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How do you move on when you left something so special behind?

I think I am struggling with this concept the most.

I have had difficulties opening packaging on the food items I buy ( why do we need so much plastic and cartons around our food?) and also using the televisions remote controls (there seem to be so many more buttons).

I found myself in London once more with masses of unsmiling people rushing around, with so many shops fill of shoe and clothes that I found impossible to think they will all get worn.

The paperfilling, the need to cross your I’s and dot your T’s. The frustration of waiting around for Criminal Records Checks where they screen your past address but need to do this for every employment so that although I get cleared for agency nursing, one month later they’ll submit it again for my permanent job that will have to start in March because they wait and refuse to acknowledge the earlier one.

The frustration when my Hep B results submitted to my agency were not an official lab results form therefore my G.P. must be lying !

I have given so many personal details to so many people to prove that I am who I am that I am –with all that info out there in so many different places identity fraud must be so easy, so if you meet a 33yr old Suzie Newson in the street DOB 17/06/77 that don’t look like me, act like me or speak like me then you know what happened and if you meet 2………

But the hardest is to leave behind a culture, language and people that you grow to love because it is different and it is unique. The country was raw and basic and that’s what made the people so beautiful, such hard challenging lives and they keep smiling, they keep laughing and they keep going. Their children although some malnourished, some sick, most lacking in educational opportunities, were always up for a smile, a laugh, a game, a “hello barang”.

I miss my colleagues, they showed me patience, resilience and understanding. They showed me how grey and murky things are til you accept a culture/ an individual, look at the basics and put yourself in their position and realized you would behave a lot worse. I gained the ability to really look at a situation and rationalize that if someone is trying to keep their family secure, healthy and kids educated then  a little corruption is not as bad as it first seems, especially when your surviving in an unfair autocratic machine. However when you are walking around with a gold bracelet worth 1000US, you drive a Lexus and you expect to be treated like royalty because you have your fingers in more money than anyone else – I hope it all goes terribly wrong for you.

The journey on the political and work front was amazing – I used to think that all nurses should know when to do routine observations, give out medicine and treat people nicely, I thought it was easy, a natural part of being a nurse/midwife but I took my education and training for granted.

Try having an education system that basically teaches you to read or write, very little conceptual education i.e. how to interpret graphs, how to think out side the square when you are taught by rote. Then your accepted into a nursing school where the teachers are given curriculums from well meaning NGO’s, all in English or all the text books are (they struggle on teaching what their limited knowledge in their own language), your facilities are run down, not enough equipment to practice procedures or you have equipment but have not been taught effectively how to use it. On placement you learn how to make money from your job because you are paid 30US a month and cannot survive on that. If your one of the selected few, because of who you know, you’ll attend workshops put on by development agencies. Great money for attending, good lunches but some bits are in English – or trying to build on principles your education has not managed to teach you so your missing most the concepts. Then you go back to your province and you won’t try to implement what you learnt because you struggled to understand much. If you did pick up something it was only in Theory and there is no one to help you implement this new idea, so you don’t bother.  Why should you bother – if you wait long enough hopefully some development agency will fund you for doing just one concept of your job. That’s money guaranteed or until they decide that the concept is no longer important then you’ll just work out what area they think is important next and do that. Keep that money coming in, food on the table…..

My thoughts and my heart go out to the nurses and midwives caught up in the Cambodian Health System and I admire the ones that do manage to do their job to the best of their capacity.

So on reflection readjusting to my privledged life back in the UK is not really a challenge, infact it’s too easy to slip back into old habits and romanticize about the time in Cambodia. I want to stay with at least one foot there to ground my perception of the world but feel like it is already slipping away very quickly………….but one lesson learnt that I will always retain is that when you have had such a quality access to the good life and won in terms of the lottery of countries to be born in, it’s not to be wasted or taken for granted and your in a grand position to extend a hand to those less fortunate.


Leuk kru Dalis

Leuk kru Dalis

Leuk kru Dalis,
originally uploaded by suzenewson.

One of my best friends made in Cambodia. First she was my Khmer teacher, then cambodian culture expert and then confidant and councellor, and one of the quickest, cleverest, funniest girl I know.

Until there were 6!

Until there were 6!

Until there were 6!,
originally uploaded by suzenewson.

My other close friends! This was taken one of my last nights in Kratie. Sokun had prepared a lovely dinner and we’d enjoyed a few beers. The Keroke was also good, mainly because the new doctor from Phnom Penh can sing really well!

Stunning cambodia


Stunning Cambodia!
originally uploaded by suzenewson.

Unfortunately I can not take credit for this beautiful photo as James was the talented camera man on the day – but isn’t it stunning!

Bicycles, Duck Featus and Royal D – Oh Cambodia how I will miss thee!

Over Pchum Ben and my last weekend in Cambodia, I fell into a pre arranged mission/idea that had been formulated by the Dynamic James and Daring Meg. The brain child of this pair was to cycle from Phnom Penh to Takeo (80km) and then the next day Takau to Kampot (105km). We hired a local guide who turned up the morning of Day 1 with a guy on a motorbike – our hero Panya (coincidently his name illustrates his heroic powers, related in sound to panniers, he carried my over packed bag for the 2 days on his bike – not sure what I was thinking when I originally packed it or perhaps I’ll just admit to not thinking!) Sar our wonderful guide took us out of Phnom Penh into the stunning countryside of Cambodia, with it’s dirt roads, emerald green paddy fields and the foreva smiling and laughing villagers and of course the expected “hello” birds (Cambodian children who’s favourite game is addressing hello to any traveler in the vicinity).

The first day was done gently, my  bottom only starting to get a touch sore towards the end of the day. Lunch time we had quite a long stop which included a crazy idea of climbing a few hundred steps to see a local temple – this put the finishing touches of tiredness on the leg muscles – especially on the way down.  Late in the afternoon we passed local K’mai celebrations at a dam near Takau, this was ideal for a beer break for Collette and I hoping to numb the last few kilometers.

Takau was very quiet and basically closed due to the holiday celebrations which is like Xmas where it’s all about family and definitely not about work. Did have to giggle at the mock Independence monument in the centre of town, slightly smaller than the original in Phnom Penh and a poor copy, apparently they may be going up in every provincial town. We were in bed by 8.30pm because we are such party animals!

The next morning started out really well, took a while for the bum to numb but felt like things were moving nicely, until the bumby roads. Luckily the scenery was stunning enough to take my mind off the uncomfortableness of any position or contact with the sadle. We pulled on to the main road at a place called Hani and were told it was about 25km til Lunch – tarseal all the way! This sounded fine and about 4km on we stopped for a sugar cane drink break……and luckily refueled with a snack.

Collette and Megs decided a snack of eggs would do the job, until realizing that there were small beginnings of duck featus inside. I was hungry, I had no quams and had to bear their horrified indignation for the rest of the trip….I have a feeling it may be a point I am never allowd to live down. However luckily, for the starving collette and megs,  at this stop there were “the best6 cakes ever!!!”  – small sweet sponge cakes about the size of mouth size muffins, that were sweet and soft and fluffy……Roll over devils chocolate fudge cake, after 20km’s of cycling these were the winners of any cake contest and a far cry from fetal duck eggs!!!

After our refuel and decision to get to Kapong Track for lunch – Sar told us it was a mere 10kms – this info he had picked up from a road sign, imagine our horror when we passed another road sign for Kapong  Trach ¾ hour later that said 10km! At this stage the sun was beaming harshly, and although it was one of the most stunning bits of country side with limestone mountains, palm trees, beautiful villages and paddy fields foreva – my bottom and tiredness were a distraction. Megs hit her wall – it was at the point when in our minds we were expecting to be close to Kapong Trach, having guessed we must of done the 10km by then, when she was told by Sar it was another 7km – in her calculations since we left our snack spot and after an hours ride we had only done 3km!!!! When that evening we looked at a map it was 45km from Hani to Kapong Trach – and Sar’s 10km was indeed approx 35km.

We managed to stop for lunch just before Kapong Trach and Meg decided as she had indeed got to Kampot (kampot province) she would go ahead and secure the beers for when we would arrive at the hostel. The afternoon bike ride I found really enjoyable but was always wondering where was the sea – it felt so close but could not see it – turns out we were basically cycling around a huge bay. Eating Squid at the afternoon break in Kep was not a good idea – it looked so delicious on the BBQ but it’s richness did not mix well with a tired stomach.

We hit Kampot just on dark and luckily found our way to Bodhi Tree which is a funky guesthouse situated on the river. Imagine our horror after swims and shower when the kitchen said there was no food as their staff was on holiday. Luckily sensing our gob smacked look could quickly turn into irrational hunger anger we were hooked up with a restaurant that does take aways. Every one really enjoyed their food except for Collette who managed to knock her beautiful curry on the floor before even having one bite…..she had to be happy with everyone elses potato’s.

The night turned into a great party with a K’mai guy providing entertainment on the guitar and singing K’mai songs. Collette quickly got up – pulled a random tourist into the centre of the room and instructed everyone to dance K’mai style  around the poor slightly stunned lad. We worked out only the Irish could get away with it – if the poor guy had complained, I’m sure the finger would of come out and he’d be told to suck it up!

Next day tuktuk’d back to Kep for a swim at Verandah – now similar to a resort with it’s fabulous swimming pool and I finally did the walk around the hill ( meaning to do it every other visit there). Now I begin my eulogy to the power of Royal D (electrolye drink mixed to the correct concentration!). Having done way too much exercise in the space of 3days my body was heading me for slumber, which we all knew would be uneasy as the beds were above the Bar and there was to be another party that night. So I sucked back a Royal D and lasted til 1.30 the next morning. Collette was also sleepy post having a few beers – she sucked back a royal D and we all got dangerously scarred she’d had some type of drug – she turned into a manic comedian for the next 20mins and we were well releved when she seemed to hit the end of the rush! James experience was not quite so good, which could be explained by meg mixing the royal D in his beer – turned into a frothy mass that when he drank it, made him feel nauseated.

I couldn’t of wished for a better way to spend my last few holidays in Cambodia. With friends and in the most gorgeous countryside. I am going to miss everything about Cambodia soooo much. I feel like a completely different person since 2 years ago, a little bit nervous about the new me settling back into life outside – could be a square peg in a round hole for a while and have to work out how to make it all fit – ( do I carve a square hole or remold the square peg back to a circle?).

Phnom Penh Dayz

Apologies to all those that actually pay an interest in my blog. I have been a tad lazy and not written an entré for a while. I blame it all on Phnom Penh Lifestyle. Would you believe I have increased my nights out from a kratie Friday night once a week to actually making myself stay in once a week!

So I now am on count down for the homeward bound mission – 1 and a half months to go. Basically I got the final motivation I needed to think about life after Cambodia, this was the realization my Visa expires on the 15th of October, this has some feeling of finality about it – no more extensions with VSO,  they have no further use for me.

So the grand plan is to be New Zealand bound – just need to finalize details, post NZ there’ll be a little side trip to Bangkok and then will be England bound by December. Oh my gosh I’ve got a plan – life does continue post VSO!

So my routine day in the big city PP – wake up to the sound of the man next door doing the most amazing throat clearing you’ve ever heard. It’s a 20 minute exersize and that is not an exaggeration…the first time I heard it as well as the thought “you’ve got to be kidding” there was the clear feeling of  “I’m going to vomit”. Yip 5.30 am most mornings.

If I am motivated I put on my jogging gear and join the throngs of K’mai who get up for their morning exercise on the boulevard close to my house – in the shadows of the independence monument – very cool area! There are aerobics classes, dance classes, karate kids , exercise with swords ( real gracious movements ), about a hundred walkers and a few joggers.

After a quick jog around the boulevards and the royal palace I’m ready for my steng treng coffee. Thanks to  Dalis I have not had to miss a beat of my routine gorgeous morning coffee, she manages to get me a kilo to PP from Steung Treng on a regular basis. Our next mission, which is serious indeed, is getting the coffee from Steung Treng to London – plan in the making, coffee isn’t a drug is it – Coffee Lord ( future title)?!

I then get on my bike and as there is no internet at work I check my emails at the local email café which is kind of like my second home, the old guy gets worried if I’ve not showed up for a while and I think there was a funny moment when he introduced me to his son and make some remark about him being single…..

It’s a entertaining bike ride to the Ministry of Health with a healthy bit of traffic dodging and if your clever you can go the whole way with out stopping even at lights – this is quite a technique and involves some slow  and then increasing speeds and the help of moto’s and cars not stopping at lights either. The best is the fact in a traffic jam, which is common with the strange local ( not official but commonly used) road rules,  you can glide through on a bike rather easy. I’d like to do a race with one of those big fat lexus’s from my house to work. I think the bicycle would win every time – unless they were one of those important guys who get police escorts!

My buddy at work is Pros – he works for UNFPA ( the United Nations Population Fund)  and is supporting the Midwifery Council. Its usually just us in the office in the morning – which contains a moment of at least one ice coffee that we have the local canteen trained to make to our specifications – strong with minmal ice and sweet milk. He has a good sense of humour and one of his classic lines was when we had finally prepared the office and the computers were plugged in but covered with cloths to keep the dust off, he turned around and out of the blue said “right time to get your clothes off!”, I was a little takin back and said he was being quite forward, we got the giggles because we both realized he meant take your cloths of the computer!

In the afternoon my midwives come in – they are the Midwifery Association and if they are free one midwife comes in on her day once a week and we are slowly moving forward on our plans to rule the world!!!! Sometimes I feel very ambitious  and excited about where CMA can get to but then I have to remember the midwives all have a main job and this is voluntary for them – Slowly slowly!

Then if I’ve not got much on it’s a quiet night after work or I’ll find some one to meet at one of a thousand options for beer or a cheap feed. I have the best dollar khmer restaurant within a 2min walk from me so I find it very easy to not cook! The best lok lak in town for $1.50 and it’s the size you’d serve your brother to eat – those that know my brothers will understand the size is quite generous!

I have one more trip to Kratie before I leave – I  went back just recently for work with VSO because the British Ambassidor and Dfid were visiting there and we needed to discuss the work we were doing. It was like I never left, coffee with Villa and Nareth @ cafe mum’s, discussing some issues with the ever helpful Sammy of the delivery ward and fighting with the corrupt doctors and lab staff to get blood for free from a well stocked blood bank for a hemorrhaging patient.

Have I mentioned I hate corruption – I think that will be my next blog, the many faces of it in Cambodia!

Final goss for those who need it – had holiday in Koh Chang that was one of the best ever! Cousin Dave and Mel here at the moment and we’ve had a great time. Did the boat from PP to Siem reap – yes if it was hot season and not much water I imagine the experience not being so pleasant  – however this time of the year when you can set up on top of the sardine tin andare prepared with your own food and water it was nice, especially for Dave and Mel who have not got much time to see rural cambodia.

me and my boyz

me and my boyz

me and my boyz,
originally uploaded by suzenewson.

Joe got the boys to Phnom Penh to promote the Dolphin Boys 2011 calendah and give away the old 2010 ones. Had great day and night out. First time any of them had been in a swimming pool and a drag show. Had another fabulous day with all of them about 1 month ago at Kampi Rapids getting photo’s for 2011. They getting abit of cult status around the Penh.