Signs, signs: Friendship Mission

Errrrmm… hello, blog!

It’s been awhile, isn’t it? More than a month.

Aside from a personal issue, I also concentrated on work, preparing for the friendship mission between Cambodia and Singapore.

Signs Operation Smile Cambodia-Singapore Friendship Mission

So no blogs, no tweets, and no Facebook. I swear that after the personal issue has been resolved and that the last mission volunteer has left the country, I think that I shall never go back to my online activities again. But I imagine how much heartbreak it will cause to all my two avid readers, so …

I am back yet again.
Before I see any of you rolling your eyes… I know, I know… I’ve been saying this over and over but, hey, at least I’m not giving up entirely.


Signs, signs: Deja brew

Earlier today I was scrambling to finish a report that had been put aside for many weeks now but – the heck – I just couldn’t finish it. I was mad at myself. The longer I stared at the monitor, the Bs and the Os started looking rather voluptuous and moving in rhythmical, slo-mo manner.

Before this optical illusion consumed me, I was jolted back to reality when one of Monmon’s minions* brought in a cup of Vietnamese espresso. The strong aroma awakened me from my morning echos-moment and got me craving for a cuppa,too. I don’t know why the sudden craving. The longer I look at Monmon’s coffee-cup filled with black liquid, the more sinister it got as if it was willing me to do something.

In my head I could almost here a voice crying – duuuude, where’s my bleeping coffee?

But I digress.
I didn’t get my coffee-fix. I got my Signs photo instead. But it’s still related to my rambling. Did you know that Cambodia’s café culture is booming?

Deja brew -
Deja brew: the feeling that you had this coffee before.

Love the sign! Very clever name for a coffee shop. If not for the ugly cable wires, I could’ve gotten a better shot.


* Aliases are used to protect my identity,lol.

Signs, signs: … we are forever grateful

Yesterday, we were busy preparing the donation boxes to be sent to selected establishments around the city. These establishments were kind enough to let us place our boxes there, so thank you for your help. I chose photos of young patients from our most recent mission. Browsing through photo albums, I could not help but be amazed at the transformation that transpired. Looking at the before and after photos of the patients, I cannot imagine that the surgery is done in less than an hour. Et voila –  “Change Forever just happened.

Dear friends, whenever you this box in the grocery stores or restaurants, stop and have a look. And do what your heart tells you to do. You have the power to change a Cambodian child’s forever.

operation smile donation box
“We don’t know your names but we are forever grateful…” (Source: OSI)

Any donation you give goes directly to support our medical missions in Cambodia, extending our services to the remote corners of the country. Our most recent mission was in Poipet where 60 patients received life-changing surgery (meet one of our young patients).

In December, a team of local and international volunteers will be heading to Ratanakiri province, located northeast of Cambodia, for another week of medical mission. With your donation, you are helping us reach potential patients – young and old alike – who were born with cleft lips, cleft palates and other facial deformities.


Signs, signs: Change forever

Hi friends, I’m back again.

If you’re one of the many who’s been asking for an update, I’m afraid you’ll be a little disappointed. I just got back from a surgical mission in Poipet – and a successful one at that – but I am not resting yet. When I started with Operation Smile as a non-medical staff, I somehow know what’s in store for me but did not know what to expect during the actual medical mission as the in-country mission coordinator. It’s a long and interesting story but I have tons of paper works to do and to submit to my bosses first so I will reserve a post about it in the coming days. Be sure to come back.

I shall, however, share a favourite photo that was taken during our mission.

The sign on the shirt says it all!
The sign on the shirt says it all!

In the photo is Operation Smile volunteer Marco Nebria, a Filipino nurse based in the UK, comforting a young patient. Marco has been awarded by OS as one of the best volunteer nurses –  so are our Pediatric Intensivist Anke Top and Clinical Coordinator Dusty Clegg for this mission. Hence, our patients were assured of the best possible surgery and post-operative care with Marco, Anke, and Dusty and the rest of the medical volunteers around.

The little boy is just over a year old. His name escapes me now but his smile left an impression on me. In fact, just several hours after his surgery he was already up and about,  trying to smile for everyone to see. You should’ve seen how his smile disarmed everyone around him. Everyone, I think, fell for this little fella’! In the corner of the ward, his mum (or grandmother, I couldn’t tell) was smiling broadly, beaming with genuine happiness. Like any other common folks in the poor and remote areas in Cambodia, she could not afford this life-saving surgery.

I’ve worked in Cambodia for more than a decade now but my work with Operation Smile has left me with a profound effect, seeing lots of children (and adults, too) born with cleft and other deformities receiving much-needed surgery at no cost, giving them a new hope, a new chance at life.



My Tuktuk Diaries: A very rainy, floody night in Phnom Penh

When it rains in Phnom Penh, gosh, there is water everywhere!

Phnom Penh is transformed into a water world and the whole city is thrown into massive traffic chaos.

Here’s a few snapshots that I took tonight as I rode a tuktuk back home. The rain started as soon as I stepped out of our office and became really strong when we were approaching Tuol Kork-Russian Boulevard intersection.

It is 10:49pm now and it hasn’t stopped raining since.

The Kingdom of Wonder is now the Kingdom of Water!



Sore throat be damned!

Taking a short break to relax my already tired eyes. Yesterday, I already felt a sore throat coming  when I woke up. I decided not to skip work because our mission is merely four days away and we still had to finish prepping medicines and other medical supplies stored at the warehouse.  The  changing weather certainly wasn’t helpful – one minute it’s hot and dusty, the next it’s cold and rainy – so the sore throat worsened afterwards.

khmer beverage tai krochma
I was afraid that the cold would go down to my chest so I brought several packets of throat lozenges with me to work today.  I hope of the lozenges would keep the virus at bay long enough for my immune system to get the upper hand.  And now I’m sat here on my work-desk sipping this surprisingly refreshing iced tai krochma that my officemate brought in. Needless to say, I’m enjoying this cold drink tremendously, cold, sore throat and stuffy head be damned.

Signs, signs: Monkey-bizniz

Just a quick post. Work is full on but I found a small gap to pause for this…

I pass by this street on my way home from work everyday and what I see in this mural is most definitely a welcome sight. Although it’s not the usual brightly-coloured like other graffiti arts, it still brightens up a bit this wall that is otherwise scruffy.

Monkey's writings on the wall.
Monkey’s writings on the wall.
The writings actually say “Don’t pee and poo in this area.”

I’m not a fan of graffiti if it is merely scrawlings sprayed on or stenciled on the wall. This one, I was told, had the writings on the wall long before someone had a great idea of turning it into a nice graffiti art by adding this cheeky-monkey. Now that is clever, in my opinion.

Although I heard that there is a new and growing urban art movement in the Penh, I haven’t actually seen a lot of that street art. I think Phnom Penh needs more of this, to add more colour to the urban landscape. But, of course, not just anywhere where it shouldn’t be.


Signs, signs: The Great Debate

I was rummaging through my old files looking for a photo for this week’s meme when I saw this:

Signs, signs the great debate

I could not help but smile. This photo brought back pleasant memories of an international women’s conference that I helped organised here in Phnom Penh. Female journalists from all over the world came to Phnom Penh to discuss issues that affect them.

Oh, my! That was in 2009.  Anyways, one of the sidelights of the said conference was this lively debate and participated in by selected women and men (we had a few!) participants. It wasn’t one of those serious debates but a lively, funny one where everyone had a good laugh. What a good way to cap the first of a four-day conference.


Sreisaat, you are hired!

Dear blog,

Yes. I heard the magic words through a phone call from the director of an international NGO in Phnom Penh, just a few days before Jonathan Yabut did and became the first winner of The Apprentice Asia. Go, go Pinoy!

The last few days have been really busy and I have several blog posts that I want to get done (a few were on auto-post mode) but I haven’t had the time.

It’s not because I was procrastinating again. No, not that. I wonder how many of my friends thought of that — raise your hands!  Feeling sheepish now, tee-hee-hee. I know you know me for being a procrastinator but I’m happy to say “you’re all wrong!” this time! Lol.

So, after 100 years, I’m back to the working world. The past week – my first week at work – was an eye-opener. I was obviously trying to make a good impression while feeling jittery at the same time.  I thought that the hard part was over after I’ve bagged the job that I’ve been waiting for. I was wrong.  I was excited – yes – but I was a bundle of nerves during the first day, especially. I could only surmise the nervousness came from the long years of idleness that washed away my confidence and left me in self-doubt about my capabilities. I was afraid that I would be self-conscious and alone (having no friends yet), and incapable and confused (don’t know the system yet).

The first day went by and, as the week went on, I found myself getting to the ropes eventually. It also helped that the other staff were helpful and patient with me. My boss, a plastic surgeon, is a nice, cheery fellow who doesn’t breathe on my neck while the “new girl” was working. He was busy with his patients, anyway. Soon after, I was on my own proud at myself for catching up quickly.

I’m part of the worldwide workforce again. It feels good.

And so begins another chapter…

Here’s a slide that should give you a glimpse of my first week at work.

tuktuk ride in Phnom Penh
My daily ride to work.
tuktuk ride in Phnom Penh
Moderate morning traffic.
Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital grounds
That day I went to work very early...
This is what I see from my work desk.
Bento lunch box
Working lunch: breaded pork, steamed carrots and broccoli, and rice. My attempt at bento-lunch making.
Korean spicy pork
Working lunch: Korean spicy pork, tomatoes, and rice. My attempt at bento-lunch making.
election mob CNRP
That day I got trapped on the road for more than two hours on the last day of the election campaign period.