Signs, signs: Aesthetics

Eeeeek! I still haven’t published my draft posts. So sorry. I’m hoping this doldrums  is only temporary while I get involved again in our preparations for December mission. I really want to post about all the things I have been meaning to write about since the past — uhm, ten years? Just kidding. I thought I should post about my first OS medical mission in Poipet but my attention span these days is that of a two year old so — nada. I only got to post pictures of bits and pieces and places I encountered since I returned from our mission in Poipet. And here’s another bit…

Aesthetics, Khmer-style.
Aesthetics, Khmer-style.

This was taken in one of the streets in Poipet.

hand painted sign in cambodia

The dental clinic sign on the picture above is a pleasant change from the usual signs I see that shows chunky pliers plucking out teeth from open, scary-looking mouths (like the pic on the right). Instead, this one features toothy smile and luscious lips.

On the right side of the dental clinic is a photo studio that rents out traditional Khmer costumes (and make up for women!) and offer portraits. Most Cambodians couples about to get married go to photo studios to have their portraits taken wearing traditional clothes. With the colourful costumes and glittering accessories, the couples look like Khmer princes and princesses! Most of my expat friends have already done it, just for fun. It’s also a fun souvenir when you go back to your home country. I haven’t done this yet.


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: BlackStar Tattoo Studio

Someone I know got himself a new tattoo recently. It was done to cover up a small tat from long ago and where else did we go but here — in Phnom Penh’s BlackStar Tattoo Studio. Foreigners make up the bulk of the clientele here, so the artists here (there are only two) must be really good.

Wanna get inked?
Wanna get inked?

Since it was a Sunday, we were the only guests around and I took pictures freely.  It was my first time inside a tat studio and I have to say that what I saw wasn’t what I had in mind prior to our visit.

I was surprised to see an autoclave (hospitals have them) so it gave me an impression that all the inking tools are properly sterilised and sanitised.

The studio is clean and pleasant. The waiting or reception area is nice and welcoming. With a wide, flat-screened TV all to myself, I didn’t notice that time – six hours – went by.  I especially love the retro black and white checkerboard floor!

Spot the cat if you can.
Spot the cat if you can.

I was only able to take a photo of the waiting area through the glass walls from the outside. How cool is that black and white cat trying to blend in?


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!



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: Operation Smile Cambodia

I haven’t been posting a lot lately. This is one of the reasons why:

signs operation smile cambodia
This is what I see from my work desk.

I haven’t been here long enough but reading the past reports have been an eye-opener for me.
Children who are born with a cleft are often unable to eat, speak, socialise and even smile. Others are ridiculed, isolated, and rejected.

Did you know that in as little as 45minutes, and for approximately US$250, one cleft lip surgery can change a child’s life forever?

Operation Smile Cambodia started its activities in 2002 and has, since then, provided thousands of free reconstructive surgeries for children born with cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities.

This is going to make me busy from now on. We have a scheduled medical mission in September in Poipet, Banteay Meanchey province. If you know anyone who has chaeyp moat (cleft lip) or chaeyp kraom moat (cleft palate), from Banteay Meanchey or neighbouring provinces (Battambang, Siem Reap), kindly get in touch with us (please click the highlighted text above).  Or leave a comment or message in the comment section of this post. I’m more than happy to assist you with your inquiries.