It is very difficult for me to keep a secret, or surprise, from Bevan. However, I did a great job of keeping our anniversary surprise a secret….since Janaury! From Laos, we flew to Siem Reap. It felt really wonderful to be there again- we definitely have a connection to this place…although it has grown tremendously. This time, we, which means me- seeing as it was a surprise- decided to stay at “La Residence de Angkor”…which is a hotel we saw in a book of hip hotels, I believe gifted to us by Tonya 14 years ago….and have always wanted to stay at. The 14 year wait was worth it. Beautiful hotel with a sense of place with wood, plants, and local art and carvings. Speaking of carvings, we bought one from the gallery in our hotel. Being low season we negotiated a good price…so we thought…when we said we would buy it the stone faced, solemn salesgirl literally broke into a big smile, clapped and jumped up and down thanking us. I am thinking there may have been a little bit more wiggle room on the price!!!
We actually chose this time of year to travel, as it is rainy season and things things are very green. We only saw it rain only a couple of times in Laos. However it poured in SR and it was wonderful! Not the one hour rain in the afternoon, but full on rain for days! One of the people we admire most on the planet, David Shoemaker, flew in to SR to see us. He was instrumental in the success of the Angkor Hospital for Children and now is helping other projects in Shinoukville. He is still an advisor and ambassador for AHC. Anyways, we had a wonderful dinner and visit with David, and the new administrator of the hospital and his wife (Bill and Lorri). After supper, David took us to show us the changes at the hospital. I was somewhat quiet for once, being overwhelmed at the advances made. I imagine this is what it feels like when in the presence of somebody totally inspirational and powerful…like the Dali Lama, Nelson Mandela, or Jon Bon Jovi ( I will have to confer with my dear friend who has met them all) I failed to mention it was around 10:30 pm when we toured the hospital. The triage area was filled with families sleeping under mosquito nets, parents sleeping on benches where Marilee spent her first day volunteering with the children, in the hallways and even in the garden. AHC has a policy of 1 patient per bed. Each bed, in addition to the child, usually had at least Mom, and maybe Dad and a sibling or two. We also saw 2 things we would NOT see in a Canadian hospital:
1)family members sleeping on the floor by their children ( no private rooms, all beds are in open area, no walls, no curtains)
2) a gaggle of nurses sitting at the nurses station…wait for it…..not a coffee cup or snack in sight, just one of the more senior nurses taking the opportunity to share knowledge with colleagues, the colleagues totally engaged in the process.
I could type on and on about the wonderful advances ( such as a neonatal unit opening the day before we arrived) ….but will hold off for now. I do need to thank all of you who have kindly donated to AHC and to my fundraisers, you all would be so happy to know that your money has been used wisely and to the maximum. Okay, one more thing, the staff have come up with an incredible way to make a CPAP machine….nasal prongs, tube stuck into a bottle of saline, hooked up to a big old rusty canister of oxygen…..had REDUCED MORTALITY RATE of these patients by 50%!!!! This isn’t a $50,000 machine, cost is $35!!!!! Inspiring!
As you can tell, visiting AHC was a highlight of our trip.
The next morning we got on our river boat. The meeting place was the Victoria Hotel, where we usually stay. Felt a little odd not to have Marilee with us at the poolside patio with us – our spot for our afterwork cocktail hour!
I had been concerned that the boat would be like our gullet in Turkey but it was awesome. We were the only Canadians on a boat full of Aussies. We enjoyed meeting some great people. The River Boat cruised Tonle Sap river (highest density of fish of any body of water in world….and ONLY river in the world to change direction of flow!!….my nieces and nephews should remember this for when they are told by their school teachers that rivers always flow in one direction). We then toodled along the mighty Mekong and arrived back in PP harbour while having a romantic, private dinner at the front of the boat. We over nighted at the harbour, missed the PP day trips as there were protests there ( only one death…protests over outcome of last election. Winning party in this democracy has been in power for over 30 years….just saying….) we relaxed at Raffles for 2 nights and had a great Italian meal near the National Museum. Saw a rat when we were about to leave….waitor said it was more like a mouse because it was small….it was almost the size of Biscuit for frickity sake!
Cheers from Tanya’s iPad