Down in the Dumps Goes Medical

“Amazing” exclaimed The Nurse – which is what we call her because she is one – as she held up the otoscope, “I found this at the market for $60. In Australia I would have paid three times that much.” She set it down next to the new blood pressure tester she had also bought.

We’d spent the morning before at the dump. IMG_4698I’d told Vichika that my nurse- friend was in town and that she would do health checks. When we arrived some blue plastic chairs appeared. Those waiting to be seen lined up. IMG_4687As soon as the chair was vacant, the next patient slide onto it.

The Nurse had brought some supplies with her from Australia. One of the common problems at the dump is that people have their ears blocked with wax. She had the drops, but the light on her phone didn’t quite do the trick when it came to seeing down the canal, hence the otoscope purchase.IMG_4713

While The Nurse was busy doing things medical I got Theda to check my head for lice. As she went through my hair cracking every couple of seconds I started to get itchy, very itchy. There had to be a proverbial ranch of the parasites there. Crack. Move a few hairs over and crack again.

IMG_4700“No, you don’t have nits,” translated Nick, “she is just finding white things in your hair.” Later The Nurse took a look and pronounced, “You are such a drama queen. It is just a bit of dandruff, likely from dying your naturally red hair. Get an oil treatment and you will be fine.”

When the clinic finished we piled into the tuk-tuk and went for lunch. Then it was time to visit the tree people. We took them some food, water and milk for the baby. When they finished eating The Nurse moved in. “Lollies will do it every time. All over the world,  promise a kid a lolly if they let you examine them and they will be good.”

Tivan – the eight year old boy – lay on the mat. IMG_4708He was lethargic, his eyes dull. “He has an infection and is in worse shape than the baby,” pronounced The Nurse. When Nick carried him to the tuk-tuk to take him to the hospital, three other kids hopped in. They happily waved goodbye and would have gone off with us. IMG_4709The hospital turned out to be a pharmacy where The Nurse bought some antibiotics and we returned to the tree.

Tivin – the six-year old whom we found out is actually a girl – crawled onto my lap and snuggled. ‘She and Tivan stay at Friends during the week and spend the weekend with their parents. A smart little thing who has only attended school for a month or so, she counted up to 10 in English and chanted the ABCs.

Time to go, so I set Tivin down. As we walked away she wailed like a banshee and ran after me. Her father had to restrain her and she flailed her arms.IMG_4710 “She is really cracking it that you are leaving,” commented The Nurse. I’ve never had a child act like I was a mother abandoning her before, so it was a new experience.

DITD Mobile Clinic Plans

My friends Grant – a doctor – and Jane – a nurse – are coming to visit in January. I’ve already asked them to bring a stethoscope to leave and some medicine we can’t get here. Yes, people who come to see me in the Kingdom get to go to all the fun places.

Now that we have a mobile-medical-backpack with the basics I’ve started to put the word out on the expat network for medical types who would be willing to do clinics from time to time. STC_4795

Having spent more of your money, the DITD budget now sits at $432.53. As a reminder, donations make the perfect Christmas gift for those who already have far more than they need.




It’s All Happening at the Zoo

The kids squealed with delight, rocketed across the aisle to get a closer look and poked their fingers at the window. IMG_4458They thought we had arrived at the zoo. Actually it was a herd of skinny greyish-white cattle sauntering  across the road, but it was the first big animals some of the kids from Stung Meanchey dump had ever seen. Amy, an American woman who runs the programme, met us at the gate. She had organized complementary admission, guides and a bus charter at a great rate. IMG_4463IMG_4466



Once there, the 42 of us were officially welcomed. IMG_4484Nobody paid much attention, however, as the monkeys took front and centre stage. Kids and adults whooped as the monkeys grabbed food out of their hands, ran up the trees and swung from the branches.

The guided tour started with a walk through the deer park. The animals were very people friendly and followed us around. One nudged Len and gave her a fright. The very brave types managed a pat or two, but nobody got much closer than an arm’s length.

The entire trek was about three kilometers past turtles, pythons, leopards, lizards and a host of other animals. IMG_4594We all know I can’t stand kids, but these ones were little troopers. Three and four year olds walked the whole distance without shoes and didn’t complain. The mother, DD and I took turns carrying a one-year old baby. I was careful not to drop her.


The highlight performance was the elephant who danced and played football. IMG_4559More squeals, shrieks and finger pointing. At the end of the performance the elephant went around to get donations. Even though the people from the dump don’t have much money, they gave Jumbo 500 and 1000 riel (12 to 25 cents) notes which he snorted up in his trunk and passed back to the trainer.

Then it was time for lunch and we headed for the outdoor restaurant. Rice, fish, chicken, pork soup, pickled vegetables. IMG_4591A wonderful meal – the best some of the dump people would have ever had – came in at $1.95 a person. I’d budgeted for double that and was impressed with the quality and the quantity.

After a rest in the hammocks it was time for colouring. The zoo people showed up with outlines of animals and crayons.IMG_4608 Everyone – and I mean everyone – was intense as they picked the colours and decided how to begin. Dead silence. Total concentration.

Amy said, “We had a group of grade 1, 2 and 3 kids from a private school here last week. They refused to colour or play games because all they wanted to do was get on their iPads after lunch. These kids are much more real.”

Next it was animal question inter-active games. Some for the kids, some for the older ones. More shrieks and squeaks as someone got stuck with the hot-potato, didn’t know the right answer and was face painted.

Then it was time to line up according to size and the assembled were given zoo tee-shirts sporting different animals.IMG_4675

The trip back was a touch quieter than the one going there. When we got to the dump people filed off and thanked both DD and I for a day they would never forget. We decided to make it an annual event.

The cost for the outing was split between a private philanthropic organization and Down in the Dumps. At $135 each I’m sure you will agree that your money was well spent. Arlette and Cecile made donations so DITD sits at $545.23. Remember that donations make a perfect Christmas gift for those on your list who already have too much.