I’m trying to get back into the blogging groove again so I’m digging up old photos and reminiscing the experiences that I may be inspired to write. So please indulge me for this week’s Signs meme.
Many years ago I was invited by a Japanese NGO to visit their country. After my official obligations were done, I stayed for three more days to get acquainted with Tokyo.
In my previous post, I mentioned about sightseeing and shopping at Demboin-dori, a shopping area in Asakusa. Having been amazed at the sights before me as I strolled along, and coupled with my faulty sense of direction, I got lost and ended up in the rokku (the sixth district) entertainment area, which was really a welcome eventuality.
Asakusa’s rokku, in its heydays, was one of Tokyo’s prime entertainment districts before the war. And even prior to that, between 1600s-1800s, it was said to be a known as a Yoshiwara, or the pleasure district. Sadly, it didn’t regain its popularity after the war ended.
At present, the rokku features attractions such as pachinko parlours, rakugo theatres (similar to a one-man stand-up comedy show), cinemas, and street performances.
Walking around the rokku, I could feel the post-war atmosphere. Actually, the whole Asakusa feels like old-world Japan. The advertising banners and signs for shops and shows are still traditional and some were noticeably garish.
The street cleaner had just finished his duties when I took this photo. The two “shelves” contained his cleaning brushes and is held together by a wooden stick. He carried them on his shoulder as he went on to his next cleaning spot. The rokku is a busy place but since I went there in the morning, the entertainment strip was still empty.
Weather forecast is cloudy with a chance of meatballs 🙂
Ahem, I borrowed this line from a movie title! Have you seen it? My nephew and nieces just loved it.
This is my favourite spot in Cambodia’s Ratanakiri province, the Yak Lom Crater Lake, and this is where we took our international volunteers after a week-long medical mission in December last year.
Yak Lom Crater Lake is a popular tourist destination in the northeastern part of Cambodia, with crystal clear waters, cool temps and a peaceful, verdant scenery. Sunrises and sunsets here are like no other, with shimmering waters accompanied by jungle sounds. This is why I come back here everytime I’m in Ratanakiri. A must-see for visitors.
… and this is what I’ve been doing while I was gone from blogging.
Preparing for Operation Smile Cambodia’s international mission and the official opening of the Smile Center. It’s no easy work, I tell you that. However, seeing 109 kids receiving free reconstructive surgery and spending my birthday with them is just another reason to celebrate. I am very proud to be associated with OpSmile Cambodia’s work. Thank you for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Aside from a personal issue, I also concentrated on work, preparing for the friendship mission between Cambodia and Singapore.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I was rummaging through my old files looking for a photo for this week’s meme when I saw this:
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.