July 2008

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Arun Sua s’dei,

It’s summer, so I hope your time is filled with barbecues, beaches, and maybe even a little Bocce. July was a month-full. And today, July 27th, is “purple finger day” well that’s not the official name, but everyone is sporting them. It’s election day, so after you put a check next to your candidate of choice you poke your finger into blueberry pie (bottle of ink) to show that you have completed you part in the electoral process. Last Friday, the 25th, was a kind of Mardi Gras minus the fancy, feathered costumes. There were more parades, party flag wavers, booming loud speakers and TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC, TRAFFIC as everyone was heading home to vote. A huge percentage actually do vote, and a small number just take the time to travel home and be with family.

As for the earlier part of the month, we wrapped up our Teacher Training Conference, spiced with some afternoons and evenings of unloading containers. We had twelve containers come in with everything from granola bars to high-tech hospital beds. By the way, the hospital beds, which can literally fold you into every letter of the alphabet at the push of a button, were a huge blessing to our new medical clinic. And, YES, they do weigh 800,000 pounds along with being rather awkward to unload from a container in a rain storm. The longer a container stays with us the more we have to pay so when they come in, it’s all hands on deck whether it’s hot, humid, and rainy OR rainy, hot, and humid.

Our training conference finished with a reflective and fun day in Phnom Penh. We went to Toul Sleng, the genocide museum, which was as you would expect incredibly heavy, but the kids/students had never been there and had voted for this to be one of our visits during the day. Our adventures also included a great dinner, a quiet stroll through the park near Independence Monument followed by a wild dash through the pouring rain to get back to our car. I think only in Cambodia do people view being soaked to the bone as a perfect capper to a day with a museum, a delicious meals, and a monument. So, I guess that’s why we could let it end. Dripping wet, we piled back into the van, dried cameras and cell phones as much as possible, and then drove to the night market. It was a very good day! On Sunday, we followed up with our a graduation ceremony complete with certificates and a song and dance performance by three of the students.

Monday was rest, and preparation for the Medical Clinic – Translator Training Course. And Tuesday, we started our 5-day intensive training. The first week of August we will have our annual Medical Clinic. This year it will be in Pusat province about four hours outside of Phnom Penh. Last year’s, clinic saw over 10,000 locals and villagers in the eight days that is ran. A number of doctors and nurses come in from the States and work together with the Cambodian doctors. This year we needed to train 15 translators, along with pharmacy runners and registration staff who also need a degree of English to work with the doctors. I’ve put together a variety of curriculums before, but this was definitely the first that included such terms a dysentery, gangrene, dengue fever, and Japanese Encephalitis. The students did great and once again I stood ‘jaw dropped’ at their dedication. These classes and this work goes on top of their regular classes and chores/work around the Center including the unloading of containers at all hours of the day or night.

What’s up with the EVT (English and Vocational Training) program:

Okay, for this part I think I would like to remention the Medical Clinic paragraph because with the terms and translation these guys are doing they could easily become EMTs or start working shifts at the international hospital in Phnom Penh.

Kids’ Library:

I’m learning how to say “floored” in Khmer because it is really hard to believe the amazing, heart-filled response we are getting in answer to our call for books. Not only do we have over 700 pounds of books right around the corner, but I just got an email this week that Valley Community Church has sent Warm Blanket 27 boxes of books (3000 books) and I know from other friends and family that more boxes are on the way from them as well. I truly can’t wait to start getting these books into the hands of the kids in the provinces. As they slowly scan each picture with their eyes and follow each word with their fingers, they laugh and light up with smiles and excitement. The books delight their readers and are also an incredible resource for the English teachers providing them with an additional way to bring variety into their lessons as well as homework assignments. Thank you so much for the light that you bring into each child’s life though these books.

Things learned:

  1. There is a very colorful (blue with orange spots) 10-inch gecko that lives behind my refrigerator. We seem to have a good understanding and respect for the amount of personal space we each need.

  2. Durian doesn’t taste as bad if it is really really cold. And it’s not as smelly either.

  3. Hospital beds weight 800,000 pounds!

  4. Wear suspenders if you plan to run long distances in rain drenched jeans.

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