I have been lucky enough to visit many countries in my life but not one has stolen my heart as Cambodia did. I did not want to come home and could barely control my tears when saying goodbye to my step daughter in law. Not being able to have children of my own I have been very blessed with three lovely step children. The wife of my middle step son James has become very much like a daughter to me. The fact that she is now in Cambodia is difficult enough and leaving her and James was very difficult. We both failed miserably in controlling our emotions on the last day. The country itself as I said stole my heart. I cannot wait to return and hope to do so in the summer. While there, an assortment of wonderful ideas came to me and inspiration flowed like water. However, any ideas I may have conjured up were quickly dashed by my husband who always sees the practical. I never do. I am a jump into the deep end person. All my visions of moving out to Cambodia are not to be. So, I have decided to return in the summer for several weeks to do voluntary writing work if anyone will have me. Meanwhile, I have written a piece on the children’s hospital there as well as a brief posting on the Orphanage. I intend to write more as time goes on. But those two pieces are featured here on my Blog. If you wish to help either organisation in any way please let me know. There are still many humorous situations to share, not to mention the day I was almost bitten by a rabid dog. But for now I just want to share some photos of the wonderful people of Cambodia and the country itself.
We were very lucky to be invited to many places which tourists do not often see. One was a tour of the Angkor Hospital for Children. This was very moving and touched Andrew and I very much. We were also invited to see the Orphanage at the children’s Sanctuary. A nurse my stepson works with got married and invited us to her very traditional wedding. We were treated like celebrities. Everyone wanting to dance with us and have photos taken with us. It was amazing. We we also taken into a village to meet the people there. Here another wedding was taking place, one which we had not been invited to but they kindly allowed me to take photos of the reception hall and before Andrew and I knew what was happening we were taken up some steps to what I thought was a barn. It was in fact where the wedding ceremony was taking place. After much embarrassment we were asked if we would have a photo with the bride and groom.
But less chatter from me and more pictures.
I thought I wouldn’t post for a while as feeling a little below par and normally my posts are cheery and upbeat. This is how I usually am too. I have spent the past ten years of my life keeping emotional vampires out of it. Of course, sometimes it is not as easy as it sounds. I allowed someone too get too close a few days ago and I paid the price. I feel quite emotionally battered. Very hurt and am still struggling to distance myself. I let my guard down. I know I am quite emotionally fragile and should have known better to get into anything with someone like that but I did. As soon as harmony is restored I will be posting my usual fun posts. Laughter is the best medicine after all. In the meantime I am very much enjoying all the upbeat posts I have been reading and they are lifting me. Normal programme will resumed as soon as possible, possibly even sooner than that. Do check my writer friend page on here. I just interviewed the lovely Jae De Wylde who talked about her new book.
Bye for now.
Posted on | januari 20, 2012 | 2 Comments
Having left England on a cold December day, I arrived at Siem Reap in Cambodia on Christmas day late in the evening. The heat hit me immediately. As I was still wearing my warm clothes I was quite relieved to feel the cool breeze on my face as I took my first Tuk Tuk ride to my accommodation. I had never been to Cambodia before and I was struck by the poverty of the country almost straight away. My stepson greeted us and took us back to his apartment where we were shown to our very comfortable bedroom. I decided over the next few days I would see the poverty for myself. I had not imagined, however, the extent of it and was very surprised. What affected me most was seeing the children living in such squalid conditions. I found it difficult to visit the markets where children would beg me to buy their goods. On my third day I walked into the local village to visit the people there and to take photographs. Here the poverty of the people was very apparent. Children were running around barefoot avoiding skinny cockerels that hustled for food and shouting hello to us in loud voices. Everyone we passed smiled at us and asked how we were and some even offered us food despite their poverty. Both my husband I were very touched by this. We passed small huts that looked like they would crumble to the ground should there be one large gust of wind. I saw children being washed under taps while they fought to escape the parent attempting to clean them. How do these children stay well, I wondered and what do they eat? Cambodia is a poverty stricken country, where the average wage is seven dollars a week. Everywhere you look there is poverty and malnutrition. There are also many children. Where there is poverty, there are health problems. I glanced at the small stalls selling food and tried not to grimace at the flies that hovered there.
The Khmer Rouge
So what has ravaged this beautiful country and left such poverty in its wake? I knew something of the Khmer Rouge regime from things I had read but I realised I had no clear idea of what happened between 1975-1979. How could I not have been aware of such a terrible genocide? I was of an aware age. I thought back to what I may have been doing during this time and was ashamed of my ignorance. The Khmer Rouge killed nearly two million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979 spreading like a virus from the jungles until they controlled the entire country. They destroyed and dismantled in the name of a Communist agrarian ideal. Today, more than 30 years after Vietnamese soldiers removed the Khmer Rouge from power genocide trials are still going on, a bitter sweet moment for the impoverished nation still struggling to rehabilitate its crippled economic and human resources. It is this legacy that the children of Cambodia have inherited. Under Pol Pot’s leadership, and within days of overthrowing the government, the Khmer Rouge embarked on an organised mission. Children were taken from their parents and placed in separate forced labour camps. Factories, schools and universities were shut down; so were hospitals. Lawyers, doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and professional people in any field (including the army) were murdered, together with their extended families.
If you are unfamiliar with the Khmer Rouge there are many books to familiarise yourself with this cruel and terrifying regime. ‘First they killed my father’ by Loung Ung is an emotional insight into one child’s experience of the horror of The Khmer Rouge. I was lucky to be given this book by my stepson and his wife while in Cambodia. Both the book and the country have touched me on a deeply emotional level. Seeing this beautiful country after this terrible rape by the Khmer Rouge makes it impossible not to be moved by the people’s positive attitude and their continual smiles. Knowing that thirty years ago the country lost most of its educated people and Doctors I was curious about the health situation in Cambodia.
Meeting Arun Sinketh at The Angkor Hospital for Children
A few days later I myself was very sick with a stomach upset and again I found myself wondering about the health system in Cambodia and along with my husband went to ‘The Angkor Hospital for Children’ (AHC) visitors Centre. Arun Sinketh the Human Resources Director, sensing my interest and keenness to write an article offered to give us a tour of the Hospital the following day. I left armed with booklets and information and studied them that night. I was saddened to discover that the life expectancy in Cambodia is just 57 years and that the probability of dying before the age of five is 88 per thousand births. It was difficult to comprehend the figures. The children of Cambodia are the most appealing I have ever met and I fell in love with many of them. As I journeyed back to the Hospital the next morning, many of them waved and shouted ‘Hello’ to us. Some were travelling totally unprotected on the front of their father’s motorcycle. I cannot begin to count how many under-five’s I saw travelling helmetless on a motorcycle with either one or both parents. Heedless of the dust and heat they ride happily along seemingly unaware of the dangers. I immediately found my mind wandering back to what I had read the night before and shuddered. One of the most lasting legacies of the Khmer Rouge and which continues to claim new victims daily, are land mines. They litter the countryside and even the soldiers who placed them there cannot recall where they are. As I travelled through the country the effects are visible in many ways but perhaps most poignantly in the number of children, men and women wearing prostheses or riding wheelchairs. I knew there had to be something I could do to help the smiling people of Cambodia. Where better to help the children than a hospital?
The Hospital Tour
With the statistics in my mind I pushed open the door to the Visitor Centre again where Arun was waiting for me. With a kind smile and a warm welcome she began my tour of the ‘Angkor Hospital for Children.’ The first thing I see is the hospital logo, a green symbol in the shape of a heart. Arun has worked at the hospital for 11 years. She first began her career there as a nurse in 2001 and continued nursing for two and half years. Her biggest pleasure is the children. She later moved to be a PA and volunteer coordinator. In 2006, she worked full time as a PA. Arun is still studying in her spare time and was very inspirational.
I would now very much like you to take the tour with me. I was desperate to see how the hospital cared for these vulnerable children of Cambodia. We left the coolness of the visitor Centre and headed outside into the stifling heat where Arun pointed out the entrance gate and explained that the gate opens at 6 a.m. but people will have been queuing long before that. I asked her how many children are seen in one day and was stunned when she told me 400 children a day attend the hospital outpatient department. Almost half would have travelled more than 50 kilometres in the back of a pick-up truck or by motorbike. Most likely they will walk. I tried to imagine travelling from my home in Oxfordshire back in England for thirty miles or possibly even fifty to sixty miles to get to an outpatient department and shudder when I imagine trying to get a child there when I have no transport. It is unimaginable. Transporting a sick child all that way in a Tuk Tuk does not bear thinking about. I later visited a rural village in a Tuk Tuk and the roads were so uneven that I felt certain we would never make it. I came home with a mild headache from the heat and the uncomfortable ride. How much worse for a sick child. I followed Arun into the waiting area of the outpatient department, past crying children, anxious mothers and siblings to the triage area.
‘The majority of children who come to the hospital are less than five years old. The three main diseases are respiratory, diarrhoea and malnutrition. After triage, the child will see either a nurse or a doctor depending on the severity of their symptoms. Because waiting time is so long, up to many hours, we provide a play area for the siblings of the sick child. 400 children a day coming to the Hospital means a long wait.’ Arun explains.
And I thought we waited a long time in England. I make a decision not to moan about our healthcare system again.
The inpatient ward I found quite upsetting. Arun who previously nursed at the Hospital looks at the children affectionately and tells me how much she enjoyed nursing the children. I see a young baby suffering from Pneumonia and watch as his mother assists with the Oxygen mask. The baby looks very small and helpless and it is very distressing to see a young baby so sick and I have an overwhelming desire to pick her up and make everything all right. But, of course, I can’t. Arun tells me the parents are encouraged to nurse their children and to be as active as possible in their recovery. The inpatient ward has 55 beds. I feel helpless when seeing so many sick children and decide to later ask Arun how I can help. We pass the smiling Doctors and nurses and as we do so a mother looks to my husband gratefully, thinking he is a Doctor. On walking back through the waiting area she immediately poured out her gratitude to us, bowing and showing us how deeply grateful she was. I looked to my husband and saw from his face how deeply moved he was by this. The friendship and generosity of the Cambodian people was quite a revelation to us and we instantly warmed to them.
Arun tells me that nursing these children is very satisfying. I am amazed to hear that more than 30,000 patients were seen in the inpatients department in 2010 with 2,356 admissions. Almost 100,000 have passed through the Intensive Care Unit. Frightening statistics.
Arun introduced me to Nean Pisitmony who comes from Preah Vihear Province, more than 100km from Siem Reap. His parents brought him to AHC to uncover what was making their seven year-old boy so sick. They had taken him to other hospitals, even as far away as Phnom Penh, but no one had been able to help them. At AHC he was quickly diagnosed with congenital heart disease and the Hospital was able to send him to Malaysia for corrective open-heart surgery. After a successful surgery he returned to Cambodia and had no complications. One day, while traveling through Kompong Thom, he saw the AHC logo on a donation box and immediately recognized it as the big green heart that had saved his own heart. Mony started saving money to someday donate to AHC because he thought that this was the best way he could help.
In February 2010, Mony returned to AHC. He had an abscess on his face, with severe swelling and an infection in his left eye. Even though physicians in his hometown treated him, he was not getting better. His parents decided to bring him back to the hospital with the big green heart.
At AHC, he was taken care of by the eye doctor, treated with antibiotics and improved quickly. He thanked all of the staff at AHC for saving his life once again and was finally able to donate the $100 he had been saving. He hopes that his donation will help save lives of other children, and it will.
With the growth of their own surgeons and the help of generous volunteers many children with heart conditions like Mony are now being treated right at AHC. In 2009, 24 open heart surgeries were successfully performed in the hospital’s own Operating Room!
The most interesting aspect of the Angkor Hospital for Children for me was the Homecare programme and I immediately found myself wondering how I could return to Siem Reap and follow the homecare team who go directly to the patients in rural communities because they are too weak and fragile to travel. The homecare programme provides not only medical assessment and treatment but also provides support and education. The first step in prevention of further health problems is to educate the people. This includes giving seeds to grow vegetable gardens, mosquito nets to prevent malaria and dengue fever and even school uniforms. 70-75% of homecare patients are HIV positive. Often in Cambodia those living with HIV are marginalized and in some cases children have been expelled from school. Other patients suffer from malnutrition, congenital heart disease and neurological pathology. They all require assessment and care. I began to wonder if I could write an article about such devastating health problems and still remain positive. I soon learnt that in the Angkor Hospital for Children there is much to be positive about.
Because the families admitted to AHC have needed to borrow money just to get there, they arrive with little or no food. All eligible families are provided with food and cooking supplies. There is a community kitchen at the hospital where families gather to cook meals. A whole family will stay with a sick child and the hospital arrange cooking classes twice daily to show mothers how to make food like bor-bor, a traditional Khmer porridge and other nutritional foods. There is also a demonstration garden adjacent to the kitchen which displays a variety of nutrient rich vegetables that can be grown locally. Seeds are given to the parents to take home. I found this very positive indeed. In fact my whole visit was a very uplifting experience and the smile on Arun’s face as she showed us around warmed me immensely. I could see that the poor malnourished children I had seen on the streets could and would be helped. All thanks to a New York based photographer named Kenro Izu who first came to Siem Reap over fifteen years ago to photograph the Angkor temples. However, it was the images of the children that would capture his heart as they have done mine. He was compelled to dedicate himself to improving their lives. With little more than the will to effect positive change he founded ‘Friends without a Border’ and was able to raise the seed money for ‘Angkor Hospital for Children’ Read more about Kenro Izu here.
I finished my tour with a look at the Dental Clinic. Arun told me that few children in Cambodia own a toothbrush! Arun also told me 40 children a day see the dentist. I then, visited the Eye clinic where monty was treated.
The children of Cambodia need your help and there are many ways to offer. Izu founded the Friends Without A Border non-profit organization in 1996. Since that time AHC has treated more than 800,000 children, performed over 12,000 surgeries, educated thousands of Cambodian health workers, and improved the quality of healthcare in the countryside. In 2010, the AHC’s satellite facility opened at Sot Nikum Referral Hospital in Dam Daek in order to bring compassionate, high-quality care into other parts of Siem Reap Province.
I was so uplifted by the children of Cambodia that I know I have to see them again. If I can help them in any way, then that is what I want to do. The Angkor Hospital for Children gave me hope and uplifted me. The Angkor Hospital for Children is doing a wonderful job in what is a very difficult country. It is an organisation that I very much want to support. Please read more aboutFriends Without a Border and help in any way you can.
Seeing the country and learning about their history and how they lost their doctors and educated people thirty years ago in the most horrific of circumstances leaving them in poverty made me feel uncomfortably privileged and humble at what I take for granted. Cambodia and the children of Cambodia changed my life for the better. I am so pleased to be able to help them.
AUTHOR: Lynda Renham-Cook
E-MAIL: lynda [at] renham.co.uk
Original article link below.
Here I am about to go on a boat trip and stupidly I had not even considered we would do this. How I had imagined we would visit a floating village without a boat being involved, I do not know. But that’s me, say yes to things and think about it later.
Now I don’t particularly like boats. In fact I don’t particularly like water either. Well, obviously not all water. I don’t want you think I don’t shower. It’s more sea like water, the stuff that boats sail on, that have an adverse effect on me. I have a good reason for this sailing aversion. I can’t swim and any boat trip is seen as a possible drowning threat. The only boats I will go on and probably then kicking and screaming are those that tend to have lots of safety equipment such as lifeboats, life rafts, life jackets; you know all those safety things that have the word life attached to them. I want to live you see for quite a few more years. I know, maybe learning to swim might be a good idea. My attempts at swimming lessons are a whole other blog. Anyway, as usual I am digressing. Back to the boat, did I say boat? Oh, God, never has something looked less like a boat than this one and the sailor less like a sailor. I want to die…
‘Surely we aren’t getting on that,’ I say weakly.
Andrew’s face is enough to tell me we are. After all we have just paid thirty dollars to go on this and Andrew is determined to get his money’s worth. If that means I drown, so be it. Okay, he isn’t that bad. In Cambodia there are two words that just do not exist. Those two words are Health and Safety. This is not a nanny state, oh no. I am the first to disapprove of nanny States but God knows right at that moment I would have begged to be part of a nanny state. The boat is of medium size and is made up of planks of wood with lots of gaps between them. It seems to be cobbled together from bits of old car parts. The motor is an old car engine lashed to the stern; the rudder is controlled by two lengths of rope strapped around a steering wheel
‘Is everything okay?’
He nods. ‘Just a slight technical hitch.’
Oh, that’s okay then.
What! What! He points behind him and oh my God, there is water everywhere. Well of course there is water everywhere. What I mean is, it is everywhere it shouldn’t be. Like in our sodding boat. Oh someone please help. A slight technical problem? I’m going to drown and Andrew thinks it is a slight technical problem.
‘Please be serious, is everything okay? We will be okay won’t we? He knows what he’s doing doesn’t he?’
I get the ‘You are getting hysterical look’
‘I don’t know, but I presume so. He has stopped the engine.’
I look frantically around me. Must keep calm, must think of strategies for rescue. Look at the situation calmly. Okay, I am in Cambodia, in the middle of a deep-sea, with no other boats nearby and not another soul in sight, unless you count Andrew and the Captain. The Captain can’t speak English. There is no life raft, no life boat, no life jackets and I can’t swim. Oh God, soon there will be no life, No, no think positive. Think positive, why am I thinking this is somewhat impossible? The only thing I can see on the boat is water and a rickety chair. Deep breaths, deep breaths. I strain to see the nearest bank but there isn’t one. Check Blackberry. Yes, as I guessed, no signal. I’m going to drown in Cambodia and no one will know, well my family will. But no one else will. It’s not like I’m famous. I probably won’t even make the local paper. Oh, what a sad end. Oh, hang on what’s this? The Captain is strolling past me, fag in mouth, and carrying a car battery.
‘Ah,’ says Andrew. My lovely hubby has an irritating habit of saying Ah, and Mmm, a lot. I have come to know the meanings of these Ah’s and Mmm’s over the years and this is such a hopeful Ah that I allow myself a heavy sigh of relief.
‘What is he doing?’ I ask hopefully.
We both watch as the smiling Captain attaches something to the battery and sticks a hose into the water.
‘He’s draining the water out of the boat. Funny isn’t it?’
I beg to differ. I can see nothing to laugh about here unless you count my hysterical laugh as comical.
The boat continues to bob and the Captain gives us a thumbs up. Yes, well, this is not very good actually. After all we have paid for this. I could pay a lot less to go in a haunted house if I wanted to be scared to death. The water runs over my feet and I pull them up quickly. Visions of the water reaching my chin haunt me and I start humming to push the thoughts away. I lean over the boat to see the pump and feel my shoulders relax when I see the water pumping out nicely. Within minutes we are roaring through the deep waters and Captain eats his sandwiches while I dry swallow two painkillers and think that my nerves really cannot take much more. We dock with a bang and a thud and with Andrew and the Captain’s help, along with the rickety chair I disembark. Next step? I now need the toilet desperately. Be warned, that is the next blog…
and tell Andrew I am going to stop thinking about things like that. He agrees it is a good idea. The following morning I tell myself the nausea I am feeling is all in my mind and Andrew confirms this.
Hello there peeps, sorry for keeping you waiting. You know how it is? You don’t? Well, I came back from Cambodia and am about to dish the dirt as promised except a few days after my return I went down with a shocker of a cold. Now, let me know tell you dear friends that I recall the bugger who passed this onto me quite clearly. I can still see his red nose as he coughed and spluttered behind me on the aeroplane. Rest assured I shall be taking my revenge before the week is out. That is, of course, if my lovely husband Andrew, who now sneezes uncontrollably, has not murdered me. Ah, the pleasure of returning home from holiday. Even our tummies are rebelling somewhat and trying to rid themselves of the last vestige of Cambodia it seems. So,let’s crack on with the show then, I mean Blog. Sorry, you can see I have been resting with Miranda Hart, not personally of course but if anyone can arrange that, let me know. Before we begin I should just say that Cambodia was one of the best countries I have ever visited and I am deeply eager to return again and what follows is my usual light-hearted view on life. Enjoy.
Now, where did I get to? Ah yes arrival at my stepson’s apartment with the building work, which I was convinced would not happen on Boxing Day. Yes, well, never presume. I woke at 7.a.m and for a minute I think I am alone. The beds in the hotel and at my stepson’s are so wide that you can lose your partner. After a bit of feeling around however, I soon found Andrew and let out a big sigh of relief. Any hope of getting back to sleep is dashed by the banging and drilling next door and we get up to enjoy Boxing Day in Cambodia. The rest of the day is spiffing, thank you. That evening we meet some friends of my stepson and his wife who are also holidaying and go for dinner. Ah, first complication of the holiday. What can we eat? The web advice was that all the water is poison and to avoid like the plague. Apparently, we are told, the water if drunk will turn your hair to wire This came on good authority from a monk, well ex monk. As for the food, make sure the hotel you’re in uses good hygiene. Yes, well this isn’t a hotel and I just don’t think it is common practice to ask to see the kitchens here or to meet the chef.
‘Don’t worry, the food is fine here,’ my stepson’s friends assures me. We quickly discuss it and decide that Pizza will be fine and bravely order. Oh dear… That night feeling perfectly fine I decide to stop being so nervous about tummy bugs
‘I feel fine and we ate the same thing. You are bringing this on yourself. Do you want to come with me later? I’m meeting James in his lunch break and we are going for a curry. The whole thing with a pint of beer only costs three dollars.’
My husband, ever the caring partner. Just the word curry sends my stomach into turmoil and I open my mouth to decline but instead rush to the loo to be violently sick instead with my imaginary upset stomach. Oh god… Andrew checks I am okay and then potters off. I am sick several times while he is out and several more times when he gets back. A trip to the temples the following day is cancelled and I find myself pining for home and a safe meal. I lay on my enormous bed feeling very sorry for myself and fighting down the nausea. Visions of being airlifted to a Bangkok hospital haunt me. Oh, God am I to die in Cambodia? A bit embarrassing if I do. What will Andrew tell people? I stress to him should this happen, he is to say I caught Cholera. One has to save face after all. That night I start to feel better and would have slept quite well had Andrew and his son not been throwing up. I decide not to ask Andrew if it is all his mind. The next day we look a little like the walking dead and decide to frighten the local community and take a walk.In the end a very good idea for it certainly blew away the building dust and by the morning we were more than ready for a visit to the floating village. Our Tuk Tuk driver collected us on time and off we went down the Cambodian motorway. A lovely smooth ride until we hit the dirt track leading to the floating village. Let me tell you a trip in a Tuk Tuk through a Cambodian village needs some doing. Several times I was sure my womb dropped out and I didn’t have the heart to ask if we could return to retrieve it. I gave thanks to God that I didn’t wear contacts because after a couple of bumps in a Tuk Tuk on a bumpy road and you nearly lose your eyeballs let alone your contacts and trust me do not and I cannot stress this enough, do not go braless. It really isn’t worth it. Plus, of course, it is disrespectful in a country such as this. I rubbed my head with 4head and prayed the floating village wasn’t much further. Andrew meanwhile was attempting to photograph water buffalo as we jogged along. I pushed my hat back onto my head in the manner of Karen Blixen in ‘Out of Africa’ and attempted to look cool and glamorous. I failed miserably.
‘We here,’ shouts the Tuk Tuk driver and we both stare perplexed at what looks like border control. I look around me and see a tiny river. That surely cannot be the floating village. Then I realise we have to pay to enter the floating village. Neither of us had anticipated this and did not bring much money with us. It is 15 dollars each and we do not have enough. The Tuk Tuk driver pays the excess and we drive through to the next village, Andrew mumbling the whole way that he really doesn’t understand what we actually paid for. Five minutes later we find out. Several boats no correction, several things that look like boats sit bobbing on the water waiting to take the tourists (us) through the floating village. I look at Andrew and back to the logs that make up the boats.
‘Is that what we have paid for?’
I ask breathlessly.
‘Yes, let’s go.’
I take another look at the boat, take a deep breath and in the manner of Karen Blixen about to go on Safari, I attempt to board…
To be continued.
Well, what can I say? It must be a joke right? I mean, I’m not actually famous or anything. Well, not real famous. I do feel like it when I win an award though and my lovely friend Jacqueline has been sweet enough to award me the ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ which is an award I have coveted over the months. Now I have it and I didn’t even prepare a speech. ‘One Lovely Blog Award’ is for Blogs that make you feel good after you have visited and I am thrilled to know I do that. I am so thrilled that Jacqueline, whose great Blog ‘Maturestudenthanginginthere’ chose me. Her Blog always makes me feel good and uplifts me no end. She always comes up with such great idea’s that I feel excited just reading her words. Thank you Jacqueline for awarding me ‘One Lovely Blog Award.’
So to pass on this award I would like to send it to the following bloggers:-
Dribbling Pensioner. Who cheers me and always makes me feel good with his unusual and funny posts. There is always something unique coming from Dribbling Pensioner.
Nuggets and Pearls which is by my friend Marcia and what a great Blog. Always full of uplifting ideas and thoughts. Whenever Marcia posts a new entry I get excited, knowing it will inspire me. I cannot think of two more deserving Blogs. If I could I would give this to ‘Maturestudenthanginginthere’ but I can’t. Ah, well. Thank you again to all those who voted for me-whoops it’s not a Bafta is it? I get so confused. That’s next month isn’t it? I wonder if I can use the same speech. Okay, okay. A girl can dream can’t she?
Congratulations everyone. Keep on Blogging.
I should have known a trip to a place like Cambodia would not go without a hitch. After all I am Lynda Renham-Cook right? I expect you have been waiting for me to dish the dirt. Well, here it is.
The question is where do I start? Okay, let us start at the beginning. After all it is a very good place to start isn’t it? But which story first? The Construction work or negotiating the monks loo? Possibly the best one was when the boat we went in to visit the floating village started to sink.
‘You vill download,’ he had snapped. Okay a slight exaggeration but when have I not exaggerated? Better still is the story of the two weddings we got involved in and how I ate A Cow’s stomach. But I am straying away from the beginning as usual in my excitement to share all.
I started the holiday with a massive headache, which I still have now actually. It came and went on and off for most of the holiday. So, if anyone knows a cure for these constant headaches, do let me know as my body is taking a hell of a battering from painkillers. Talking of which I went to Cambodia packed like someone who was delivering medical aid, except the medicines were all for me. Andrew took one look at the suitcase and sighed.
‘Did you forget I was coming too,’ he said caustically. Okay maybe not caustically. More with a sardonic smile I suppose. ‘You’re supposed to take a first aid kit, not a first aid suitcase.’
Honestly, such sarcasm from my husband when all I am doing is being cautious.
‘Well, we will need another suitcase anyway for the Christmas presents,’ I argued. He picks up my three toiletries bags and sighs. Yes, okay, so I took a lot of pills with me. But you can’t be too cautious in a place like Asia can you? The web page even advises us to take toilet roll as they apparently don’t use it out there. What they do use I dare not think about really.
‘My son still uses it I hope. As we are staying with him I imagine there will be some.’ Andrew argues.
I am about to tell him that maybe his son cannot purchase toilet paper and that who knows what new habits he has acquired now but I stay quiet and just insist we do not take any chances. So I pack every pill in sight. I’m not going to go down with a stomach upset, I say. Famous last words. So, finally we are ready for the off, with enough toilet roll to bring down the plane. Talking of planes, what fun we had at the airports. We arrive in Bangkok after flying for ten hours and go in search of our luggage. Of course, I presumed it would just go straight on to Cambodia with us but it seems BA did not arrange it that way. We discover to fetch our luggage means we have to check out of the airport even though we have a connecting flight. This takes forever and our eye is constantly on the clock. We go through three passport control ports and each ones takes almost thirty minutes. We get lost and I feel my head throb even more. I am bursting for the loo but we don’t have time to stop. It’s just that in Bangkok I think they have toilet roll. We finally trace our luggage, grab it and fly to the next security check. By now I am so fed up that when the alarms go off I am almost expecting it.
‘Open the bag please,’ demands the official.
I frantically try to remember what is in my hand luggage. Are there medications in there too? Oh my word, I won’t get thrown into Bangkok Hilton will I, for carrying Co-Codamol? I feel my heart thumping as I open the bag. What other pills did I pack? I find myself looking around for dogs. With shaking hands I open the bag and watch with a thudding heart as they open the small make up bag. Visions of shackles on my hands and legs float through my mind and I quickly try to remember my solicitor’s name and then realise I don’t have one. I feel faint and quickly close my eyes. I open them to see the man holding up my tube of Nivea cream. Oh, what a relief. He pops it into a bag and ticks me off. But thank God, I am not going to prison in Bangkok. I smile at Andrew and grab his hand so we can quickly escape. Ten minutes later we are heading past Duty free on our way to our connecting flight when Andrew asks.
‘Where is your hand luggage?’
What! Oh no!
‘I left it at the security desk,’ I squeal, already legging it back. I mean, honestly. Only I would do something so stupid. We heave a deep sigh of relief to find it is still there and Andrew gives me a ‘What is wrong with you,’ look. I just shrug.
Two hours later and we are on our flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia. On the plane I debate whether to eat the food I am given. I read that the water is poisonous and can kill you. As for the food, well let’s just say I was preparing myself to lose weight rather than risk the food. An overpowering thirst wins, however and the water goes down along with the ominous looking sandwiches, which I figure I may as well eat now seeing as I have drunk the deadly water, along with two painkillers. One hour later and we arrive. The hot air hits me instantly and my head throbs even more. I will be glad to climb into the taxi and drive to James apartment. He meets us and directs us to our transport. Good lord, what is this. He surely does not expect us to get into a small rickshaw thing with our luggage and everything? Yes he does, oh my goodness. We all climb into the Tuk Tuk and I try not to cry out as my foot gets cramp. We seem to fly along the main roads, the dust flying into my eyes. I am sure I whimper as the wind whips at my face making my head throb even more. Good god what am I doing in this God forsaken country?
‘Are you okay?’ asks Andrew adding before I can reply. ‘It’s great isn’t it?’
Oh yes, fab.
‘The Tuk tuk is the only way around,’ says James.
Is it? Oh dear. I would later come to love the Tuk Tuk and the Tuk Tuk drivers who waited outside the apartment. I would come to adore the food. In fact I would come to adore Cambodia so much that the wish to return becomes unbearable. But as usual, I digress. Twenty minutes later we arrive at James apartment and in the dark I cannot see the outside very well but the inside is lovely and guess what? he has toilet paper and an en suite bathroom too. We have an oversized bed, air conditioning and plenty of bottled water. Perfect, except we also have a construction site next door.
‘Oh, that won’t be a problem,’ I say.
Why are there a lot of famous words in this here post? Off to bed we go, exhausted and already feeling some jet lag. The next day is the beginning of our holiday and is Boxing Day. We will open our presents and then go into town later for a look around and to get some dinner. Of course, the construction work won’t be going on, not on Boxing Day so it should be peaceful. More famous last words. I soon learn there are no holidays in Cambodia, only work. I wake to banging and drilling. A holiday nightmare. I tell myself it can’t get any worse…
TO BE CONTINUED.
One child, who is very sick was quite blue when I saw her and I asked what her health problems were and was told she needed heart surgery which is very complicated to arrange and although they have tried several countries to get this done it just has not happened. It was difficult to understand just what the problem was as the language barrier made it difficult for us to converse and the manager who speaks good English was away on a training programme. But I presumed the main problem was one of finance. Cambodia is a poverty-stricken country and everywhere you look there is malnutrition. Many of the children here originate from impoverished rural villages and most children coming to the Sanctuary are orphans or have been abandoned by their families. When a child is taken into care here the main objective is to address any health issues. The children are cared for by the Sanctuary nannies and what wonderful people they are. All are trained in first aid and health care with emphasis upon hygiene. A doctor and nurse visit the children on a regular basis to check on the children’s health and progress if they are on treatment. Full dental care is also provided for all children. But, as always, money is a problem. The Orphanage depends solely on donations and sponsorship. It is certainly somewhere I will maintain contact and help as much as I can. I hope I have encouraged you to do the same. From my photos you can see how happy the children are. During our visit we saw the children receive gifts for their outstanding work in the classroom for the past year. Visitors are very welcome at the Sanctuary provided prior arrangement is made and one can help with the lessons. I spent time with some of the children reading with them. It is a humbling experience to visit their home and certainly puts things into perspective. When it is time to climb back into the Tuk Tuk, both the staff and children come to wave goodbye. A visit I shall not forget. Visit their Webpage
Cambodia has a way of reaching your heart in a way that no other country seems to. At least that has been my experience so far. This is my first visit to Siem Reap and I have already decided it will not be my last. Early this week I went to the Visitor centre of the ‘Angkor Hospital for Children’ to ask if I could write an article on the hospital. The Director of Human Resources kindly offered to give me a tour of the hospital the next day. I was thrilled to be given such an opportunity and learnt so much about their work as well as actually seeing what they did, and to also get a clearer understanding of how the organisation works. The Hospital depends entirely on donations and I am pleased to be writing something for them in an attempt to help them raise more revenue. I was also asked if I would like to return as a volunteer writer for them next year and I jumped eagerly at the opportunity. I have been fortunate to know people, that are attempting to make a difference and it has given us the opportunity to see things we may not normally see. On arriving here my daughter in law asked if I would like to visit an Orphanage where a friend is a member of staff. I then discovered that my husband’s son is in touch with the President and founder. I immediately said yes and the following day we travelled in the Tuk Tuk for our visit. It was a hot, dusty day and I was already itching like mad from the numerous bites I had received overnight. But once there, I was moved beyond belief. I had stupidly visualised the Orphanage as huge and something like one I would see in England. It was in fact down a very bumpy track. A bumpy track in a Tuk Tuk is no fun and I am still wondering if my womb is still intact. I certainly lost a fair amount of my diet coke on the way As soon as we arrived someone came to the gate to greet us. No sooner had we stepped into the courtyard, then children were screaming hello to us from their classroom high up on the balcony of the traditional Cambodian house which is located alongside the Seim Reap River. I have never felt so welcome as I did at ‘The Children’s Sanctuary’ so much so, that we returned yesterday armed with biscuits. The assistant manager showed us around and I was stunned to see how small the Orphanage was. The children sat quietly listening to their lessons while occasionally posing for me when they realised the camera was on them.
So we have arrived in Cambodia and here I am tapping away at my keyboard while sitting in an air-conditioned room a million miles away from England. But, of course, things are never as idyllic as they sound are they? Not in my life, anyway. But, as always I digress. Here I am telling you about Cambodia when the getting here was much more interesting. Did I say interesting? I am certain there are better adjectives to describe our trip. Did I mention we are here only one day and my tummy is already a bit Dicky? Ah the pleasures of a break abroad. ‘Such fun’, as Miranda’s mum would say. Here I am digressing already. Let’s start at the very beginning it’s a very good place to start. Should I need to run from the computer for any reason, I will be sure to let you know. Why should I be the only one to suffer?
It all began on Friday evening when we learnt that our connecting flight had been cancelled. I am so pleased it was now, although I wasn’t saying that on Friday. We arrived at Heathrow airport with plenty of time to spare so I dived straight to duty-free as you do while Andrew sighs and wanders around the whisky that he has no intention of buying. Finally, we sit and wait and frantically look at the other passengers wondering who might be on our flight and whether he or she looks the type to throw their seat back or get totally drunk during a long flight to Bangkok. You know the sort of thing, the usual flight anxiety. We have all done it right? Then, you spot the lovely elderly couple and spend the rest of the time praying that they will be in front of you. We are joined by two young men who sit discussing the chocolate they have bought. A family size bag of kinder, and their favourites Jelly Babies which are indeed very moorish, so we hear. Well, these lads seem harmless if they only plan on getting high on sugar. They won’t be so bad as travelling companions. One claims he has never had so much chocolate on his person and is loaded down with Mars Planets. Well, this was not quite how I imagined the young lads who visit Bangkok to be like. We start to get a little uncomfortable when they are joined by another friend however, who they advise will be sweating it out before the day is finished and begin describing the side effects of a cold sweat. He, meanwhile sneezes all over Andrew while studying his box of night nurse. Not a great start. Still, they seem very clean living, all three of them. Oh, they are now joined by another who produces the latest magazines and they all get very excited. We smile good-naturedly. Boys and their football, we think. Until, out of the rucksack comes the most recent edition. The latest porno magazine it seems. Good lord. I suddenly realise why they are going to Bangkok and visions of a repeat of ‘The Hangover’ flit through my mind. One of them is getting very excited and says how he has never seen so much alcohol and cigarettes in his life. I can’t help imagining that Bangkok has been quite an eye opener for him then. Finally it is time to board and I find myself praying that the elderly couple will be our nearest travelling companions. We board on time and everything is going well. Too well, I hear you say. A nice young Australian is in our row and Andrew introduces himself and they get chatting very quickly. I watch with trepidation as people walk down the aisle and finally three bald-headed men with tattoos approach and my heart is in my mouth and almost jumps out onto the floor when they take the three seats in front of us. Oh no, just what I had been dreading. 12 hours of noisy drunken tattooed men. This is turning out to be quite typical of a Lynda Renham-Cook holiday. I turn to Andrew who just smiles and continues talking to his neighbour. Great, what is the betting I get the one who throws his seat back, laughs raucously and causes scenes? Yes, I am a great one to exaggerate. But, hey listen, I know my holiday history.
‘Long fu**ing flight ahead then, so I’m going to fu**ing kip, the whole fu**ing way. I’ll probably take a fu**ing pill and fu**ing die.’
He says and I think this sounds like good news for me… and almost say.
‘Can you fu**ing take it soon please.’
Not that I wish anyone to die, well maybe just this one passenger.
And we are off and taken care of by lovely gay steward Cameron and his mate Jasper. Amazingly enough Mr ‘I’m off on fu**ing holiday’ literally does sleep the whole journey and fortunately doesn’t die either. What a stroke of luck I hear you say.
The whole journey was a stroke of luck, in fact. We arrived in Bangkok ten hours later where our connecting flight had been cancelled and we were to catch a later one. What a stroke of luck. It took us well over two hours to find our luggage, get through passport control and customs that we would never have made it had our flight been on time. Finally after numerous passport and security checks we arrive in Cambodia and are met by my stepson and we take our first ride in a Tuk Tuk and go to our accommodation in Siem Reap. More to follow…
PS The dicky tummy turned into very bad Cambodian belly, If there is such a thing. Oh, it was not ‘such fun’ at all…