I had plenty of time to catch up on my blog of the last few days, since I am stuck flat on my back in bed, the victim of a little Cambodian bug. The culprits for starting the germ warfare currently being waged are plentiful and with ALL this time on my hands, I can place bets on swamp trudging in Stung Meanchy, dodgy rebottled water or any of the 21 hacking, ill children at the orphanage where Sum Namg lives. There the kids swap germs like they are trading stock in the market and the health of their little germy community rises and falls with the same steep regularity.
It’s been a busy couple of days in Siem Reap since my arrival. Surprisingly, my “taxi” to Siem Reap had come with actual working seatbelts and intact windows with full visibility. Not that I like to look out the windows during a drive than often resembles a demolition derby with livestock. I had wasted little time upon arriving to check in, toss my luggage on the bed and hustle out the door to walk over to the orphanage to see Sum Namg and the other kids. In my haste, I failed to notice a rapidly blackening sky and halfway to the shelter, the skies opened up and soaked me from head to toe. Out of sheer stubbornness and to show the Tuk Tuk drivers who were all eager to offer me a ride the rest of the way that I wasn’t in the least bit bothered by the rain, I marched resolutely on. The number of Tuk Tuk and Moto drivers that stopped to offer a ride seemed to increase the more see through my shirt became. By the time I got to the orphanage, I resembled something straight out of a spring break wet tee-shirt contest. Probably not the look the nuns were hoping for as they welcomed me back.
A few steps in and I spotted Sum Nag stretched out on a mat on the floor. He tracked my progress across the room with a huge grin splitting his face. His little clenched fists came up off the floor and he laughed soundlessly. He may not be able to speak, but he certainly knows how to express himself. He had a double ear infection and a rumbling chest cough, which is not a surprise. He has had these issues constantly for the last year and a half. Unfortunately, the free clinic where the kids are brought enthusiastically and without fail prescribe Amoxicillin regardless of what the ailment might be. The kids seldom are given or finish a full dose and as a result, they have been immune to the healing properties of this particular antibiotic. I pick him up and cover him with kisses. He grins and then coughs in my face. Where is my little sister Cher and her antibacterial wipes when you need them?
Over the course of the next few days, I split my time between visiting Sum Namg and following up with business details for launching Safe Haven. After considering and interviewing some project manager candidates, I hired Chet Rosa, a young man who was recommended by my friend Chitra, the manager of the Shinta Mani hotel and Street Children Hospitality Program. Rosa is a dedicated family man with a young daughter of his own. He has worked for years in tourism and has a deep familiarity with the villages we plan to conduct our census of handicap kids in. Plus his English and his computer skills are excellent. We agree to a three-month probation period. Roza sports a deep scar on his forehead. Last year, he was on his moto with his wife and baby daughter when a Tuk Tuk struck them. It drove a large metal spike into his head, broke both of his wife’s legs and put their infant daughter in a coma for 3 days. It was a miracle that they all survived. He told me he felt he could empathize with families struggling with disabled children because he knew what it was like to feel helpless about his daughter’s health and care.
With that important aspect of the project moving forward, Chita also lets me know that the piece of land I came across last year that I really wanted for the site of the Safe Haven school has still not been sold. Perhaps our luck will hold and we will be able to raise the money to buy it before it sells after all.
Today Roza, Pierre and I were supposed to travel to the village of Smatch to check up on some of CFI’s other projects. CFI is the USA NGO under which Safe Haven will operate. In the village of Smatch, they have built a sewing center, which now produces mosquito nets. I also wanted to check up on the son of the village vet who suffers from a leg disability due to a badly set hip break. Unfortunately instead I am stuck in bed, waiting for the fever and stomach bug to move on to another hapless foreigner. Hopefully I will recover enough to be able to take advantage of the two days I have left before I return to the States. Already, it appears I will have to return sooner to Cambodia than my planned January trip. Once the paperwork for our NGO status comes through, I will need to return to open up a bank account and sign the legal documents. But that is something to look forward too.
Like getting out of this bed.