Work Week in Cambodia

Monday started with a meeting with TPO Cambodia, which went well. The organization is excited to partner up with Projects Abroad. They provided me with a questionnaire in Khmer to use and I will be collecting data on the mental health situation in Cambodia. Today I was actually able to collect some data from 2 individuals. They expressed that they instantly felt happier just by sharing and talking about their anxiety and depression. All someone really needs is to feel like there is someone there willing to listen to them.

Yesterday we went to a kindergarten and provided them with a general health check up. They were all so cute but most of them had decaying teeth. I was actually very impressed by the few good set of teeth I saw because of how rare it was. Later, we showed them the steps of brushing teeth with a model and toothbrush, and we also taught them hand washing. The hand washing is slightly unhygienic and seems counterproductive to what we’re trying to teach them. Three basins are filled with water. The first one has soap in it and the other 2 just have water for rinsing. By the time the last few kids get in there, the water is essentially dirty from the first few kids.

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Updates on myself: I’m tired of the food here, lol. It’s always rice with vegetables. I enjoy noodles but it’s usually rice. I’m never full and could always eat, lol.

We’re going to Kampot this weekend! We’re going to be staying at a place called Arcadia Backpackers, which offers a water park, cave tour, boat tour, guided hikes, kayaking, etc. We’re going to be leaving on a bus tomorrow evening after work. Will post each day if there’s WiFi, otherwise I’ll provide updates after the weekend!

 

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Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum & Royal Palace

The day started off nice and depressing with the genocide museum, lol. Tuol Sleng museum was once a high school. After April 17, 1975 Pol Pot transformed it into a prison called S.21 (Security office 21). Several thousands of victims were imprisoned and killed with their families.

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Survivors of the genocide

Here are a few quotes and messages from the survivors of the genocide that I liked:

“I want the young generation to know that war is destruction. Therefore, we have to preserve peace. Additionally, you have to stay away from drugs, which is a serious problem. Please try to study hard in order to become a resource, contributing to the building of the country.”

“I want to tell the young people that people’s words can be compared to medicine. Effective medicine is normally bitter, while fake medicine is normally sweet but not effective. My experience can be used as an example because I believed in the sweet words of the Khmer Rouge and I do not know myself is walking to the death pit. Therefore, please think carefully before you believe anybody else’s word or propaganda.”

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From 1975-1979, > 25% of Cambodia’s population was executed by the Khmer Rouge

In the afternoon, things became lighter and we went to the Royal Palace. We weren’t supposed to take pictures but I snuck a few in 😉 Enjoy!

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Sunset Cruise

Hello all! Been having office days the past few days, so nothing overly exciting to write about. I created a poster on the common cold that they will be taking to Koh Dach island with them next week. I will be staying behind in Phnom Penh because I have a meeting with TPO Cambodia. TPO Cambodia is Cambodia’s leading NGO in mental health care and psychosocial support. Just from my first few days of placement, it was evident that a lot of the patients suffered from mental health issues (such as anxiety). I’m looking forward to looking into it more and hopefully helping these people cope with it.

Tonight nearly the entire house went on a 1-hour sunset cruise. It was nice. This weekend we will be staying in Phnom Penh and doing a city tour!

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Silk Island

Got back from Siem Reap around 7 pm last night and walked in to a full house of new people. There are so many volunteers coming in the next little while! Went to Silk Island today and did check ups on children in the morning and adults in the afternoon. The children had heavily decayed teeth and lots of abrasions on their skin, but they were still so cute. Communication is definitely a barrier and the language is a hard one to pick up, even with two people there to translate.

Also went to a little museum that showed how silk was made. Basically, silk worms are farmed and placed in bunches of sticks to create cocoons. The cocoons are then boiled to loosen them up, and they go through spinning reels to unravel long fibers of raw silk. Threads of silk are twisted on a throwing machine, and a wooden loom is operated by hand to produce the fabric and design. From the silk, ties, scarves, toys, wallets, etc. can be made, which we saw in the gift shop. Pictures are below.

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Silkworm larvae feeding on leaves
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Silkworm cocoons
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Cocoons are boiled and then fed into the spinning reel
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Silk
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Threads of silk twisted on a throwing machine
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A wooden loom is operated by hand to produce the fabric and design

 

Siem Reap Temples

Busy day with lots of temples. Saw the sun set last night from Phnom Bakheng. I jogged the 300 m to make it to the top on time, but the sunset wasn’t phenomenal, lol. Today started nice and early with a sunrise at Angkor Wat. I created a highlight reel of this but unfortunately I cannot upload videos onto here. From there, we went to Bayon, which was by far my favourite temple. Ended the day with Ta Prohm. Will upload pictures with captions.

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Phnom Bakheng
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Angkor Wat (1)
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Angkor Wat (2)
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Bayon
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Ta Prohm

Road to Siem Reap

Did you guys miss me? 😉 Lol…been busy the past few days so I didn’t find the time to blog. Where did I leave off? Home of Hope? Home of Hope was an orphanage of sorts with a range of disabled individuals suffering from various disorders: psychosis, autism, cerebral palsy, down syndrome, HIV, etc. It was truly sad and eye opening. We definitely take a lot of things for granted, but health is sadly a big one we take for granted in our busy lives. Health truly is wealth.

We had our first office day yesterday, which as lame as it sounds, is my favourite type of thing, lol. I asked to do a project on depression/anxiety, so I will be spending 2 days “out in the field” and 3 days in the office. I’m excited. I had a conversation with our tuk tuk driver, and he shared that he went to school on the weekends and has completed one of four years in management. Projects Abroad covers his school fees and provides him a place to stay.

Currently writing this post on a bus en route to Siem Reap. The bus has WiFi! It’s a 6 hour bus ride, but I have a lot to do so I’m sure I won’t feel it. Next post will be of Angkor Wat!

First Day of Work

Today was my first official day of work. I did glucose and blood pressure tests on a few of the locals that came to the clinic. When patients come to the clinic, we take these two tests and input them into a database. Afterwards, we ask the patients questions and try to come up with a solution for their problems. It’s interesting because when you try to come up with a solution, you have to keep in mind that it’s a third world country. So while you may suggest icing a swollen wrist, these people do not even have access to that.

We are going to be working with both adults and children, and the children are so incredibly adorable. However, when looking at them, you can’t help but feel bad at their situation. It’s like a weird thing of fate that decides where and what you’re born in to. These kids are helpless and most of the ones I saw walk around barefoot. When they see that you’re a foreigner, they say “hello” to you excitedly in English. One little girl I saw was getting her hair picked through for head lice by her mother. This was the slummiest place I had ever seen.

Tomorrow we will be working with predominantly stroke patients….signing off for now.

QOTD: “Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.”

Also wanted to share my favourite quote so far from A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle: “One thing we do know: Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness. How do you know this is the experience you need? Because this is the experience you are having at this moment.”

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Induction Day

Today was induction day! We started by taking a tuk tuk to the Projects Abroad office, which is roughly 40 minutes away. There, we went through some paperwork and learned of the Cambodian culture from Sophourn, who was a very funny individual. He was sharing the story of his wedding day, which was the first time he saw his wife. He said he looked at her and thought “oh, I guess she’s my wife.” He was 21 and she was newly 16. He shared how the first year of marriage was hard–he would often go back to his homeland and after spending too long there, his parents would tell him to go back to his wife. After the first year, he said they created an understanding; however, often times this understanding is not created and leads to divorce.

Sophourn also talked about how there are no real traffic laws implemented here in Cambodia. He said roughly 30% of the people driving actually have a license, as no one really checks for them. In the rare event that someone gets pulled over by the police, they can bribe their way out of the situation, and even negotiate a lower price (i.e. from $10 US to $5 US). After the briefing, he took us to a local Khmer restaurant. I got fried rice with vegetables, which was quite tasty. After lunch we all went back to the apartments where we were met by Amara, one of our public health coordinators. She went over the program and what our roles are.

An interesting thing I learned about today is the Cambodian genocide, which explains why everything in Cambodia is the way it is today. For starters, the people here are very illiterate. We were given an emergency card from Projects Abroad that has our residential address written in both English and Khmer (the language of Cambodian people). When showing tuk tuk drivers this card, several cannot even understand the address written in Khmer, so we have to try explaining the address ourselves.

Essentially in 1975, a man named Pol Pot came into power, whose vision was to forcibly create a peasant society. This meant that nearly all educated people were killed in the four years that he was in power. Out of a population of approximately 7 million, about 2 million Cambodians were systematically exterminated, starved, or worked to death by the Khmer Rouge government. This is why the older generation here are uneducated, which is passed onto generations to come. There is great corruption here, the economy is extremely low ($1 US = 4,000 Cambodian riel), and the main goal of my public health placement is essentially encouraging an understanding of medical practices and an exchange of medical knowledge with the community.

Tomorrow morning I get to do hands-on stuff, which I’m both nervous and excited about. That’s it for now!

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First Day Out in Cambodia

Writing this at 10 pm on New Year’s Eve. There’s a lot of noise outside…loud music and people talking. Today was a fun day. I met 2 other volunteers…one is from LA and the other is from Australia. I went to the gym with Edward (from LA). The equipment wasn’t too bad and all the weights were in kilograms instead of pounds. It was very hot with  just a few fans.

We all went out for dinner tonight, which was a process. It was difficult getting a tuk tuk, and prices were high because of New Year’s. Two restaurants we tried had fixed menus that didn’t include any vegetarian options and had ridiculous prices ($50 US at one and $80 US at another). Luckily, we found a nice Italian restaurant with decent prices and more selection nearby.

Before heading home, we checked out the Night Market, which is kind of like a fair. If you’re claustrophobic it’s not a good place for you, lol. It was packed with people and smells of all sorts. A section of it sold clothing while other sections of it had street food. There was also live music for New Year’s Eve.

Wishing everyone peace, love, and laughter in the new year. Happy New Year!

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Pro-Fitness Center
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A gecko outside the restaurant we went to.