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By Julie D.

Every week, thursday to saturday morning the River Team is back on the floating clinic. Ready to work, ready to take care of the villagers, ready to serve the underserved of the Stung Sen River.

It had been a while since I had been there, the first time - and the last one until now -  it was at the end of march.
I had just spent 4 days on the clinic with Chanthrea, his wife and children, Sakhem, Sathya and Phertra, it was great but most of them had left on wednesday morning. I was just very happy when I saw the Dolphin coming back, on board: the River Team. Mom, Pov, Sophorn, Sathya, Sokmali and two nurses from the health center.
As soon as they arrived, first thing to do, clean the place, arrange medicines, prepare everything for the afternoon.

Lunch. Thursday wasn’t a hot day, it was just the right temperature.
1:30 pm, the first patient arrives.

This time, the two nurses from the health center have come with the team for immunization.
We were 8 on the clinic and Chanthrea, his wife and their two children even if they’ve shared our meals and spend some times on the clinic, slept in the Dolphin. The clinic is big but not big enough to sleep 12 people !
All the afternoon the clinic was crowded, the team has seen 40 patients this first afternoon. As usual, women, men, children.

It’s really funny when the villagers notice my camera, they laugh a little bit and then they stop moving, waiting until I take the picture.

Sometimes, someone points at someone else, an other adult or a baby. They really like when I take pictures of the children or the babies! And when I start, they come, one by one, always shy at the beginning, but they want a picture! When I show them the result, they smile or they laugh! It’s always the same scenario.

When I’m not taking any picture, I just stay around them, with them, they look at me, they talk to me, I really try to understand but that is my frustration, I can’t understand… I need to learn more…

During this first afternoon I have to admit that I’ve paid a lot of attention to the immunization program.

Children and babies. Some of them were very quiet and brave, some other were just angry like hell!! A small child couldn’t stop crying and screaming. When the Sambun, the nurse from the HC tried to approach him, to comfort him, he got really mad and pushed him back like if he was the devil! It was funny to see his rage!
I remember my brother, when he was very young: he hated needles and vaccins.  Every time, it was a real nightmare for my mother. Once, when we had to consult our pediatrician, my brother got away from the office. He didn’t go far but he took off, he disappeared. Screaming and running in the clinic… Today, he’s an adult who will turn 35 at the end of the year, and he’s not afraid of needles anymore… I don’t have any memories regarding myself, I’m sorry for that… It would have been a pleasure to share them with you!
Anyway, I can understand those little children, injections are not funny, and sometimes it hurts, it burns, it stings. When it’s the very first time it can also surprise you. You trust your parents, you trust the nurse or the doctor and BANG!
Today, thanks to TLC, the villages we serve can discover the pleasure of immunization. I’m not a pro-immunization, I mean I don’t think we need vaccination for everything, we should leave our body developing antibodies. BUT for some illness, immunization is a must.  And that is what the staff from the health center provides when they join the River Team. That is what we can provide since TLC works on the Stung Sen...
Friday, the clinic was open from 6:50 to 11:30 and from 1:30 to 5:00 pm. 100 patients have been seen.

It was a very hot day, believe it or not, it was more than 55 degrees Celsius… (131 fahrenheit)… No need to tell how each single move was painful! I was not the only one who was sweating, even the villager were… While we are inside the clinic, it’s ok, 3 fans are enough to help you cool down a little bit. And you bless the shower….

Friday afternoon, more men came for immunization. Only a picture can express what I would like to express:

Yes, definitely, injections are painful even for a tall strong man.

At the end of the day when all the villager had left the clinic, Sophorn, Pov, Sambun and myself went to fish a little bit.

Just across the river, few meters from the clinic. 30 minutes before sunset.
The “boys” caught some fishes, this one, the puffer fish had his life safe… him and his fellow went back into the water…free to go. The other ones… ended up in our plates…

You know, I really like to share those moments with the team. We joke, we laugh, we talk,  sometimes we don’t know how to say what we would like to say but at the end, we always find a way to understand each other.
On the shore of the Stung Sen River, I felt good, I was happy.

A look on the clinic, a look upon to the sky, a look on the river and a look on the village. At this moment you understand something, I mean, you feel it in your body, in your bones, in your heart, you know that despite all the difficulties, you know that despite all the obstacles, you know that despite all the challenges that you have to face and that you WILL have to face and deal with, you’re doing the right thing.

I’m just an intern here with TLC, I’m just here temporary, for few months, but I can feel it. 
It is not your title, your position, your job description, your background or whatever who makes you who you are, it’s how you feel about it, how involved you are in what you do, how you care about what you do. It is the difference between a duty and a desire. Of course we need to work to live, lucky are the people who live their work like a passion.

It’s also a state of mind, some people will simply go to work in the morning, do what they have to do and will come back home without any other kind of “devotion”, and they are happy like this, lucky them too!
There is not right or wrong, it’s up to every one.
But every body doesn’t have the chance, the opportunity, or even the right to choose, so, again, those who are able to do so are lucky.
Saturday morning the clinic opened for its last morning, few patients later we’ve left.

This last morning I was very scared for few seconds, but it was long enough for my blood to froze from the bottom of my toes to the end of my hair.
A 65 years old man came to consult because he had an infection on his toe.

Sokmali has started to treat him, some cuts, some disinfection… The man was stoic, didn’t said anything, didn’t complained, didn’t move. And suddenly, his eyes rolled upwards, he looked like he was dead. Again - I felt panicked for few seconds - but fortunately, doctor and nurses were there and didn’t loose control. As I told you, it lasted only for few seconds. They did what they had to do and the old man woke up. Yes, he “just” fainted… He told the team he felt asleep, he told them that when he’s at home, he falls asleep the same way…
The truth is that he really collapsed but he couldn’t say it, it was just inconceivable, do not loose face, never.
He was the last patient.

We’ve packed everything, and we left.

It was the end of my “Eight days’s week” on the floating clinic on the Stung Sen River.

For this, I want to thanks TLC. For this and everything else of course...