Monday, 8 February 2016

Feeling At Home in Cambodia – Newcastle Nursing in Phnom Penh

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: University of Newcastle Nursing Placement
WRITTEN BY: Molly Batinic

Sous sdei! (Hello)

One week down and we're almost locals. This week we have spent much time absorbing the culture of beautiful Cambodia. It's Tuesday afternoon and we are currently getting pedicures after a long, but rewarding, day. We have seen over 500 kids, with only the teeny tiny kindergarten students to go. Each grade has its own profoundly unique characteristics and personalities. 

The grade 6 students are extremely smart and caring of both the younger children and us foreigners. The infant children are much louder, however, but their endearing smiles and everlasting happiness take us by the heartstrings. We have poured out heart and souls into trying to help these children and the outcomes have been absolutely incredible. Watching these children smile and laugh, as well as holding their hands when they cry has been extraordinary and inspired us to continue to do such great work each and every day.

However, this week has not all been about hard work and no play, we also had the weekend to explore the everlasting sights of Phnom Penh.

 Our top 5 must-dos from this weekend included a visit to the heartbreaking killing fields. Our Saturday morning was spent touring the place where millions of Cambodians were slaughtered only 40 odd years ago, and was a life-changing experience, especially hearing the survivors’ stories. On a happier note, that lunchtime we immersed ourselves in some traditional Khmer food... Tarantulas. Huge, scary and hairy – but delicious – spiders.

 Another must-do in Cambodia is to get a massage. They are super cheap and perfect for anyone who wantsto relax for a peaceful hour. We decided to go to one named seeing hands, which employs blind locals and gives them a stable job to live by. Another highlight was the night markets. The setup of these was unexpected in an extremely delightful way. They were completely different from any markets back at home, with live music and so many food options to choose from, we were absolutely in our element whilst bartering away for cheap shoes, clothes, jewellery and everything in-between.

But after a couple of nights here, our wallets were begging us to stop. So the last must-do for this week was a free and eventful night at the Olympic stadium. But no, it was not for soccer or football, or even athletics – but rather, for aerobics. Every night locals spend sunset swaying and Cha-chaing the night away whilst listening to all types of music. It's the funnest way to burn away all of the food we have been eating.

Speaking of food, we have been getting to know each other, as well as our translators, much more this week over lunches at the mall. These were done throughout the week in the middle of the days at the clinic. The air conditioning and good company has been a great way to split up some of the difficult days. The translators are incredible locals who all attend the university for either medicine or dentistry. We laugh hysterically on a daily basis when we are together, and they are absolute lifesavers with both their translating and medical knowledge. They will surely be missed when we leave.

Ah kon (thank you) to them all.

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