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Sakhem was right. "The TLC-1 is like the bride in an arranged marriage." (Sorry for the male-centric point of view). Awkward and shy in the beginning, but over time we learn about each other and a beautiful dance begins. She handles differently from all the other boats that I’ve been aboard. The way the stern swings to the left or right throughout a turn no longer seems wrong. It’s graceful.

Designed to navigate shallow water, the TLC-1 does just that without complaint.

We’ve made two journeys out now. The first to Moat Khla (“Tiger’s Mouth” and sometimes spelled “Klas”) providing both dental and prenatal care with some minor treatments for burns and cuts. We also recruited two local residents as volunteers. (See Hal's posting below) These two received a one day training session from Sakhem on how to conduct our demographic and health survey. The second trip found us stopping briefly in Moat Khla in order to follow-up on our earlier visit and to meet with the volunteers to pick up the survey forms.

Click on image for larger view.

From Moat Khla we travelled another 12 kilometers to the village of Steung Chrov (“Deep River”). There we met with the village chief and the community council; introducing ourselves and the TLC project. The next day we found two more volunteers and provided the same training for conducting our survey.

Both villages are more than 30 kilometers from the nearest health care facility. I did not see many old people—something our research might explain. These villages are “mobile” in that during the rainy season they spread out and move into the flooded forested areas to seek a bit more shelter from the wind and the waves that accompany these monsoon storms. During the dry season they move in closer together to share a common waterway.

It’s easy to be taken in—maybe “seduced” is a better word—by the natural beauty of the environment and the smiles of the people.

It is beautiful.

The smiles are real.

But seduction is often a matter of wish-fulfillment, and who among us has not longed for a simpler, more pastoral life? The other side of the picture is much harsher. The other side of the smile is much sadder. There is a desperation here that is palpable.

Please continue to read (below) about Dr. Hal Kussick's first trip aboard the TLC-1.

Jon Morgan

Snapshots by Jon