Week 1: The first week of the trip was focused on traveling, over-coming jet lag, and diving into the incredible Asian culture. We tried our best to fall in line with all cultural norms and blend in. By this I mean that we dressed appropriately at all times, covering our shoulders and knees; we bargained with the sellers at the markets and Tuk-Tuk drivers as expected; we even ate Khmer food and sat on cushions around a low table at dinner! We lived like the locals, not like wealthy Americans. We attempted to be fully aware of the culture. We knew we would soon be serving throughout villages in Cambodia. In this blog I will share my thoughts from a day in Battambang during our first week. But first, I have to say THANK YOU to Hope Through Healing Hands for the incredible opportunity to be here, to grow as a health care professional, to serve those in need through medical care, and to share Jesus with all.
05/16/18. The morning began bright and early today as we set off for the 6 hour drive to Battambang at 6:30am. In addition to our Belmont University Cambodia team, our Freedom’s Promise translators joined us on the vans. The translators will be with us during our clinics at Battambang and Poipet. Having the translators with us was a wonderful experience, because the translators began teaching us about the Cambodian culture, the villages, and their home towns. We listened to Cambodian music, tried Cambodian food along the ride, and asked questions, as well as shared our culture with them, including American country music and US health care. These wonderful interactions formed new relationships. Although the roads were bumpy, the driving was unique, the nausea was REAL, and the bathroom breaks were uncomfortable, one of the best parts of the ride was seeing the details of the land and the towns. After we arrived at the beautiful hotel in Battambang, Kasey, one of our Freedom’s Promise translators and a Battambang local, showed us around her town. The first stop was to Province Hall, a house built over 100 years ago, but recently opened to the public as a museum, where we learned about Battambang’s history and took quite a few fun photos!
Belmont in Cambodia group at Province Hall in Battambang.
The evening continued with the Bamboo Train. These little bamboo train carts took 4-5 people on each cart on a lovely adventure through the countryside of Cambodia. It was absolutely breathtaking. An added and unexpected benefit was the cloud cover which gave us a pleasant break from the scorching hot sun.
The last event of the night was by far my favorite experience of the entire day. We hiked up hundreds of stairs (sweaty as can be/ gasping for air) to these incredible Buddhist temples that were built hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It is difficult to find words to appropriately describe the beauty of these temples. We explored the temples, took pictures, and enjoyed the views, before making the journey back down.
FNP student group & faculty at temples near Battambang.
Reflecting on this long, but exciting day, I must say that our team is quickly becoming a family. While we have only been here for a couple of days, it is amazing how open, honest, and comfortable we are all becoming with one another. We have experienced highs and lows together, and we haven’t even started clinics yet! I am thankful to have had these days together to become a family, as I know we will need each other more than ever as we begin our first clinic here in Battambang tomorrow.