Another busy 2 weeks. We try to sit down and post each weekend, and sometimes, with weekend responsibilities, we miss it. We have been south to the Province of Svey Reing, which is bordering Vietnam, and the following week, traveled north through another 5 provinces to the Province of Oddar Menchay, and were just a few feet from the Border of Thailand. Some of the outlying areas are not visited so much by NGO organizations, so there is more poverty, we see more people who have lost limbs, blindness, and just plain poverty.
Somewhere in between all of the traveling we took three days and inspected our wheelchair manufacturers here in country. We also visited several recipients. Their situations all varied, one had a working accident while building an office building. He was immobile from the waist down, he lacked basic function of everything, and was glad for the wheelchair. He lives with his uncle, but has sores from sitting all day.
Another individual taught himself how to speak and read English by using You Tube, a book and google. He is mobile because of his new wheel chair, and he is employed teaching about 15 small children how to speak English. He earns 10 cents per day per child. His back is slowly fusing together, his neck and back are increasingly rigid, but he is optimistic and happy with what he does have.
Our trip to Svey Reng was an adventure, as we are nearing the end of a 3 hour drive there, we are pulled over at a police checkpoint, and motioned to drive a few blocks to the police station. The officers there indicated that we were speeding and owed a fine. Our car is pulled out of traffic and we got the fine. A small frustration, considering that the police randomly pull people out of traffic, and charge a fine, which they put in their pocket. It raises a little indignancy to be fined as we are on our way to wrap up a 80,000 dollar donation to the province that these folks live in… I am learning to swallow my Idaho grown pride and to respect the customs and culture of the country of which we are a guest in. We met with the governor of the district, inspected the wells, and headed back to prepare for the following week.
The owner of the well, and the commune chief. The woods behind us, just over the creek is Thailand.
This last week, was Chinese New Year. It started on Friday, and ended Monday the 27th. There was celebrations and many businesses were closed. I am told that the Cambodians celebrate their new year in April. And in Cambodia, it is a REAL celebration. We are anxious to see that! On Tuesday we were out the door at daylight, and drove to see a potential project at a school. They need a well there and so a preliminary visit was helpful. Then off to a high school to inspect their finished well. Unfortunately, the plumbing had been altered, and so the latrines were not in proper working order. So as we walked near to see what was not working, we had to back up to avoid the evidence of the broken plumbing. It had been turned off, but the students still needed to use the latrines. As we investigated, the local handyman had decided to improve on the working system, and disconnected the water supply to re-rout water from the local pond. Unfortunately his efforts didn’t work. And they didn’t know what to do next… so they didn’t do anything. The effort over the last year to put the system together was a bit undone, but hopefully, we can get it all running again.
Then we were off to Siem Reap, this is the province which has the renowned Angkor Wat Temple. We didn’t have time to see it, we hope to be back in the future. This was an overnight stop as we made our way to see an ongoing project in Oddar Menchay. Here, our efforts are focused on helping local farmers produce vegetables that are sold to the schools to help supplement their diet, and to give them a meal at the beginning of their school day. It has been going for a few years, and the things we saw were impressive. I think there was a bit of capitalism forming in the community, and the kids were benefiting.
As we drove near the Thai border, the normally flat Cambodia countryside opened up to large mountains which had unusual formations that ran vertically up the mountainside. Our driver indicated that in this area, cobras live in the rocky terrain. And if one was fortunate, they might see an elephant cross the road. We saw neither on this trip. But the variety in the landscape was amazing.
Then off to Battambang to inspect 31 wells, these were in the mountains, but not as rocky as the mountains near Thailand. On Friday, with the inspections complete, we were ready to head back on the 5 hour drive to Phnom Penh. 200 Kilometers of a two lane highway that is entirely torn up for road widening. Each side of the highway had a steep drop off to the excavation below. About 1 in 3 vehicles drive without lights, the highway is crowded, it is not lit, and occasionally there is a bicyclist riding on the shoulder of the road. At one point, we came across people selling their produce on the shoulder of the road, cars would stop on the highway to buy turnips, totally blocking a dangerously narrow highway. There are many things which takes our breath away, but life goes on and somehow people survive. We love the challenge, we sometimes get exasperated, and then turn around and our hearts melt at the next moment when we interact with the next family.
Our mission is a mission focused mostly on administering assistance to all who need it. Our job is to find it, set it up, manage it, and then to record the results and close it. Most projects last 8-18 months. We are slowly getting our arms around things.
It is Sunday evening here. We are unwinding from a full day of training from Elder Meurs, a counselor in the area presidency from Hong Kong. He is from Australia, and when questioned about the Ottersons, he said, oh sure! They are our dear friends! He has toured the mission this week, training the Branch and ward councils on the new youth program and the role of the ward leaders to support the Bishop. The Gospel here is being administered as it is at home. The saints here are striving to live the Gospel and to raise their children to love God. Tonight, we had a man come into the chapel with dusty sandals, worn work jeans and a tired face. He joined our Sacrament meeting, and indicated he wanted to learn the songs that we had sung.
We love our assignment! It is a marvelous experience! We always have something new to experience! We love our children. We love your messages, We love the notes from our dear friends. All the messages seem to arrive at a time we need a smile, sometimes they bring a tear or two and give us a spiritual boost. Thank you all for your love and support.
May God bless you all! Hug the ones you love and try to learn to love those you don’t.
Elder and Sister Stone