Monday, August 10, 2009

Bitter Sweet Memories : Cambodia - A humbling experience

Assalamualaikum :)I'm typing here again. My blog is private and dying, yet here I am writing in the all too public facebook notes section. I don't do sensible.Cambodia...where do I start? I nearly cancelled my trip there because I feel like I'm needed more in Malaysia. Kelantan, to be exact.

Because KIBAR was going on and they didn't have enough people to help out. At the same time, a lot of people bailed out from the mission, and there were only ten people left. I couldn't win - If I go, I left my friends in Kelantan all the workload of KIBAR. If I don't go, I'll impose more work to the CRM team, because when there's only ten people...losing one manpower is a lot.At last I chose Cambodia with hesitation, and I decided to make sure that I make the best of it, so that I didn't miss KIBAR for nothing.

I was pleasantly surprised during the first day of the mission, realizing how far the first village was, because I felt that these must be people who really needed us to be there, and people who would really appreciate the free mobile clinic and circumcision. When we got closer to the said village, I find myself perplexed with what I saw outside the glass window of the white Mercedez van - people there actually still use carts pulled by cows and horses. Like, ACTUALLY using it for their daily living, and not just for tourist transporation or some shiz. It was as if we were riding a time machine.Villagers were already gathered at the mosque when we got there, and we disembarked the van feeling rather nauseous - especially the circumcision team. I was on the mobile clinic team that day, so I wasn't as nervous and vomity as the other team was - haha

sukahati cakap korang feel vomity. Is vomity even a real word?I was in charge of the dispensary, and my, my, wasn't it challenging. I wasn't familiar with the drugs just yet at the time, and we didn't pack much of the drugs beforehand. It wasn't long before it got wayyy too hectic and hot. It was really, really, really, hot...especially since I was sitting upon direct sunlight and the villagers were surrounding the dispensary section - we didn't have much structure on that first day. I think our patient count on that day must have reached at least 350 - it doesn't help that I was dispensing prescribed drugs among the screams and cries of the boys being circumcized.

A note to my friends on the west, if you're reading this - we only circumcized young boys, and we used local anaesthesia, steriled surgical instruments, gloves and masks. The procedure was all surgically legit, and nothing was barbaric about it. No insane mythical stones or shiz like that were used.As days of the mission went by, we managed to create a better system for the dispensary, got a lot more familiar with the meds, and most unbelievably - learned how to carry out circumcision, and actually did it.

Not just hold-the-catgut-for-the-doctor do it, but suture-the-friggin'-penis do it. I wasn't up for it at first, because I am a world-renowned wuss. But at one point, I became the only one who haven't done it on my own, and I felt like a I did it.I can now add 'Circumcized Cambodian boys' in my List of Things to Tell My Grandchildren.I couldn't believe how much the money we managed to raise in Ireland and UK made a difference to their lives.

These are children who cry because there wasn't enough copies of colouring papers for them, children who are delighted to join the colouring contest despite them getting only one colour pencil each because we weren't prepared for such a huge crowd, families who live in houses the size of a chicken coop - if you were there during the charity drive, if you bought the second-hand clothes we know, darlings, that your money went to a place that needs it so, so much.There are so much more to tell, about how a Cambodian guy became the first person in his village to get into University at his own willpower and effort, about people living in boats on Tonle Sap lake, about the child beggars in Kampung Cham. About the friends we made in Cambodia.

But they're all so impossible to convey in a mere note, so hard to spell out in my limited vocabulary. The 13 days made all of us in team CRM09 realize how lucky we are to be born in Malaysia, how we shouldn't take all the things Allah had given us for granted. It made us appreciate everything we have so much more, and it made us realize of our renponsibility to share, to give to those in need.There will be a Cambodia Relief Mission 2010 next year insyaAllah...go for it, friends. It's an experience that's worth every second of your summer.

by Atiqah
Bandar Bukit Raja,