Friday, July 27, 2012

Last Day of Work!!!

Wow, these past few weeks have gone by so quickly. I had my last day of class yesterday in which I admitted that teaching these kids has been my absolute favorite part about working in Cambodia. I'm pretty sure that without them I wouldn't have made it through my service. We're having a small get together this afternoon. Originally it was supposed to be a lunch thing. I had bought pasta and sauce from Siem Reap and I was going to make it for them. I'm still doing that, but for some reason they didn't understand that it replaced lunch. Instead this will be second lunch for them...

As going away presents for most people I printed out a couple of pictures and I've been giving them out slowly each day. Just like each day my room gets a little emptier, but somehow manages to look just as messy as before. It's weird going around and thinking that this might be the last time I bike to the health center or almost fall face first in a pile of mud and cow shit. Yes, I even miss the slippery muddy ditch filled roads because I know that New York City won't have anything like it.

I've been pretty busy these past few weeks which is why I haven't been updating so much. I submitted my application to matriculate into medical school in August 2013. That was about 2 months ago now...and since then it's been a furious race to write and revise essay after essay. The way applying to medical school works is that you spend months/years preparing for the MCAT and the AMCAS application. The AMCAS is considered the primary application which you must submit to all the schools you're interested in...this year it cost 160 for the first school and 33 for each successive school. I applied to 16.

Once that's done you wait for about a month (I submitted June 5th the first day available). Around the beginning of July schools start sending you secondary applications which cost between 70 to 120 dollars each to submit. On average it's 100 bucks a pop. In addition to all the money you're giving them you also have to write all these essays. It wouldn't be so bad if the schools coordinated and set similar word limits or questions, but each school just has to do their own thing. One school might ask a typical question such as "What did you do after you graduated?", but they would have a 300 word limit whereas another school has a 2000 character limit and another has a 100 word limit. It just drives me batty trying to keep track of it all. Especially, since at the peak I had about 5 drafts being written and revised simultaneously. I definitely couldn't have survived this without Kurt helping me revise almost every essay and my other friends who came in when I needed a new perspective. It's really really hard to find people to help your writing when you're the most fluent English speaker around for 16km and people in America are super bad at replying to emails.

I think something that I didn't expect to happen was how much more I value face-to-face conversations. Even if it's just to make a simple request I really prefer to do it in person because email and telephone just exacerbate the breakdown of communication. I've also realized that the majority of people don't know how to listen and they don't know that they don't know. It's also much harder to ignore someone than to ignore an email. I understand that sometimes you save an email for later, but so many people just forget. If I came up to you in person you'd give me an answer right away. Unless you're extremely rude, I don't think you turn away and mumble to yourself about saving it for later and then forget about me. That's why there are some people I almost never email and if something needs to be a done a phone call or personal visit is the only way. I think for those of you that knew me before Cambodia you can tell from this preference how much I've changed over the past two years.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The view from my window

I'm at work. Sitting at a desk in an adult sized chair. Typing on my computer, going through emails, working on my med. school apps. Next to me is our new printer and a bottle of water. The Health Center is quiet. There's a breeze coming from the open window. I look out and I see a few trees. The school in the distance and the rice fields surrounding it. There is also a barbed wire fence between me and the rice fields. And just beyond the fence is a butt. The butt of a bulky water buffalo eating the grass. Superimposed on all this are the metal bars on every window in Cambodia. Beyond, the sky is blue and clear. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Guest post?

Replace gunfo with prahok and watching paint dry with killing mosquitoes and you've got Cambodia. This post by another PCV in another continent is remarkably accurate to my own experience. As he said, every PCV has a different experience no matter how close or far away you are from each other, but I think there are collective similarities which may be abstract, but which bind us together in the end.

Most people I know wouldn't be able to tell you what month it is if you asked them for the time.

Monday, July 9, 2012


Chikungunya has nothing to do with chickens. Instead, it has a lot to do with primates. Ever since I got my invite to Cambodia I've heard the term Dengue more times than I can count. Dengue is the big bad. When you get it your fever is so high you could hallucinate. The pain in your muscles and bones is so intense that they call it "bone break fever". On top of all that, you end up sleeping with your toilet because it causes vomiting.

Chikungunya is not Dengue, but it's similar. It's transmitted by the same mosquito and it has similar symptoms. There's fever, pain, rash, and maybe vomiting. It's so similar that a lot of children with it are misdiagnosed as having Dengue (generally Cambodians believe adults cannot contract Dengue because most of them had Dengue as children and are immune). It's probably a cause for the 300% increase in Dengue cases this year. The arrival of Chikungunya 2 months before my departure was an interesting coincidence.

In early June, I was probably tested for dengue and malaria for the 500th time and both came back negative again. I was one of the first ones to get it in my village, probably because of my complete lack of immunity. My host niece also got it. About a week after I got the disease patients flooded the health center with the same symptoms. Patients from all 20 villages in my catchment area. Very few adults had immunity and so the disease spread quickly. Just last week one of the midwives at my health center was bed ridden with rash, swelling, and an intense headache.

This week I found out that chikungunya causes arthritis for months possibly years. I thought I was just getting old. I hope it resolves itself soon, but as with any disease it can have unintended consequences. I'll take this moment to tell everyone to vaccinate their children! Vaccines protect children from lethal and disfiguring diseases and you never know where they might catch one or who they may give it to. Unless you want to be the cause of the next measles epidemic then be sure to vaccinate your kids.

Now, my case isn't confirmed yet and I really wouldn't be surprised if I got another negative test result. Being sick so often here has really given me a deeper understanding of how medicine really works and how the best doctors are also the best detectives and magicians.