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By Julie D.
No, this is not about The Beatles… The following is the story of my 8 day trip on the clinic. 8 days a thousands miles away from everything, 8 days living next to the villages that TLC serves.
My alarm clock woke me up at 5:00 a.m, the least I can say is that it was really painful for my eyes! I could barely open them… The truth is that I’ve slept only 2 hours… I had to make the last adjustments for my “internship report”  and send it to my professor in France… Yes, of course “8 days a thousands miles away” means no internet access, so I had no other choices!…
Anyway, the idea that I was on my way down to the Stung Sen river helped me a lot!
Showered, dressed, backpack on my back, I cycled to the rendezvous point…
Phertra, Sakhem and myself left TLC’s office on Saturday morning, the 5th. Our SUV car was just overloaded! Extra fans, thatch, water, bags, cool box etc. We were bringing materials to make the clinic a bit more comfortable.
I have to confess that I slept almost all the way to Kompong Chnang……

Around 3:00 p.m we left the pier at Chnuk Tru, along with its flies and its dead fish smells as well as hundreds of fishermen and other workers.




Chantrea, our boat driver drove us to Beng Thom, the fourth village along the Stung Sen where TLC works. We arrived there around 4:30 p.m. It was a long trip from Siem Reap but we were finally at our home of the next few days.

Sakhem and Chantrea started the hard work on Sunday, early in the morning, before the heat rises. The first thing to do was to fix the roof. The rain used to infiltrate inside the clinic through the nuts, so we had to add seals to each one of it. And add thatch on the front and back openings.








It gets really hot at the end of the morning so this work could only be done for few hours after sunrise.

The next phase was to work on electricity. Until now, we had, in order to turn on and turn off all of the lights at the same time. To light or darken just one area the staff had to, literally speaking, turn on and off the….bulb… which is not really safe and practical. So Sakhem took charge of the operation and started to strip some wires, add other ones and installed the more of these precious switches.




As you can see Sakhem is not afraid of some acrobatics!!

This hard work took around 2 days. And it was done right on time! On Tuesday afternoon, we enjoyed a huge storm--lightning, thunders and heavy rain! We were in Okalev village… But this will be an other story…

Usually, when the River Team goes on the River it spends there 3 days and 2 nights, from Thursday to Saturday morning, so I consider myself very lucky that I had the opportunity to stay an entire week on the floating clinic.

Living on the M3C ("Mobile Marine Mini-Clinic") was an adventure and I liked it! As I already wrote on the previous blog, this clinic has everything we need, shower, toilets, kitchen, beds, cool boxes, fans and natural air conditioning (ok, for that, you just need a little breeze!). What else do we need?
After weeks working days and nights on my report for university, being away from all kinds of communication was kind of a relief! Well, sometimes it was a little bit annoying and frustrating when I needed to talk to Jon… but we managed to communicate anyway, the very minimum but it was OK.

During the week I witnessed hard work, moving the clinic,




 

fishing,





meetings with the villagers, everyday life on the villages, during the week I’ve shared really nice moments with the team, I’ve tried to improve my Khmer, but still a LOT to learn, I’ve eaten Lotus seeds, really good fishes,




drunk a lot of water,

The daytime temperatures was over 50C. (120F+)

went to sleep at 7:00 p.m, meet the villagers, played with kids, saw a beautiful moon and landscapes, dramatic rain storms.






Oh, I also learned, thanks to Jon, on Monday night, after 24 hours of wondering, who was “my” new president…(French presidential elections were held the 6th of May)




During the week I’ve seen dozens of beautiful smiles, dozens of questioning looks, dozens of amazed looks, dozens of happy faces and laughing, I’ve also seen some sad or worried looks…




I’ve seen the hard work of the villagers, the poverty of their houses, their own poverty. I’ve seen the lack of schools, the lack of health center.




Living on the clinic for a week was a great experience. There, you can learn a lot about yourself just by being a witness of what is going on “a thousands miles away”, sharing a part of “the underserved” people. But it was easy for me, I don’t belong here, after the week, I knew I will be back on land, back in Siem Reap. But what about them? It is their life, they live here, some of them move depending on the season and the water level but most of them, they live here. So what do we do? What can we do to help them?

We must continue to operate the clinic, providing health care, education, serve as TLC does these villages, these villages of the Tonle Sap and the Stung Sen River.


~Julie Debuire
May 2012