Cambodian Eye Mission – December 2017
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
During the first week of December 2017, Damien, Siene and I embarked on a mission to help the disadvantaged people of Cambodia. This was the first time any of us had done anything like this so we were all a little apprehensive to say the least. Nevertheless, we prepared for this exciting and fruitful adventure. Here is a little snippet of what we got up to…
I was looking forward to meeting old friends and colleagues, and with the blur of revising for the exam fresh in my mind I was propelled from frying pan straight into the fire as I found myself heading to Birmingham to join my friends and colleagues out in Cambodia. A flurry of last minute packing was done as I had to winnow down makeup choices to the bare minimum, but it was a pleasant diversion after the hideousness of the exam; a trauma I had only recently endured.
The best airport shuttle in Birmingham, my own dear father, took me to the airport and I knew immediately that my choice of Birmingham as a departure point was the correct one as the check in queue was so small. Which is surprising really as you would imagine people would be clamouring to leave the Midlands. I thought I was definitely in for a free upgrade but alas I am waiting still. Happily I met my friend in the airport Jo Malone, a shop specializing in western bourgeoisie candles and other fairly useless paraphenalia. It was a joy. We caught up and that helped while away the hours until I found myself on the plane itself, an Emirate A380 with extra legroom and nobody next to me! This joy was not to last however as two suspicious looking sex tourists promptly sat next to me. The older of the two had a nice cottage in Thailand that he visited from time to time, for purely atmospheric reasons. Naturally. The younger was on the way to Australia and thought he would stop by Thailand for some ‘business’ on the way. His business was allegedly in Australia.
I survived the journey to Dubai and with no small amount of relief I left the company of the two travellers and searched out that famour Arabian airport for some signs of civilization. Unhappily I did not find this as I bumped into Siene. She was shopping at the last minute seemingly oblivious to the soon to depart plane. It was almost as if shopping was her main r’aison detre. We were guided to the right gate by a woman asking for phenom phenem travellers, and seemed to take great joy in runining the name of the great Khmer capital to which we were headed. It sounded suspiciously as if she had some kind of lisp, but having heard people mangle Welsh place names such as Llanelli I could sympathise.
Where was Damien? He could not be located. He was meant to meet us on the plane and indeed he did so though I had to naturally congratulate myself on strategic seat planning on the flight from Dubai to Cambodia as I had a whole row to myself. Damien then presented himself, all smiles, as if he were some Lucentis salesman. The reason for his levity then became apparent as it seemed he was travelling with a whole host of beauty queens on their way to some sort of competition, all dolled up. They were of many different ethnicities and not at all dressed appropriately so I thought it best to give one of my disapproving stares. Strangely he did not seem to notice this as he sat down between two Thai ladyboys.
Siene then distracted me by pulling out the instruction manual and started going through each point one by one. If I was stressed before I certainly was now! I am usually more organised but the exam had scuppered all that. At the end of it all I felt I really needed to use the small onboard toilet with ear popping suction flush. I would do anything so long as it was simple, clinic monkey, secretary, even being the designated autoclave bitch. This was a specific job role and is in no way a slur. I envisaged my instruments to be the cleanest in the Khmer empire. Sixteen hours later we reached the capital, Phnom Penh, and again Damien showed off his clinical excellence by sauntering through customs with his Malaysian passport. This must have been the only situation in the world when it was useful to have a passport from a tropical third world Islamic country.
When we got through Damien was in much more somber mood, having been abandoned by the beauty queens, who seemed to be having much fun having their photos taken with our fellow travellers the elderly sex tourists. The taxi driver by some coincidence had earlier taken our friend and fellow trainee from KSS deanery, our fourth wheel, to the hotel earlier. We checked in, freshened up and then it was almost time to be meet up and be all together how exciting! Clearly I needed some strong alcoholic support. This was achieved in a local café where we drank, caught up, ate, and the whole thing came to less than 5 US dollars each. It was like being in Wolverhampton, but cleaner. We were tuckered out, needed sleep and it was with a great sense of achievement drifted to slumberland looking forward to my Khmer adventure…