I settled in the back of the bus, along with other individuals from our team as we wove through the busy streets of Siem Reap on our way to the Srey Snam District.
This was it. We were really heading out on our first day of work!
I think we were all excited inside, but the bus wasn’t too loud – maybe the breakfast we ate that morning had caused some of us to feel slightly sleepy. Eggs, bacon, sausage, orange juice, and coffee – you sure can’t beat that for a filling breakfast!
The Srey Snam district was roughly 80 kilometers from our hotel in Siem Reap – so, about a 50-mile ride. Due to heavy traffic, bumpy roads, and a lumbering bus, it would take us around an hour and forty minutes. Our translators had already set out to work on unloading equipment from our truck – we were given the gift of a few extra minutes of sleep.
Here’s a bit from my journal that day (didn’t write a whole lot):
Feeling a bit nervous about doing this whole sterilization thingy and the mission in general, but I just read this in my Bible this morning and it was a great encouragement!!
“Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 1:6-8)
Wow. Just what I needed!
Uh oh. Breakfast time – will write more later.
Our bus pulled into an open, dusty field with a few buildings on the opposite end. The translators were already hard at work, pulling dental chairs, medical equipment, and crates full of eyeglasses. Lots of locals milled about, underneath a colorful tent. We all excitedly hopped out of the bus. I felt a little disoriented. Everyone seemed to know where to go and what to do, but I was one of the few people without medical or dental knowledge, supposed to perform a job that I never trained for.
Um … ok. Where and what am I going to do?
Fortunately, Scott, the guy heading up the eyeglasses clinic along with his wife, Lucy, took a break from setting up his equipment and gave me a quick orientation regarding the sterilization process for dental instruments.
We headed over to the building that would serve as our dental clinic, and found a small room that would serve well as “my room.” It would need to be slightly set apart from the other rooms, as I would be working with bloody instruments and extracted teeth.
His advice was extremely helpful, but there was so much to absorb. I attempted to write everything I heard on a large, white marker board.
Hmmm … I hope I got everything down. If I do something wrong, someone or myself could get sick or maybe even die.
We had about a half-hour to prepare before we accepted our first patients. I worked to setup my two gas burners, pour birex solution into one of my soaking tubs for plastic instruments (mirrors, syringes, etc.) and water into my basic scrubbing tub to rid the metal instruments of blood and debris before they headed off for boiling treatment.
Jesus, please keep me alert and help me to remember everything I’m supposed to do.
The first patient walked in.
Before we officially began our day, the translators and the dentists from our team took a moment to pray.
The day moved fairly quickly. Before I realized it, it was time to take a lunch break. I had to ask quite a few questions, but everyone was really nice about answering (and re-answering) them.
By the time the medical, dental, pharmacy, and eyeglasses clinics saw their last patient, we were all exhausted. We put some of our equipment back into the truck to take back home, left some there, and headed for our buses.
Dinner at the hotel sure tasted good. Cambodian food reminded me a lot of what I eat back at home. Rice is a primary staple, and there are a lot of veggie stir-fries, and soups.
On the bus … ready for our first day of clinic!
The setup: birex wipes, blue gloves, cleaning tub, birex soaking tub, gas burners …
Clean trays and instruments – we’re ready to roll!
Empty dental chairs
A few of our dental translators: Bunly, Seng Hak, and Bory
All of the patients would sit under this tent – they would first go to Triage, where their symptoms/issues were identified, and then re-directed to the appropriate clinic.
The dental clinic – we had the coolest building ’cause we had balloons
Lunch break! This is Banndith, a Christian who is passionate about sharing Christ with others.
Lunch + coffee break!
Bikes and motorcycles are a primary means of transportation here – most bikes allow for two people to ride them and I’ve seen more than two ride on one bike a few times.
The awesome dental team! Mike, our team leader and also a dentist, didn’t make this pic, though.
(Back row, L-R: Me, Banndith, Bo, Bunly, Bory, & Seng Hak)
(Front row, L-R: Daren, Lydia, Kok-Tow, and Dr. Peace)
PICK ME!! Haha, not too sure what’s happening in this pic