Wow–where did the time go? I feel like this is a similar trend when traveling–the time always seems to go far too fast! Well, we are officially done with Project CURA. After months and months of preparation, it has all come to an end. Fortunately, it is not quite back to reality yet as we have a few vacation days as a group and then I’m staying over here for another month exploring Thailand and Laos.
Anyways, the past few days have been filled with health camps–both at schools and in the villages. Because there are so many children and so few schools, students only attend school in the morning or the afternoon… which means long lunch breaks for us. Over the past few days, we were able to explore an amazing pagoda with stunning, bright artwork during our lunch time. Many pagodas are located next to schools so we have been able to see quite a few over the past two weeks. Speaking of school, it has become quite evident over the past two weeks how much their school system is lacking over here… from all aspects. First, you have teachers that sometimes show up… or show up late. Obviously this doesn’t set a good example for the students at all. And even if the teachers are there, it is debatable whether they are even teaching. At one of the schools, I walked by the classrooms (just from curiosity) and only one of the four teachers were even in the classroom… sounds a bit problematic to me! Although the students do go to school on Saturday, their shortened daily schedule means that the students are only in class for 24 hours/week whereas in grade school, I was in school for more than 32 hours/week–a significant difference. The teacher ability is also extremely questionable. For instance, we were supposed to help teach a computer class (we did this a few times throughout the two weeks) and although we were told that they have been exposed to computers and had computer class one or two times a week, it seemed as if they had never touched a computer. They literally didn’t even know how to use a touchpad. There is a huge disconnect between supposed teaching and learning here–as I would say is very typical of other third-world countries that I have visited before. Although the children are wonderful (and extremely well behaved here in Cambodia), it is sad knowing just how much resources lack over here.
Despite working hard the past few days, we have also had a bit of time to enjoy our last few days here in Kampot. One afternoon, after we finished our health clinic, we headed to Phnom Star Mountain. All of the people we have been working with the past two weeks really wanted to take us there and from the way they made it sound, you just moto there to go up the mountain. Unknown to us, we were actually climbing this mountain… a bit of a game change… but we were all still up. Fortunately it was a bit cooler of a day (not the typical 100 degrees but rather 90 or so!)… and thank goodness it was as we were all still in our scrubs so we were hot and gross to begin with! The hike up wasn’t too bad and we got to see a lot along the way. From the top, you could see the ocean, Phu Quoc (the Vietnamese island that we stayed at), and the beautiful landscape of Cambodia. Surprisingly, an elderly lady actually lives at the top of the mountain–the locals were telling us that she goes up and down the mountain four times/day… dang! We enjoyed the breeze at the top and talked for awhile before checking out a nearby cave and heading back down. When we got to the bottom, it started raining. It seems as if the monsoon season just started here in Cambodia which means monstrous rain… and I mean monstrous! In fact, after waking up last night to the pouring rain and strong winds, I was pretty sure that my bungalow would be either washed away or blown away… fortunately that was not the case! Overall, we got pretty lucky to miss most of the monsoon season as it was a little late this year–and dealing with monsoon weather everyday while trying to perform health clinics just wouldn’t be the most ideal situation! After our health clinics today, we headed into town to watch “Enemies of the People,” a documentary about one of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. It was an extremely powerful movie about the motivations behind the killings and the events that took place from 1975-1979. When we get to Phnom Penh, we are visiting the genocide museum so I will be able to fill you in more then (as it deserves quite a bit of attention).
Finally, as I have mentioned in my past few posts, we have made good friends with a couple who we took to the hospital back on June 6th. As a quick reminder, we were told about an elderly man (who lost one leg from a landmine twenty years ago) who had no interest in living any longer. We immediately headed to see the man who was lying on a wooden ledge–certainly not looking to lively. He didn’t seem to have any sort of spark as he’d had extreme pain for about a week and hadn’t moved from his ledge in about a week. We convinced him to head into the hospital and we took him right away. We helped him get settled in (by the way, this is not a place where you would ever want to be sick–it looked like a prison, not a hospital) and promised to come back to visit. Well, we visited everyday and had the fortunate opportunity to see the man get better right before our eyes. Each day, the elderly man looked better and better. He would hold our hand and it was evident how much simple presence made to them. His wife never left his side throughout the week at the hospital and the two of us clicked. She was a wonderful lady and despite having a complete language barrier, I loved seeing her everyday. She would greet me with a huge hug and then grab my hand and hold it most of the time while we were at the hospital. It is amazing how much simple presence can mean to others. We didn’t really do anything at all other than show up to the hospital everyday and check on them… but that was enough. As I mentioned, the elderly man got better each and everyday and tonight when we visited, he was off of his IV and sitting up in his bed. This is a huge transformation from just a week ago. It was absolutely wonderful to see him with a smile on his face. These daily visits to the hospital have become my favorite part of the day so it was extremely hard telling them that this would be our last visit as we’re leaving Kampot tomorrow morning. We exchanged lots of hugs and took pictures but they will definitely be people that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I will certainly miss them.
Tomorrow we are heading to Phnom Penh, the capital city, where we will spend one night before heading to Siem Reap. We are all excited for a bit of adventure and change of pace to come!!