Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flying Solo

So I've been really rubbish at updating this blog, I'm coming up to the end of my first month in Cambodia and so far have managed weekly updates, so I'm going to try and increase the frequency of posts for the keen readers ;-)

This weekend has probably been the most excessive since arriving in Cambodia... It was Chris's, one of the other volunteer's last weekend, so we decided to go out with a bang! We agreed that happy hour at Corner 33 was on the cards. As we arrived to the bar and ordered our first round, the heavens opened up and rain began chucking it down. The rain so far hadn't been too bad and only really ever lasted an hour or so, however this night it was different... As the rain began to pour down we figured all we could do was make the most of the cheap drinks. The water level on the street was gradually rising and the pavement was slowly disappearing, motos were getting stuck, people were bathing in the water and there was also flocks of monks traversing the water. We saw all of this happen in the company of many cocktails, so things weren't all bad! We stuck it out in the bar until the rain stopped and the water on the streets only reached our ankles, before heading back to the volunteer house... After then that things started to go down hill, we decided to pick up a couple of bottles of liqueur from a nearby Cambodian off licence and continue with the drinking back home. Needless to say we didn't remain classy for long after that!

Apart from copious drinking I've been pretty busy at work this week, I sorted out a whole new list of equipment and medicine for the Clinic at Korsang, and we rinsed the medical supplies budget and went shopping. We spent 300USD on loads of medicine and first aid stuffs, probably the most exciting $300 I've spent so far! Before our massive shop the clinic only had a very limited range of medicine so we bought everything from Gaviscon to scabies cream!

I also finally realised how rubbish some of the doctors/healthcare system here is too. On Wednesday one of the guys from the centre, Curly, fell of his moto and fractured both of his collar bones. We took him to the hospital, where they did all the routine stuff: consult, x-ray, diagnosis, treatment... Not to sure about the treatment though: Curly came out of the consultation room prescription in hand and a bandage (a small compression bandage, to be precise!) linking just one of his wrists to his neck. Now, I'm not a doctor but I was definitely thinking that if you break both collar bones you want a slightly better treatment. The best thing about the treatment was that they tried to charge us $20 for the bandage they had done (we chucked the bill away on our way out of the hospital)...
So after that pretty much pointless trip to the hospital we brought Curly back to the clinic where we cleaned up his wounds and make shifted two slightly more acceptable slings.

As I explained before Korsang have outreach programs, where a team drive around the main drug use areas in Phnom Penh and provide first aid treatment as well as information about Korsang, hygiene and safe needle use. Friday was the first time I went on outreach by myself, I was really excited about the prospect and the responsibility. As we arrived to the site there were four drug users who were high, one of whom I recognised - he was a deportee who I had met a few times at the drop in centre and who was currently on methadone treatment. All four users had minor injuries, cuts to their feet, heads and faces, and a few also complained of headaches. As I opened my kit and started to treat the paralytic users it finally dawned on me what I was doing, these people were unable to talk and had syringes sticking out of their pockets. Being out of the clinic and also unable to understand or talk to the drug users was really difficult. Eventually a few of them began to regain consciousness and crowded around me and began to look through my first aid kit, searching for something more. The whole experience was pretty intense, it's one thing dealing with the people who come to the drop in centre but being by myself on the streets surrounded by drug users was something else. Even though I was a bit shook up by the encounter I'm definitely going to do more outreach, it's very good exposure and is quite different to anything I have ever done before.

There was one point where I began to question whether what I was doing was serving a purpose... It was disheartning seeing all these people on the streets high, after having had conversations with them, after having seen them play with the children at the drop in centre and having seen them receive the methodone treatment...

I guess that's why they call it an addiction.

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