Hello, Goodbye: {Day 3 @ the Angkor Thom District}


Bzzzzzz. Bzzzzz.

The vibrations from our cell phone alarm abruptly awakened me from my deep sleep.

ARRRG!! Couldn’t I just have FIVE more minutes of sleep? Puh-LEEEZ?

Nope, it wasn’t happening. Even a 5 O’ clock wake up was definitely on the late side.

Yawn. Bigger Yawn. 

Okay, okay, I’m getting out of bed. 

Dad and I were responsible for setting out lunch prep materials for everyone. To keep things simple, Mike, our team leader, suggested that we eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches each day for lunch, along with a few goodies. We brought two big tubs of peanut butter, and I could already tell that it wasn’t going to be enough to last us for very long. We have a lot of hungry people on our team (like ME).  Fortunately, a few other team members had brought along some berries, nuts, energy bars, etc. to supplement our lunch. I absolutely LOVED these Cambodian baguettes. They are made fresh every morning and are so crispy and warm. Sometimes I just ditched the PB and J and just took three or four of the baguettes for lunch. This responsibility involved getting up earlier than others and setting out the bread, peanut butter and jam, along with a few snack packs before everyone came down to the hotel restaurant. It doesn’t help that I’m an extremely slow riser. I usually hit my snooze button multiple teams before I force myself out of bed.

Our other responsibility was to bring down a 5-gallon jug of water for everyone to fill their water bottles up with before taking off for the day. One water bottle definitely doesn’t last us the whole day – it mainly served to get us to our destination hydrated. Each “clinic” (pharmacy, medical, eyeglasses, etc.) had their own, separate jug. When you spend all day working outside in the heat, staying hydrated becomes pretty important.

We got everything set out on time, and breakfast was delicious as always. I appreciated the full mug of coffee. They didn’t have sugar or cream, so I drank it black. It definitely woke me up in a hurry.

This morning, the plan was to head out to the Angkor Thom District, where we would spend the next two days. During the ride there, we glimpsed Angkor Wat for a few seconds as we passed by. Incredible and awe-inspiring. The medical and dental students (Bo and Raty) gave me a short history lesson as we weaved our way through country roads, leaving a cloud of orange dust behind us.

This was the first time that both the translators and the GHO team got to ride together to clinic – finally! Cindy, who headed up the pharmacy, led worship because  Dale, our worship leader, wasn’t in our bus (we drive two buses) so aided with music playing through her iPhone, we were still able to have our worship time with music.

Our bus whizzed past numerous homes,  small stands selling clothes, drinks, or food, children and mothers walking or riding on bikes, and various animals. It certainly is much different than what I normally see out my window while driving or biking around Poulsbo, Seattle, or Port Orchard. I felt a tugging at my heart as we drove onward.

That woman is drinking out of the puddle filled with green-colored water! Who will provide medical care for her when she becomes sick?

No one is buying that man’s vegetables on the side of the road – I wonder if he’ll make enough money to buy clothes and food for his family?

That little boy looks so lonely. Does he have parents, brothers, or sisters? 

I felt sadness and frustration. I wished I could do more to help these people. They certainly were excessively poor materially, but were also spiritually poor. Even though I felt a sense of helplessness, I was comforted by the fact that God loves each Cambodian so much more than we could ever love, and cares for their needs more than we care for our family or friends.

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.”  – Matthew 6:26

“For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.” – Psalms 9:18

“Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation.” – Psalms 68:5

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.” –  Isaiah 41:17

God has it all under control. I can trust that He will provide for His children both physically and spiritually. Sometimes, He uses individuals like the GHO team to minister to people.  We weren’t here solely to provide temporary physical relief, but provide them eternal comfort by introducing them to Jesus Christ. He uses local pastors or friends. He works through supernatural events in people’s lives to introduce them to Himself.

Sometimes, it seems like God simply isn’t present. We can’t understand why injustices or poverty would occur in the world and that is precisely when we need to place our trust in God that He can see the entire picture and knows what is best. Perhaps we’re only viewing one puzzle piece and it looks dull, and lifeless. But if we had the chance to see the entire, completed puzzle, we would then realize how marvelous of a plan God has. It is our responsibility to follow where He has called us and leave the rest in His hands. There is great peace that can be found by trusting in Jesus.

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.” – Isaiah 26:3-4

I think our bus driver got a bit lost, because we had to stop twice and ask the local villagers for directions (?) I’ll admit, I’m not sure if he was asking for directions, since I don’t speak Khmer, but that would be my hunch.  I seriously don’t know how the bus drivers know where to go. There are no addresses, no street names, and no GPS’s. They must know the country super-well. I mean ridiculously well. The important thing was that we got there, and on time to boot!

We hopped out of our bus and looked around, a bit disoriented. There weren’t a whole lot of patients waiting to be seen yet and we weren’t exactly sure which building we would be setting up clinic in. There were at least two buildings that I saw that would be potential places to set up our equipment. We slowly shuffled over to what appeared to be a temple, with tall columns supporting the roof. The air inside felt cool, in direct contrast to the heat slowly increasing in intensity.

Ahh … ok – working in this building should be good – we’ll get a nice breeze the entire day!

Just when we were beginning to set down our backpacks and water bottles and start planning who would work where, Mike announced that we would be moving to a similar, and slightly larger building. Unloading was going well and patients were slowly starting to file in when we realized that we didn’t have enough (or was it any?) tables or chairs to set up inside the building. We had our customary colorful tent with chairs outside for patients to wait for their turn to be seen, but no tables for the medical, dental, pharmacy, and eyeglasses clinics and few chairs for the patients to sit inside.


We decided to set up what we could, while Mike tried to obtain additional tables and chairs. Well, we were finally able to secure the tables and chairs (Praise God!) and went to work immediately to bring them in and set them up. Understandably, dental clinic began a bit later than usual that day. I lost my plastic sheet that I used to cover my table (since I have to deal with blood and other not-so-nice things), so I had to create a new one with scraps from an old one. Tape and determination will solve about any problem I guess. 😀

I was setup near a window (YESSS.) which meant cool breezes (another plus!) and curious children poking their heads through the window to see what was making that racket (the pressure cookers). Maybe it’s because I have so many younger siblings, but I definitely feel comfortable with children, and love playing with them when I get a chance. Stefanie had made me some 3×5 index cards with Khmer phrases on them, so I pulled them out of my backpack when I had a small break and tried to start a conversation.

Uhh … soo-suh-die? (hello)” I asked hesitantly.

The kids were puzzled for a second and then giggled.

Haha … I hope I’m saying everything alright!

 I tried another phrase: “Kn-yum chmoouh Jonathan (my name is Jonathan)” A bit more giggling …

One of the boys knew a bit of English so I went through my list of Khmer words on the index cards and he patiently corrected me if I said it wrong.

When I worked through the numbers 1-10, the rest of the kids suddenly lit up and began excitedly repeating each number correctly as I probably messed each one up. I didn’t really care about making mistakes – once the kids lightened up a bit, they got really into it!

Once the dental team got into a groove, the patients started to increase in number as well as the number of trays with used instruments. 

The dental team really did a fantastic job that morning – I saw a lot of teeth on the trays, which is a good thing I guess! 😀 Mike, Kok-Tow, Daren, Bory, SengHak, Bo, and Bunly (Banndith worked with Dale) kept the trays coming! The translators are always so appreciative – every time they drop a tray off, they always say “thank you.” Great team.

What, lunch break time already?  When you’re working hard and enjoying a few breaks talking and playing with kids, time goes by quickly I guess. I chewed on my PB & J while I noticed that all of the translators had their own Khmer lunch! Looked pretty tasty – I think it was pork and rice? I learned from Kok-Tow, (one of the dentists on our team) that you could ask for one at the hotel restaurant and they’d make one for you.

Sweet – I’ll have to try that sometime! I’ve like my PB & J’s so far, but I could use some variety!

Most of us ate in the pharmacy area while Mike, Dale, Dr. Yaren, and Craighton discussed top-secret material elsewhere. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t top-secret material, buuuut ….)

Dad’s translator for the day was LeangMeng, one of the happiest guys you’ll ever meet. They both got along fantastically, and both were ecstatic when they heard that they’d be working together today. It was LeangMeng’s last day, so it was good for them to be able to spend some time working and talking together.

After lunch break, there wasn’t a whole lot to do and the children were still peering over the window sill, watching the the medical, dental, physical therapy, and eyeglasses teams with interest.  I took out my camera and showed them pictures and videos of the snow we got in Poulsbo about a week before we left. They thought it was hilarious –  they’ve probably never seen snow before. I had a video of Aaron, Noelle, and I sledding down a small hill, and then flying out in all different directions after our sled got jammed in a ditch. Everyone thought it was hilarious.

The heat outside was steadily making its way inside – we had a cooler with soft drinks and water for the team,  so I grabbed a few Cokes and shared them with the kids. I wonder how they deal with the heat – I was sweating up a storm and they seemed just fine!

The afternoon went super-well and passed by relatively quickly.

Clinic for that day was just about over – the sun was beginning to set, and a warm, orange-ish glow lit the interior of the building. I blew up a rubber glove (it was clean and unused, I promise), and headed outside with the kids to play a game I used to play in Awana. Basically, you can either draw a line on the ground or stretch a piece of rope or string to divide a room in half, and attempt to make the balloon land on the opposing team’s end. You get a point if it lands on their side, they get a point if it lands on your side – simple, right? We played it in a gym with a balloon, but playing outside with a rubber glove would work just as well, I thought. And it did, too. It wasn’t hard to communicate to the boys how to play, and we had an absolute blast.

(For the record, my team lost, haha) The boys on the other team excitedly reminded me what the score was.

When we had to go, I said “goodbye” in Khmer, (which I think they understood), and hoped they’d be back the next day.

Sadly, there were three translators, LeangMeng, Sony, and Kimchhay, that wouldn’t be back the next day – they were heading back to Phnom Penh to continue their studies. Even though we had only known each other for a few days, all of us on the GHO team and the other translators had developed a close relationship with each of them.

We held a small appreciation/award ceremony that evening during dinner, where each of them received a certificate and a Khmer Bible. They each did such a fantastic job and are great people.

After dinner, LeangMeng, Sony, Kimchhay, a few of the medical/dental students, and my Dad and I walked across the street to the Blue Pumpkin, a restaurant that has the best ice cream (a little expensive, but it’s sooo good!)  in Siem Reap. I got mint chocolate and vanilla, a combination of my favorite flavors. Yeah, I know vanilla is not colorful and maybe a bit bland, but I’ve always liked it. The ice cream there seems to melt so fast! Maybe it’s because of the warm weather and maybe it’s also due to the fact that the ice cream is slightly less cold and firm in comparison to “normal” ice cream.

We had a great time eating, laughing and talking together for the last time, and then walked back to the hotel. They still had to pack, so we said our last goodbyes in the lobby and watched them head upstairs.

So sad. I can’t stand goodbyes. I pray that one day we will see each other again in Cambodia or if not, in Heaven. 

My Dad and I walked back to our hotel, showered, talked about the day, and fell asleep relatively quickly. It was a long day, and our alarm would go off before we knew it.

*           *            *           *           *           *            *           *

And of course, here are a few pictures – since we were here for two days, I honestly forget which pictures are from which days – whoops.

A bit of initial confusion and chaos when we first arrived.

Mike, giving out directions

Kerry and Jessica.

The general layout of where we worked – the building and the tent.


Kerry and Menglim helping a man use a walker!

Lucy, with the help of one of the translator girls, taught the children how to sing “Jesus Loves Me”

Dad treating patients with Farrilend, a medical student

Dr. Mike with SengHak

The medical, dental, physical therapy, and eyeglasses clinics worked in this main room while the pharmacy was in a smaller room behind.

Riding to work – Menglim and Sovann! 😀

The cheerful, colorful tent under which patients waited to be directed to Triage.


ChanRyka and Chhunhak

Kerry and Pheng

Tom and Jessica

This man lost his leg and had been using an old car muffler as a substitute! 😦

Showing the kids a video of us sledding and then crashing, big time. 😀 It doesn’t snow in Cambodia!

Kimchhay, Tom, and Menglim


Dad and LeangMeng

Hard at work!

Lucy showing the kids pictures on her iPhone

It was an incredibly hot day

The dental guys: Bory, SengHak, and Bunly!

Learning to brush one’s teeth

Cute kids.

Friends. 🙂 LeangMeng, Sony, and Kimchhay

The happy pharmacy group!

Banndith and LeangMeng

Last ice cream night at Blue Pumpkin with Kimchhay, Sony, and LeangMeng 😦

Shopping at the Night Market

Such a wonderful group of people! 🙂

After the awards + appreciation ceremony

Getting “pancakes” (kind of like crepes) from a sidewalk vendor! Pheng paid for mine 🙂

Group picture after the award ceremony


4 thoughts on “Hello, Goodbye: {Day 3 @ the Angkor Thom District}

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