Photo Hunt: Cloudy

Weather forecast is cloudy with a chance of meatballs ūüôā
Ahem, I borrowed this line from a movie title! Have you seen it? My nephew and nieces just loved it.

photo hunt cloudy
Sunset and a dramatic cloud formation over Yeak Lom Lake. Beautiful.

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.


Sorry I was away…

… and this is what I’ve been doing while I was gone from blogging.

Operation Smile Cambodia. Giving new smiles. Changing lives of Cambodian children. My apologies to the owner of this photo - I just nicked this from the slide presentation shown during the closing dinner. If you know him, or, if it's YOU, let me know so I can give a proper attribution.
Operation Smile Cambodia. Giving new smiles. Changing lives of Cambodian children. My apologies to the owner of this photo – I just nicked this from the slide presentation shown during the closing dinner. If you know him, or, if it’s YOU, let me know so I can give a proper attribution.

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.

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 caf√© 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: 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: 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 Р 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!



Dress up, dress down

I have been looking at a lot of online shopping sites because since going back to work after a long time, most of my work clothes were either too small for me or too old to be worn again.

I admit that although I’m no stranger to online shopping as I’ve done several hauls in the past two years, I’m still a greenhorn compared to some people I know. *wink-wink*

dress first black princess scoop neck with ruffle lace prom dressWhen my brother was scheduled to get married last year, I browsed through loooots of online shops hoping to find the one dress to buy for the occasion, if not, just gather some style ideas. There were plenty, I tell you, and all of them were too hard to resist. DressFirst is one of the sites I visited (and bookmarked) and, I must admit, I just could not stop staring longingly at the beautiful wedding gowns and dresses there, particularly the fun styles and colours appropriate for special occasions.

How I wish online shopping was already thought of back when I was younger, it would have spared my mum of the stress that went with ¬†finding nice Prom dresses¬†for her daughters. I mean, just look at this dress… a floor-length A-line/Princess scoop-necked prom dress with ruffle lace. So elegant, so classic. Had I been so enthusiastic about dresses, I would’ve picked this one.

vava-voom red strappy shoes from dressfirst

And since I have posted here my choice for a Prom dress, let me continue with dressing up (virtually, that is) and hunt for the perfect pair of shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not a fashion expert nor am trying to be one. I’m only posting this because the thought of online shopping for clothes this day and age has become more convenient as we have a lot of choices and sources.

So here’s what I like, still from the Dressfirst site ‚Äď et voila! Va-va-voom, isn’t it? It’s a¬†modern ballroom shoes in sparkling red leatherette glitter heels. The heels are not that high and pointed and I think I’ll survive a night of dancing and prancing with these gorgeous shoes on.

However, on normal days, I only get dressed up for work. And I actually don’t think about what others are going to think or say or react when fashionistas and fashionista-wannabes see me. Thank you for the kind attention but I don’t have time to stop by and answer your questions.

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.