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Travellers, Tourists and Teamwork   Cambodia Blog 14

January 27, 2015

We are now just over three weeks into our Global Midwifery Twinning period in Cambodia.  The things we have witnessed, the discussions we have had and the sheer size of the issue of midwifery care in Cambodia make it all feel a bit overwhelming.  I certainly have felt very tired and very stressed at times and may have not been on my best behaviour at all times either.

It has however, been great to be a traveller again and to share the time in Cambodia with other world travellers.  Whether they are fellow volunteers, or just people on holiday.  There appear to be many people, who spend many weeks, just going from country to country in this part of the world.  Some work for a while and then holiday a little: some alone and some with partners.  Our group has taken time out from the work to visit some cultural sites, both here in Phnom Penh and elsewhere.  It would have felt disrespectful not to go to Siem Reap and experience Angkor Wat and other temples.  The visit to the Killing Fields was fundamental.  It has, I believe, embedded the work  we are doing in the life of the people of Cambodia.

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We have been tourists too and treated as such.  You never really know the true cost of anything or whether the price is based on your country of origin or the seller’s belief in what you can  afford. We have bartered for goods in markets and tuc tuc trips, but you are never sure who got the best deal.  You just have to decide how much you are prepared to pay and be happy.  We have got lost and discovered how difficult it is to say where you want to go when no one around speaks English. The passing of phones to someone who does, has been a good technique to solve the problem.  But to stay here and work for longer you would really need to learn Khmer and it really is not easy.

When you travel or are a tourist you really do have to respect the place and the people you are visiting.  Knowing a little about the context enhances the experience and ensures we don’t damage as we go.  Many of the temples now have wooden steps up to the monuments as many feet have destroyed the original stone.  The challenge of protecting these sites, whilst making them available to view, is ongoing.

Travellers and tourists do bring in money and this does make a difference to many lives. But some countries; including Cambodia, have people who are incredibly poor. So the waiter, the cleaner, the girl in the spa doing your reflexology session, may not be paid a lot in their actual wages. So tipping directly appears to be really important, especially if you have received excellent service.

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Food is also a delicate issue.  As travellers and tourists we eat a lot on our journeys and this helps the local economy.  But we need to be careful not to insult or be disrespectful.  If you go to a foreign country the food will be foreign.  Food is often offered as a welcome, as a way that even very poor people can share something with their visitor from overseas. We have been given lots and lots of fruit and local food items, whilst here.  In the hotel I witnessed a very sad episode. A full breakfast had being ordered and then left on the plate. Perfectly edible food that may well have fed a few people was just left.  The look on the waiters face as he cleared the table really touched my heart. He did not want to waste it. I desperately wanted him to eat it.  But of course he did his job and it went in the bin.

To work and live here has required teamwork.  We have had to work at it at times. Knowing where each one is to be, where they are working, keeping in contact and caring about how they are feeling and being in this strange land. Respecting time away from the group, understanding the need for separation and privacy as well as enjoying the fun and camaraderie on trips.

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We will manage to get to the end of the project together intact and I thank my fellow travellers and colleagues for their company and understanding of my personality.

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One Response to “Travellers, Tourists and Teamwork   Cambodia Blog 14”

  1. Nikki Gil Says:

    When I go to Cambodia I also want to be there in 1 week. Its a nice place to visit and I know I would enjoy. http://discovercambodia.today


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