Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Day Off

Today, like any good ol' weekend - the volunteers had the day off. Most of them woke up pretty late because they stayed up getting drunk last night, but I came home early because I was falling asleep at the table (I was practically dreaming). So instead, the day started at 7am. After tooling around on internet until 12, I decided to treat myself to a nice spa massage. For $48, I got a two hour gig - massage, scrub, moisture stuff... was pretty fab, I must say!

Then I rode to the film shop to get some prints done for the school I visited in the Themy village last week, I had promised to send some before I left Cambodia. On the way there, I passed KFC and had to stop for a photo op. The manager had four workers on the floor outside doing push-ups. For what reason? I have NO idea, but it was pretty hilarious. I'm sure they deserved it...

After, I stopped at the U-Care pharmacy to pick up some Xanax for a few dollars and other meds that you can get over the counter here... Figure some buddies will appreciate the easy pharmaceuticals chez Erica. For lunch, I ate at my favorite cheap spot for $3 and had the best fried rice and vegetable dish I've ever had and then stopped by my silk scarf vendor friend to pick up some more scarves. Her baby was sleeping away in the back of the shop...

Before I left New York, I was at a bar with my friend Tony and as I was telling him about traveling to Cambodia, a man at the bar overheard the conversation and turned around to ask me if I was going to Siem Reap. He told me a little story about a man named Lama Jake that he was sending money to in order to sponsor a child in difficulty here, Owl Rose. He asked me to bring Jake $250 and of course, I gladly accepted. So today, I finally met Jake! He's a really nice man originally from London, who has been living in Asia for a while now and in and out of monk-hood. He's very sensitive to the problems children face here and seems like the kind of guy who is always giving up his last dollar to help out.

In the evening, I was really excited to go see the Beatocello (Beat + cello) concert at the Kantha Bopha Children's Hospital. Beat Richner, a Swiss pediatrician has dedicated his life to saving children in Cambodia. In a little less than 20 years, he's managed to raise enough funds, mostly from private donations, to build six hospitals all around Cambodia to help save children's lives, including one specifically for pregnant mothers with HIV. His story and that of the hospitals are incredibly inspiring and moving. If it weren't for this man, Cambodia would have had hundreds of thousands of children lost to the heavens over those two decades. He has built facilities that are up to the standards of Western hospitals and provides incredible care, which is completely free for the patients and their families, most of which are extremely poor and wouldn't be able to afford any sort of healthcare at all, let alone just transportation TO the hospital. He even created a medical school within the hospital to empower and build his medical staff. Every Saturday night, he plays the cello and shows a short film in order to raise money from the foreigners and tourists for the hospitals. The film was really incredible, it gave a real idea of the diseases and problems these children face - anything from tuberculosis and HIV to dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis - and many of the problems are still due to the consequences of the war, and hand-me-downs from sick mothers. This week, I'm planning to go donate some blood, crossing fingers that it could save a life. If you are interested in donating any money, even small amounts, please visit: Donation. For more information about Beat and the hospitals: Any little bit goes a VERY long way and know that all the money is well spent: he is extremely driven on keeping a no-corruption policy in his hospitals, which is quite unique to the Cambodian healthcare system. Apparently $240 pays for a child to be hospitalized for 5 days and could very well completely save his/her life. I felt awkwardly wrong for treating myself to the spa today...

The night is young and it's a Saturday, but of course I'm in bed like a granny ready to ZONK OUT. Sianora!

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