We started the day, which was basically a medical training day, with a rescheduled session on gender differences in Cambodia. The usual problems you would expect of poor opportunities for women are exaggerated by Cambodian culture. Chbab serai (not the correct spelling I”m sure!) is the traditional Cambodian set of instructions for a woman, still taught in schools. While some Cambodian women kick against it , it is still very influential. It says basically that women are subordinate to men, that in marriage their job is to please their men and to accept less for themselves and encourages such submission in all areas. The behavioural differences, work opportunities and life experiences of men and women are very significantly different. This was followed by a talk on sexually transmitted diseases, partic HIV/Aids, in Cambodia. Although Cambodia is seen as a success story because the rate is coming down, there are some worrying facts, particularly striking for me was the number of wives who are infected by their husbands. At the end we saw a particularly moving account of the lives of two such women whose husbands have died and who, with retroviral drugs, are supporting their family well. This is available I think through the BBC World Services Trust and called My Journey.
After lunch I made contact with Emily, one of the volunteers leaving later this month, and will go to see her place tomorrow evening. In the afternoon, we have had a very instructive talk from a UK based charity which is working with other partners and the Cambodian govt to remove landmines and unexploded ordinance (bombs, mortar bombs, grenades, cannon rounds etc). Cambodia is in the ”top 4” of countries in terms of unexploded war material still lying about, particularly in the North West, where the Khmer Rouge were based in the 1980s and 1990s and in the North East, where the US dropped many cluster bombs which are still there more than 30 years on. They are having a lot of success, as accident rates have reduced, but funding is also reducing.
The final session of the day involved a local doctor telling us all we had to do to keep safe. By the time she had finished telling us about mosquito borne threats ( malaria, dengue and japanese encephalitis), water borne threats, blood/fluid threats, rabies and various other problems, we believed the only way to keep safe was to wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and never go out (the biggest single killer of adults in PP is road accidents!). On the plus side, I arranged to come back from Kampong Cham next Friday for the third round of my rabies and Jap encephalitis, which she will give me. The Hepatitis A and B can wait until I am living in PP.
From today we have to fend for ourselves for food, but it’s a very resourceful bunch and so Paul, from Liverpool, has taken responsibility for buying bread, Dave, from Oxford, took in money to pay the cooks to come back in for lunch (more convenient than searching for somewhere) while Leandra watches out for all of us, filling in the gaps, and the rest of us wash up and generally help out in different ways. In the evening, we agreed to walk up to an Indonesian restaurant. Unfortunately I hurt my knee again at the very first crossing…. I had crossed behind Paul and did not see a motor bike coming behind him. I had to jump back from a short step, putting extra pressure on the knee and I felt it sore again. I don’t know if it tore a little of what but it was a little warning to me that I cannot be complacent, as it has been generally fine since I arrived here. I was still able to walk fine.. to the restaurant and then back via a nice park area to the VSO building, but the traffic at night is absolutely mad. At that time it is worse than the day time, but half the vehicles have no lights.
At the restaurant I had gado gado and ais kelapa muda (Joan will know what that means!) and had a nice walk back with Leandra and Andre and Johannes and Thea, our two Dutch couples, who are good company.
OK I think that’s enough for today. Tomorrow we are supposed to meet the British Ambassador (or his rep I suspect!) – though no-one has yet bought in the Ferrero-Rocher.