After a couple of days in Phnom Penh visiting hospitals, NGOs (Non Governmental Organizations) and doing a little touring, it was time to meet up with Rith, Bob’s interpreter and point man in Cambodia and head out to the villages. Bob provides moto rides to the health center for sick villagers in three villages in Kampong Thom province. Our plan was to visit the villages over two days with an overnight stay in Kampong Thom city.
I quickly booked “Sambor Village, #1 of 4 hotels in Kampong Thom!” When the best hotel in town is $55 per night, there is no sense confirming your worst suspicions by reading the negative reviews. I was already concerned about bugs of the tropical variety and was determined not to go “looking for trouble.”
Bob and I regrouped in the parking lot and started to walk the line of vendors. I understand that bugs are part of the diet in many cultures and have seen street vendors selling them around the world. This lineup, however, seemed gratuitous. The bugs were revolting and the tourists squealing and sampling the things felt like being forced to watch a rerun of “Fear Factor”.
Off we went to Lvea Chum. The villagers gather for a meeting whenever Bob visits. Through Rith, Bob asks how the moto drivers are doing, how the health of the village is and other questions about life in the village.
The people love the moto drivers, men who live in the village and whom they elect to the job of being on demand to take them to the health center. They are very grateful to Bob for this program. In addition to sparing a sick villager a several mile walk to seek treatment, the easier access allows people to get help before their conditions worsen. Pregnant women go for regular prenatal check-ups and more babies are born at facilities where they can get immediate attention if they are struggling.
The meeting ended with K-Ron, the village chief, thanking Bob and the villagers applauding. Afterwards, K-Ron invited us to check out his crops and the irrigation pond Bob donated in a field several kilometers away.
The moto drivers were ready.
I could feel how careful the moto driver was being. He avoided potholes and sought out the smoothest path. He didn’t speed. Riding with him down the dusty, orange village road was a joy. And, best of all, he didn’t say a word.