Sunday, 8 February 2015

Cruise, clinics & cooking classes: It's all happening in Cambodia

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: Nursing & Midwifery
WRITTEN BY: Sarah Mathes, University of Queensland

Sousdei Australie! (Hello Australia)

It's been an action-packed fortnight here in Cambodia. On our second weekend here we headed to the capital city, Phnom Penh, for some exploring. We were treated to the delightful night lights of the city via a dinner cruise on the Mekong River. We made a sobering visit to the Killing Fields and to the S21 Museum. Despite the heavy feeling in our hearts it was an insightful experience. It’s hard to understand where a person is without understanding where they have come from. The mood of the afternoon was lifted with a visit to the Royal Place. The flag was flying indicating the King was home- and so were the monkeys! The weekend was topped off by a visit to the Russian Markets where we shopped, bartered and bought.

The second week of placement brought a new range of experiences. After settling into our first clinic, it was hard to leave the staff and begin at a new clinic. The range of patients has been vast, with cases ranging from coughs/colds, to diarrhoea and even wound dressings. We have been able to practice our skills giving both paediatric and adult vaccinations.

For the midwives within the group, we were lucky enough to have plenty of antenatal and postnatal appointments to attend too. The Nokor Thom group even got to meet a 28-week-old miracle, born in the wee hours of the morning. The Ba Kong group also experienced an emergency, as the day was winding down a patient was wheeled in on a wooden cart attached to a motorbike. The patient presented dehydrated and was our first evidence of a patient with mental health issues. We found it difficult when her family wheeled her away 10 minutes later. This is just one example of how although everyday brings smiles, we are still presented with many challenges too.

What an amazing way for Beatrix to spend her 21st birthday! We know she missed her family and are sure she can’t wait to celebrate with everyone back home but the team pulled out all the stops and aimed to make it truly memorable. The day started with a gorgeous Siem Reap sunrise, some beautifully wrapped pressies and smiles from everyone! We arrived at the clinic on a tuk tuk and witnessed a dog get cannulated for a vomiting bug!! He left the clinic in his owners lap on a scooter with his drip hung up on a stick… at least we know some of the street dogs are beloved pets. We enjoyed some amazing cake with everyone for afternoon tea and more pressies! To finish an awesome day we had a mass of giggles at a ladyboy broadway show. Beatrix mentioned she was so blessed to have celebrated with such a generous and joyous group. All families should be very proud!

Our first free weekend began with a very early start for the much-anticipated trip to Angkor Wat for the sunrise. We broke into two groups, riding in either a guided tour mini van or the classically Cambodian tuk tuk for a less structured exploration. The sunrise was magnificent, highlighting the black silhouette of the amazing Angkor Wat temple (well worth the 4am wake up call!). This was followed by a visit to two more wonderful temples (Bayon- The Smiling King and Ta Prohm- built for his mother).

For those who weren’t too washed out, Saturday evening was spent at a Khmer cooking class. Initially the group toured through the local market with tips on how to select the best produce- not quite your typical Woolies experience! We chose our own meals to cook, a starter, a main and a group dessert, which was everyone’s favourite, sticky rice. Our Nekru (teacher) taught us how to chop vegies as well as cook the meals. We created our decorations- birds and flowers- out of carrot. Once the cooking was done we went down to the restaurant to enjoy our meals. We look forward to perfecting our skills on everyone back home. Friends and family: I hope you're game enough.

Sunday afternoon began with a very bumpy van ride to the flooded forest. Lucky for us it’s the dry season and we were able to see the amazingly engineered stilt houses whilst cruising in a double decker boat. In a local canoe we were paddled through the mangroves emerging into Southeast Asia’s biggest lake, Tonle Sap. We then patiently waited as the sun set leaving a rainbow of colours in its wake. A serene way to end our second week.

Choub Kinear Chab Chab! (See you soon)

UQ Cambodia Nursing and Midwifery Team 2015

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