

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