Friday, November 26, 2010

November: Week 3

I'm always surprised when people mention my blog. It seems like going to Cambodia is really what people need to do to get their blog noticed. But, thanks. It's awesome to know that I'm not just writing another xanga entry or live journal or any o my other older blogger blogs. haha. Anyway: Week 3.

Week 3, I got to work on Monday and finished the last day of training with the Village Health Volunteers. I thought that after that I would be free, but it turns out there are 20 more volunteers and four more days of training. On that Wednesday, the Peace Corps medical officers, Navi and Joanne, drove up to Siem Reap for a visit. It should have been simple, but first I found out my Health Center Director wouldn't be present because he had a meeting. He asked the lab tech/ nurse (everyone is a midwife or a nurse, there are very few doctors in Cambodia since their school system is only about 30 years old) to meet with the doctors. The Lab guy seemed to really look forward to it since it would be two women visiting. Come Wednesday, I bike out to a village at around noon. The road is totally washed out and I walk my bike across a pond. The pharmacist and assistant are about half and hour late arriving and we are half an hour late starting, but it doesn't matter because only about 20 people show up for vaccines. We just sort of chill out and eat oranges and unripe mango dipped in what tastes like ramen noodle mix. It's actually really good. Then it starts pouring. After scrambling to get all my stuff out of the rain I realize I'm going to be late getting back. It's about a 9k bike ride on a rocky bumpy road and now it's all muddy too. Awesome. A few minutes after it stops I bike back, as fast as I dare to because as most people learn in Cambodia you risk decorating your back with mud when you bike too quickly.

I finally make it back to the health center. I'm really really sweaty and the first thing Navi does is give me a hug. I apologize immediately. I also notice that the lab guy went home and instead my midwife has to see the Peace Corps docs. Not sure if he forgot, I miscommunicated, or he just delegated, but whatever. This kind of thing happens everyday. The rest of the visit goes well. They visit my home and talk to my grandma at first then they cycle through people and eventually my mom comes home from work.

The next day I get up early and get a taxi to Siem Reap. Getting a taxi is not a simple as it seems, but it's also very simple. Basically, I have to get to a certain place in town by 7am. There, I wait until I see a taxi like car pass by or stop. When it stops I ask how much it costs and I get in. Then I wait for it to pick up more stuff, passengers, or just sit there and do nothing. This usually lasts about an hour and I think 5 u-turns. When we finally get to Siem Reap this guy, that I met on my trip to Siem Reap with the students, calls my taxi driver to have a conversation with me because he saw me pass his tuk-tuk. It is a small world. I eat a quick breakfast of ice tea and a brownie and get online for about 20 min before my Program manager comes to pick me up with Kurt, the other health volunteer K4 in my province. We go to meet the Provincial Health Director, except he's busy and the person under him is busy too. Eventually, we meet the Deputy Director of Maternal Health and she is a very nice woman. Later we meet the Provincial Police Chief who is also a Brigadier General. We each receive a nice silk scarf parting gift and, eventually, someone in America will be the lucky recipient of this gift. Later that day we go back to my town, after we drive up an absurdly ditchy dirt road to drop off Kurt. This time my parents are home, but mostly its my host dad awkwardly sitting there while the PM interviews me in English. Site visits are for the higher ups to see my living and working conditions and deal with any issues. Then we go to the health center and the PM has to meet with the midwife again. Part of the conversation was asking the midwife what I could improve upon. Mostly they just say my language, but that's a given. She's clearly really nervous about giving feedback.

This nervousness is like a wall I come up against every single day. The older students are shy or nervous or scared, I'm not really sure. So it's just super awkward at home everyday. The staff, most of the time I think that just don't have time for me or they really don't know what I should be doing, but when you ask them directly for feedback or guidance they get very nervous. People find it hard to speak directly to me. The whold not knowing what I'm doing is a big part fo it htough. Since I'm part of the first group of health volunteers I really don't have a precedent to follow so we're all just doing what we can and each situation is truly unique. I have friends that can give presentations in English and have it translated, but I have no one that really can translate. Some have NGO's established in their towns, but mine mostly work on an outreach basis. Some Health Centers are new and have rooms for meetings, we have meeting in the waiting room. Sometimes there's a woman that just gave birth lying on a wooden bed while meetings go on....Each situation is just so different and we all are just trying to figure out what to do with what we have.

Anyway, that weekend is water festival and us K4 volunteers have big plans. More on that later...

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