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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Birthday in Phnom Penh

Emily and BillyToday we had a long traveling morning. We got on the bus at 8:30am from Siem Reap and arrived in Phnom Penh around 2:30pm. On the bus, we had a nice little game of eye spy that included almost everyone in the group. It was a creative way of spicing up the 6 hour journey. Overall, sleeping was the activity of choice on the bus. When we arrived at Phnom Penh, we checked back into our hotel and resettled in our rooms. We had a small break and then met up for our daily group meeting.
Everyone loved one of the restaurants that we went to the first day we arrived in Phnom Penh, so we hit up that restaurant again! I enjoyed a nice vegetarian plate where I made my own tacos. Then, the fun began!! The students, including Mrs. Dryden, went out to a dance club! It was interesting because they played ALL American music. The Khmer way of dancing is to use your hands and form worm-like motions with them, so it was a surpise to not see that. Some of the people from the hospital were also there, so it was good to be able to get to know them better. Since it was my birthday the previous day, the band played a song for me! So, Billy and I went out on the dance floor and did a little jig. Personally, I think everyone loved our dance moves. We stayed at the dance club until 11:30ish, and then we all went back to the hotel and crashed.
EmilyOverall, I am really enjoying the trip. I’m excited to work in the hospital this coming week and to meet more of the staff. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. Even at church, some of the nurses that I have met will invite us to sit with them! This week should be exciting!

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One in a Million

MicheleWhat an amazing couple of days. We left the hospital yesterday afternoon, went to the ‘market” and shopped for the children at the Orphanage. At their request, we bought underwear, salt, sugar, fans and cooking oil. Then we made a stop to buy fruit, getting two “hairy eyeballs” for each child. The children are happy, cared for and well educated. We spent time playing games, singing, and also, visiting the library and their rooms. (Some were a little reluctant for us to see their room but with 5 girls to a room you can imagine!) What beautiful kids, and what a great concert they gave us. The hard part was leaving, they begged us to stay, ‘please come tomorrow’ and ran after the Tuk-Tuk as we went out of the gate; pictures that will remain with us for a long time. These are the fortunate children of Cambodia-they are safe and get an education.
Today was a trip to the ‘killing fields”. To comprehend that much cruelty is beyond my capacity. The great learning from the trip: understanding the people we are working with at the hospital. They lived through Pol Pot and have moved on with their life, now serving others on a daily basis. As I taught the supervisor class today, I had a whole new understanding of their job, their life and who they are as a people.

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Brandon PharmacyTuesday was the start of another wonderful and exciting day for each of us in Cambodia. Mrs. Dryden, Emily P., Brandon, and I rose a little earlier than the others so that we could meet the mobile clinic group at the hospital. After a few phone calls, tough communication with the nurses and staff, and some walking around, we were finally able to find out where we were supposed to be. We did have a small problem with seating though…a five person truck was supposed to hold seven of us. However, we were able to make it work! We traveled to a small and very poor village outside of Phnom Penh to provide medical care for those unable to come to the hospital. It was a new experience for the three of us, especially since most of our patients were children. Emily and I took vital signs, while Paul handled the pharmaceutical aspect of the visit. He even caught a few mistakes that were made, which shows the great training and education he has already received.
At the hospital, our instructors and student nurses assisted with check-offs. This is where all the nurses have to come in and take tests in several different areas; the subjects included blood cultures, oral care, and oxygen tubing care. Though it was a little hard to understand the nurses during the oral part of the tests, it was very exciting to see that they knew how to perform these tasks. It is obvious that this hospital is making great progress, and so many of the nurses truly know what they are doing.

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Home Visits and Khmer Rouge History

In Cambodia some major health care issues are HIV/AIDS, TB, and diabetes. Today students of nursing and pharmacy left the hospital to go on home visits for HIV patients. Just a few blocks away, we walked to the areas where the lowest income people live. Our job was to oversee the self-maintenance of each patient’s disease state. Without the semester 2 course, Health Assessment, I would have been unaware of the questions to ask and signs to look for in each particular case. Next we broke for lunch to enjoy a bite of homemade Khmer cuisine.
PaulAfter lunch, we left the medical world to learn more about culture and history in Cambodia. During the reign of the Khmer Rouge, genocide camps were spread all over the country. The one we had visited was called Office S.21, today known as Tuol Sleng. Formerly a high school (a place for learning and growth), the Khmer Rouge overtook the facility and held over 5,000 prisoners here by 1978. All but 7 of these prisoners were killed. Taking this historical era made me realize this event affected people just a generation ahead of my own.
It was a fulfilling day incorporating both health care and history. From today’s experience I have made it a promise to serve the people of Cambodia to the fullest until it is time to depart.

A New City to Explore

Cambodia SunsetRise and shine! It was an early morning for the group as we packed our bags for Siem Reap. Having been in Phnom Penh for the past three days, we were prepared to explore a new city. Our first introduction was sunset at the ancient temples. After we climed the steep stairs, we found ourselves surrounded by people from around the world. The sunset was beautiful, but the view of Cambodia’s heartland was even more remarkable. Knowing the country’s past, the evening was a reminder that even amidst turmoil and pain, restoration is possible. “In the world you will have trouble; but be courageous, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).
On a side note, one of the funniest parts of the day was our bus ride. Wide awake, we managed to find minor pieces of amusement…from snacking on crickets to our exciting interpretations of Cambodian music videos. Still tired from the early morning rise, others chose a more peaceful route…

Bus Sleep in Cambodia

AnnaAll in all, the trip to Siem Reap will be a great memory for all of us. The trip is far from over, though. We look forward to returning to the hospital and working alongside our new friends once again. They have such wonderful hearts, and I pray that we will all take a piece of that with us.
– Anna –

Sunday in Cambodia

Cart Ride in CambodiaWe began our day with worship at the church where Susan’s family attended and were very involved in while they lived in Phnom Penh. We were all warmly greeted and welcomed! It was especially heartwarming to see Susan greeted and embraced by so many of her dear friends. The church is alive and growing…worshipers of all ages. In a country where there is much sadness and hopelessness, it is so encouraging to be in a place of worship and see the hearts of the members of the congregation! Later in the afternoon, when we were at the market shopping (more on that later!), a member of the church spotted us and we had a conversation with him about the growth of the church in Cambodia. There is no interference at all by the government towards Christianity and it is growing by leaps and bounds. That was good news!
We went different directions for lunch…some eating Indian and some eating French. Then it was time to re-group and head out for an afternoon of shopping at the Russian market. There were literally hundreds of vendors all very close together…it was like being in a maze with something new at every turn. It was hot and the vendors are very persistent in pursuing their customers. Bargains were made and bags were filled with all sorts of purchases. I have not quite conquered the art of negotiation…so I will probably need to return to see if I can do better next time! It would be easy to fill a suitcase because there really are so many wonderful things to see and buy. The treat after shopping was iced Cambodian coffee…it was rich, sweet and delicious.

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