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Well what can I say.  After the busy modern world of Japan and the deeply contrasting Cambodia I don’t think I had prepared myself for the skyline of Dubai. I only had two days left.  I needed to see all I could!

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The reason for my visit was primarily to visit my friend who had lived there for some years. We had met in Saudi Arabia while working there nine years ago. She had met and now married an English guy and they were happily living in Dubai.  I could not wait to see them as they had had twins, a boy and a girl six months ago.

I stayed in a lovely hotel. Could not believe the decadence of it all after the poverty of Phnom Penh. I knew I was in luxury when they quickly picked up my bags from the car and put them on a trolley to take them into the hotel.  This is not my usual form of residence but I was going to enjoy. There were four restaurants in the hotel, a pool and a spa!

 

I spent the first day on a Big Bus tour. The concept completely stolen from the London Bus tour where you can pop on and off around a particular route. A great way to get to know the city with English guide via earphones.  Met a lovely family from India we had a  great time.

The city is just amazing. If you love modern architecture this is your paradise.  They even have air conditioned bus stops for the locals, as the temperature can get up to 50 degrees.  How considerate.

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It is clean and dusty at the same time. You cannot get away from the fact that we are in the desert. There are still old buildings too which they are trying to care for and restore.

 

 

I shared the old city tour with a really nice guy from Australia.  He had just moved to Dubai to employment.  Getting his bearings before he started actual work.

I finished the day on the river on a Dow.  A great end to the day in the evening sunshine with a beer.  Yes a beer in Dubai. As a tourist they accept we drink alcohol.    But best not to over do it hey.

 

 

I really had wanted to go up the Burj Khalifa but be warned, if you don’t buy tickets in advance you are unlikely to get your opportunity. I missed mine.

 

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So hmm, what could I do.  I know,  I could go on a helicopter ride. Yey!

I had never flown in a helicopter and to see the city from the sky would be amazing. I was not disappointed.  I was also lucky that on the weight allocation for seats, I got to sit next to the pilot. How amazing was that!

 

It was truly fantastic to see the famous ‘palm’ from the sky.  The Dubai skyline looked very movie like in the distance.  It is really strange to have this “city” right here in the desert.

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And I went higher than the Burj Kahlifa in the end. result!

So. on to the twins.  It was great to meet up with my friend, her husband and the beautiful babies.  Mum and I escaped for a catch up lunch together then back for more children time.

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Sadly I left Ella and Grayson and their mum, knowing I would not see them again for quite a while.  Children grow and they would never be quite the same.

 

Onwards and upwards. Flight back to the UK and my mum back in Manchester.

 

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Sorry for delay. Have started new job. Needed to settle in. The tale continues

21st July

Watched ‘Money or Blood’ on Alyson’s DVD whilst recuperating. Describes another aspect of Cambodian Health care system. 2014 Georges Gachot. It is about Beat Richner German man who has built and maintained hospitals in Cambodia. Very controversial. Who should be paying for Cambodian health care? Did give me yet another insight.

Was well enough to attend my friend Liong’s family leaving party. She is off to Thailand to study nursing. It was a great family party and I did eat something. Lovely meeting Liong’s family and even her mum who had travelled all the way from Battambang.

 

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Finally arranged to meet up with Madam Chea-Ath. Back at the NMCHC known locally as the Japanese hospital as lots of funding from JICA (Japanese International Co-operation agency).  This was a lovely visit. So nice to meet up with the President of the Cambodian Midwives Association. We had worked so closely in January 2015.

 

We celebrated the reunion over lunch and it was great being back to eating properly again.

Finally met up with Julia Stewart and new friend Andrea. It is great to meet up with people you hardly met last time but because of the nature of travellers, you are always friends well met.  I love being part of the traveller community. I have acquired friends all over the world.

 

So bye to Phnom Penh and on to Dubai.  Cannot wait to see my friend’s Twins.

 

15th July 2016

My tuk tuk man delivers me to the bus stop.  Me, being English had envisioned a coach of some sort to take us to Kampot.  But the 12 seater small bus was the bus being cleaned and made ready for the trip.  Thank goodness I had asked for a seat at the front near the air conditioner.

I should have known this as it was similar transport we had used last January to travel to Kratie.

The journey to Kampot was as expected dusty, bumpy and very interesting. You really do get to see the real Cambodia once you are out of the cities.  There is a lot of agriculture and a lot of new building going on. But the basic Cambodian house remains the same and the majority of people are travelling by scooter.

 

We finally arrive in Kampot and I organise a tuk tuk man to take me to my booked hotel.  We arrive and I am shattered. I quickly book in to what appears to be a very nice hotel with a wonderful view of the river from the restaurant.  I was hoping for a view of the river from my room.  Alas I am disappointed but I am too tired to argue. I quickly fall to sleep.

When I awake a couple of hours later I re-read my details for the hotel and it definitely says a view of the river. I am disappointed with the room they have put me in and I also realise I cannot lock the door. Not good at all.

So I go out to talk to the manager who begins to talk to me, then dismisses me as a group of men arrive to book in.  This makes me a little mad. So I return to my room collect my belongings and return to reception. He still does not seem to understand I am not happy. So I give him the keys and I leave.

Hmmm.  I am now an English tourist out on a road in the middle of nowhere in blistering sun with no plan.  Sometimes I do wonder about myself!

Then I wander down the road and find a nice Cambodian man.  I know he is a good man. I can feel it. He also speaks a little English.  He understands my predicament. He gets me to sit down while he arranges a tuk tuk. This other tuk tuk man takes me on to another hotel.  It was no good so we return to town to the second Hotel suggested by my new friend.  Here I stay.

The Kampot Diamond Hotel.  Not the most salubrious of establishments but it will do nicely.  I went to the famous Australian bar Riki tikitavi’s for dinner, but there is a feeling in me growing that I was about to be ill.  I was not wrong.

 

I did meet up with LIongs friend Heang the following day and she was great. She had arranged for me to have a tour of Kampot Referral Hospital.

 

We watched as a woman in labour wandered about a general waiting room obviously in pain. She was supported by her relatives. Apparently she would only go into the delivery room when she was ready to birth.  I can imagine how this very public birthing would be regarded in the UK, but this is what they know. This is routine to them.   They let me take photos of the hospital but I was wary of taking individuals without their individual consent.

 

 

I came away thinking this was a great facility. This is basic but it is health care. If you have nothing else this is fantastic. It even had an intensive care unit. Not in the least like the equipment driven wards in the UK but at least they were recognising the need for continuous care. I am sure it has saved lives.  They have a caesarean section theatre too.

 

 

After the tour I was beginning to feel very unwell and returned to the hotel.  I then began two days of being quite ill with gasteroenteritis. I am glad I did not vomit but it sure was a good way to lose weight. What went in definitely came out very quickly.  I had never been ill in Cambodia before. In fact, I am hardly ever ill with my stomach.  I tried to think what I had eaten since I landed.

I spent my time in Kampot in the very nice hotel bedroom. Venturing out for breakfast and for water.  I slept and slept and slept.   I did see Heang a couple of times but not for long.  I was very disappointed, but there was nothing else I could do.  I could not face the bus trip back so arranged an expensive car to take me back to Phnom Penh.

 

And so it continued for the next few days till finally I had to admit I needed to go to see a doctor. Luckily the ex-pat network knew the place to go

I called and arranged an appointment at the Local SOS clinic.  I have no photos. I really was not in the right frame of mind. But the friends network cared for me very well.   I was threatened with a drip but I reassured them I was still capable of drinking.  So I drank myself back to full hydration.  They gave me potassium to take too as my blood work showed it was low.  $250 later and I was on my way back to the flat.  Thank god for good travel insurance that is all I can say and thank god I was not carrying some dreadful bug. It appeared it was viral and would just take time.

 

So I saw a lot of Alyson’s flat and her DVD collection. Her friend downstairs would pop in to make sure I was alive and I was in regular contact with the outside world via social media.  There is a paper in it somewhere about social media and its use in healthcare to help keep patient’s morale in place.

Eventually I came around and started contacting people I had wanted to meet up with again whilst in the Kingdom.  The president of the Cambodian Midwives Association Madam Chea agreed to meet up and also Alyson Stewart an Australian Midwife working at the TSMC.  I even went out for a couple of hours to the central market.

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A crazy hot, buzzing place selling everything from jewellery, vegetables, flowers etc to knickers.   I got a little lost coming out as all the entrances look the same but was saved by calling Dim a tuk tuk driver we had used when we had been in Cambodia last January 2015.  He got me home to the flat and I collapsed into bed again.

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13th July 2016

I have flown from Osaka airport to Kuala Lumpur airport and then onto Bangkok.  Then onto Phnom Penh.  I have never in my life been on so many aeroplanes in my life.  I am shattered.  Thank goodness I have a car waiting for me to drive me to Alyson’s apartment.

And there at arrivals there she is-  Liong. My informally adopted Cambodian daughter.  She was my translator last time in Cambodia but she has become a really good friend.  There she is with open arms. It is so nice to be met in a very strange foreign land.

She introduces me to her friend and then travels back with me to the flat. It is late so she stays. Phnom Penh is not the place to be out and about late at night. It is nice to have company on my first night in the Kingdom.  The view from Alyson’s flat is tremendous.

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Sadly Alyson is not here she has broken her leg and is recuperating in Australia but she still has allowed me access to her flat in her absence.  I did not realise how fortuitous that offer was until later in my trip.

 

It is hot 34 degrees. I have gone up a few degrees since Japan.  It is supposed to be the rainy season but they have not seen much rain so far.

The first day I go with Liong while she is collecting data from Health Clinics in Kampong Spue.  It is a hot, bumpy, interesting experience.

This is the front line of health care in Cambodia.  I am impressed by the teaching going on to the men and by the basic but at least some facilities for birth.  I wish I could do more to help this far away from the local hospitals.  Maybe sometime in the future.

 

I need to get used to the traffic and lifestyle again. I am jetlagged and exhausted Liong leaves me to sleep.

The following day I wake up late and we go Visa hunting for her. The beaurocracy in the office is amazing. We wait and we wait and we wait.  Finally we emerge triumphant with her visa for Thailand.  We also go and buy my bus ticket for Kampot.  We celebrate by having a foot massage followed by dinner and a cocktail in Anise.

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This weekend Liong is off to visit her family and I am off to visit Kampot.  She has put me in touch with her friend Heang who will show me the sights. Looking forward to another long journey on dusty, bumpy roads.

 

I have only two days to go now in Japan and I have a Midwifery thing to do. Emiko has arranged a visit at Hyogo Medical University Hospital.  I am really keen to see the contrast between the hospitals and the Midwife Homes I have seen so far.

We met the director of nursing a lovely lady obviously wanting the best for her staff and patients. They were very welcoming. I felt honoured to be allowed to view their hospital.  It was my birthday (11th July) Emiko had primed the office and they all said Happy Birthday.

 

The hospital is a hospital. It feels like a routine western style hospital. The difference – massive corridors and the use of space.  Sadly my photos just don’t show it. It feels a really great space to work in.  After years of working in cramped corridors and wards in the UK this feels state of the art.

 

I was taken to see the neonatal intensive care unit. Again the space is the thing I notice.  Obvious excellent facilities for the care of premature and poorly babies.

The labour ward again feels like home. Similar birthing beds able to be changed into different positions as required.  Emiko reminds me though that many women still receive an episiotomy on their first birth though.  There theatre looked so similar to UK I felt I could go straight in and scrub to take the baby.

Postnatal facilities are much the same as the UK but the women stay for much longer. They are appalled that we in the UK send women home after only a few hours.

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After this Emiko took me up to the hills overlooking Kobe.  A fantastic view. Kobe really is a nice city to live in.

 

 

 

The following day Emiko was working so I was attended by Kayo and her sister Junko.

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They gave me a great day out in Osaka.  More tube train rides, but we went on the Okawa river too. We had a lovely time.  The rain threatened and then went away.

We had lunch in the twin tower restaurant, excellent view and food.  Then up the tallest building in Japan (Abeno Harukas) and we met the Abeno bear.  Apparently we were very lucky. I hug everyone.  i was a great day.

 

That night we met in the local restaurant that had become our favourite during the trip.  Emiko had ordered lots of food and Akiko from the University came too.  It was a lovely send off dinner.

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My experience of Japan has been huge. Thanks in most to Emiko my tour director.  I have seen lots of things with midwifery in mind, but also had a great tourist time.  I love the people and their respect of others.  I think I may be having lots of visitors to the UK. All are welcome.  Thanks Emiko you are a true friend. Let’s not make it twenty years next time.

 

Oh by the way.  Every UK toilet should have one of these. Thought it was a fantastic idea

 

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We move from the tea plantations of Shizuoka at the base of Mount Fuji that look like massive green caterpillars onto Tokyo.

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We stay at the huge Shinagawa Prince Hotel.  It has over 3560 rooms. It is right at the heart of Tokyo and near all transport links.  So off we wander spending our afternoon walking around the rainy tourist streets of Japan.

 

It is an overwhelming, extraordinary experience and I am inducted into the Japanese fondness for cartoons. There is shop, upon shop, catering for this national obsession especially with young people.  I am slightly peterbed by the young girls in cartoon costumes plying their trade on the streets.  I am so pleased I do not have a photo.  There were photos enough!

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We seek solace in excellent food back in the complex beneath the hotel and retire to bed.

 

 

 

 

The following day the end of the typhoon is hitting hard but we still venture out to Akihabara and Uneno Park.

 

We watched an excellent juggler perform his trade in the rain.  Magnificent.  All credit to him for continuing despite the weather. He was greatly appreciated.

 

20160709_155501.jpgWe also met a Japanese English literature student. It is just so funny how you meet people. Of course she heard my accent and said Hello.  I wish you well Lala.  Hope to be in touch

 

 

 

The following day we achieved a dream of mine.  We went up the sky tree.  Amazing.  I love high buildings and this was indeed a high. 634metres high.  The highest tower in the world its claim.  Much higher than Blackpool UK -158 metres.  The Eifel tower in Paris is 324 metres.   I hope to see the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai later in my trip – 828 metres.

 

The experience starts with a fantastic trip in a lift. I felt like I had stepped inside some computer game. Loved it.  The views from the top were of course fantastic.  The weather had cleared after the typhoon. We had chosen the perfect day but Mount Fuji, which apparently can be seen, was still in the distant mist.  Fantastic experience.

 

Later we went on to the Asukasa Shrine.  This was the day of the Hozuki festival so many people were there purchasing their flowers and praying for happiness.  Yes I prayed too.

 

Only two more days in Japan.  Going to visit the local Hospital in Osaka tommorow.

 

Well now I am finally feeling better after being told I am not dying of some dastardly disease, I can continue writing my blog.

 

7th to 10th of July Japan

After all that teaching, Emiko let me have a day of rest.  I did try and do some of my blog.  But on the 8th of July we set out for yet another trip.  There is no way I am going home from here without seeing Japan, if it is up to Emiko my our guide.  This time we headed for Mount Fuji and Tokyo.

“The draw of this mountain is felt worldwide” and yes I am reading from the brochure, but it does kind of feel like that too.  A real volcanic mountain that might do it again at any point.  Scary hey?

I have been to Vesuvius in Italy and was aghast by its size and obvious strength of destruction.  Mount Fuji held a similar fascination.  That is in fact if we get to see it.

The weather has clo20160708_190522.jpgsed in, and wait for it, Japan is at the end of a Typhoon!.

This one named  Nepartak, is currently hitting the coast of  Taiwan.  In reality we were not expected to see much disruption, except torrential rain and we got it and alas Mount Fuji was in the mist.

The nicest thing was that we were to stay with another of Emiko’s midwife friends in yet another Midwife house.  I actually got to sleep in a delivery room.  I have not done that for years since we had staffing issues in a UK maternity unit and I stayed overnight.

Sleeping together in the same room brought back memories for Emiko and I. We usd to share a room during our studies together. Her in the bed me on the floor.  I laughed. Her friend had put me in the bed and her on the floor. Justice at last!

 

 

Her house was lovely and reflected every essence of the midwife whose house it was.  She just is very motherly and kind and oozed calmness.   She met us off the bullet train.  Oh yes, oh my goodness.! We went on the bullet train!

It is amazing how much you forget when you just go from one day to the next. I  do keep short notes but when writing sometimes it just gets out of sequence. But maybe that’s the way its meant to come out, as I remember it.

 

Oh yes, bullet train or the Shinkansen.  Beautiful bit of Japanese engineering.  No one in Japan calls it the Bullet train by the way, so don’t ask for it. Look for Shinkansen signs.

You can actually feel the difference when it reaches its higher speed.  But the higher speed does depend on which Shinkansen you are on, so be aware that you do not want to be disappointed.

There are 3 levels  Shinkansen Kodoma, Shikae, and Nozomi.  Nozomi being the fastest as stops at least stations.  At full speed you can reach 300km/hr. Yes, I am getting this from the guide book. You expect me to remember after a bout of Gastroenteritis?

 

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It was however an unforgettable experience. The Shinkansen lived up to expectations. I have never in my life had so much leg room anywhere travelling. It was like being in first class on an aeroplane. Only done that once.

 

The seats were very comfortable and despite Emiko’s concern we might not get a seat initially, we walked straight on to two together. My advice – book seats.  It gets very busy and this was the rainy season. My personal parking and seat finding fairy was looking after us.

 

 

 

 

Alas at the end no Fuji to greet us. But we did have Kazue.   We went for noodles of course and then onto her house which was delightful.  Again as with the others already seen on this trip the emphasis is on the family, not just the woman.  It was about bringing a new life into the family.

 

She had arranged a little party to say hello with her fellow midwifery staff and I got to hold a Kazue baby born at the house the previous year.  They had some English and thankfully I had Emiko we had a lovely tea party.  We had great discussions about Japanese mainstream midwifery care and local midwifery care.  Midwives houses are very similar to Birth Centres in the UK but much smaller more intimate and with fewer staff.

 

Apparently to do a proper Japanese tea party you need to be trained which takes ages and then you get a licence.  Kazue has a licence and so it transpired does my friend Emiko.  In Manchester we just mash the tea and have done with it. Ha.

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This by the way is a Mt Fuji bun.  But we thought might be useful when discussing breastfeeding. Ha ha.

 

We did get to the Shiraito waterfalls at the foot of Mount Fuji.  Lots of steps, lots of water but wonderful scene despite the rain.

Ah well I thought I might get to  write about Tokyo in this chapter but alas not to be.  See the next installment for Blog 7 Part 2. The highs of the Tokyo Sky Tree.