Here in Battambang it’s been an unusually dry, rainy season. There is sometimes a pitter patter at night but not guaranteed. The heavens often frown with a shade of grey/brown only to tease us with sunshine once more.
The town’s water levels are low causing the water supply to be quite erratic. Last week, we had no water for 3 days. It coincided with an outstanding water bill that was going brown in our mailbox since August unbeknownst to us. A grumpy government official turned up at our house whilst we were at work. The nanny who comes to watch the kids for a few hours every day, tried to work her charm but he would not be deterred. Water mains switched off.
And as life sometimes has it….the Gods have a giggle…Murphy came a knockin……Tim went down with dysentery the next day. Copious diarrhoea and no running water is not a winning combination. We had the bucket and scoop technique down, using bought drinking water (you can’t drink the tap water throughout Cambodia) to flush away most of the damage. Soon sage incense was burning in every toilet in the house.
But as Tim worsened ending in a trip to the hospital (we didn’t get lost this time All in a Day) where they mainlined his veins with rehydration and antibiotics, I decided that we better address this water situation asap. In the midst of calling our boss who is far enough up the fishing pole to make a difference, ie. if he lodges a call at the water department, they listen; our resourceful nanny Sreypheak armed with two pieces of bamboo tried the good ol’ whacking technique. BiNgO. Nothing like a good smack to set things straight. The pipes chugged to life.
This technique is used liberally to fix just about anything here. When a motorbike is being temperamental, a hard slap on its engine is the first port. I never cease to be amazed how resourceful the Cambodian people are. The reuse, recycle, restart, retie, retry, reinvent method is everywhere you look.
Coming from the modern disposable culture, this is refreshing to see. It is not that they don’t have disposable products here- they are as ubiquitous as air, but the disposable part isn’t understood by people who have learnt to survive on nothing but their wits. Understood by a look at their history, being cut off from the world during Khmer Rouge days and the legacy that left, literally beginning at Ground Zero with memories of starvation fresh in their minds.
Tim stayed in a cot bed for 2 days sandwiched between two families nursing their palliative parents. I was warned by the nurse not to bring our boys into visit as Beau had the trots the week before, and who knows what germs he could catch in there. This knowledge was appreciated but didn’t put my mind to rest. Tim had many long hours in fetal position as the neighbouring Cambodians kept asking where his family was. Even though this is the best hospital in Battambang, patients’ families do most of the legwork from emptying catheters, showering, changing linen, cooking food to even administering medication. Loved ones camp out around the clock keeping a constant vigil at their bedside. Nurses are present but often on their mobile phones. It was a case of googling what drugs Tim was having to get any information. The Khmer doctor was approachable but very difficult to understand.
It makes you realise how far Cambodia has come from the KR days where all the medical knowledge was lost with the desecration of qualified doctors. Western influences shunned including the supply of medicine used for prevented diseases such as malaria. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! 21% of the total population from 1975-1979 were wiped out mainly due to starvation as everyone were herded from cities and expected to toil in the soil. The idealists in power believed that agricultural reform and total self sufficiency would help return Cambodia to its former glory days of Angkor Kingdom. Yet another historical example of extreme ideology defying logic. And possibly shows how countries need to trade and be interdependent, just like no one person can operate as an island. This fanaticism was spawned out of hardship- Cambodia had years of foreign occupation (Thailand and France had a go) and the brutal disregard for the Khmer people who had more US bombs dropped on their homeland throughout the Vietnam War years (1965-1973) than any other country.
I’m pleased to say Tim is back home with us. A thinner and more subdued version but thankfully cramp free. He reckons he got an insight into child birth! He found a weighted keyboard in a junk shop covered in dust. He’s been teaching himself. Enjoy!
Hope you’re health full where ever this finds you x