Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bicycling, Happy Hours and Khmer

Phnom Penh, 3 weeks on. So I finally feel like I'm starting to know my way around, I know some of the tuk tuk drivers, how to give directions in Khmer and the cleaner even told me I was the same colour as Khmer people too!

I've started to settle into Korsang too, even though it's only been a week. It's basically like being a first aider full time! Although I have to admit the language barrier is quite challenging, on the plus side I'm getting quite good at using my hands to describe things. The main things that I've treated are moto burns and other small cuts, nothing too exciting yet! Although they have loads of cool equipment in the medical post like bibs, blood sugar level testers and one of those really sophisticated syphgys which give you about 5 different readings. So as you can probably imagine it is very exciting. The items listed above are only to name a few, if you're lucky I might even reveal further fun items in my next posts, so stay tuned! I've also been put down on the on-call list, so I'm eagirly awaiting the night I will be rung up...

Last week I went to visit the methadone clinic, located at the Russian Hospital. Everyday, Korsang take 25 of thier drug users there to receive mathadone. The clinic seemed to be very well run: there were at least 2 doctors, 3 nurses and a pharmacist. It seemed like administration was very well controlled: each participant was required to have an interview in order to assess the dosage of methadone, whether it should be increased or decreased, whether the patient was using less heroine, ect, ect. If the dosage given was changed from the previous day each drug user was asked to stay in the clinic for a further 2 hours in order to monitor their state. The whole process ran very smoothly and the doctors and nurses were all very friendly, and didn't not seem to be passing judgment on the drug users (unlike in other parts of the hospital). Oh, and I forgot to mention that the whole treatment is entirely funded by the WHO and FHA, which just goes to show that Cambodian healthcare treatment isn't all bad!

So apart from that I also soaked up some of Phnom Penh nightlife this weekend. Cambodians have many traditions: 3 day weddings, the krama (scarf) and of course happy hour. Happy hour in Phnom Penh takes place in pretty much every bar, every night (and even all day for some). So Friday night after work, a few of us decided to head down to Riverside (where all the touristy bars are) to see just how happy Happy Hour was.... Well I can definitely say that I wasn't dissatisfied by the drinks on offer: $1.50 for a cocktail (and they were all delicious too!). Now if that's not a reason to come to Cambodia I don't know what is! After having made the most of the cocktails, we figured we'd keep up the happy theme so headed to a place called "Happy Pizza". The food at Happy Pizza was nice, although we could have done without the neverending propositions of the tuk tuk drivers, stationed nearby...

I'm just going to include a brief note on tuk tuk drivers. Now these are the most persistent people I have ever met in my entire life and on Friday night this came to an all time high. The drivers are just waiting outside restaurants for tourists to finish eating and once one person gets up to leave it's literally a race between drivers to see who can get the client first. In retrospect it's quite funny how persistent they actually are, they're almost like "Hey, don't mind me, I'm just going to sit at your table whilst you eat. And then when you're finished you get my tuk tuk, OK?". And also note, if the tuk tuk driver quotes you a price to go somewhere make sure you never pay more than half the amount he told you.

Luckily I don't have to deal with tuk tuks on a daily basis as I'm cycling to work. Remember how crazy I said all the drivers were in Cambodia... Yeah, enough said! Bearing that in mind I'm still alive and have not had an accident, not even close! Although I do feel like I'm tempting fate everyday... It literally is mental on the roads though, but most people don't drive too fast and stop to let you pass. So far so good! As the adrenaline from the cycling isn't quite enough for me, I've also asked to try out driving one of the medical vans at work, I've been given a provisional yes, so will post that experience up next time!

I've also started having Khmer lessons, I've got lessons twice a week so hopefully I'll get ace really soon! Although I think my pronunciation's not up to scratch quite yet as people definitely can't understand me and ask me to speak in English. It's not got me down yet though!

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