Here comes the bride…

Its been 3 weeks since my latest adventure began and now its time for a little ‘rice-respite’ so I’m en route back to England for 4 days!

Admittedly there’s a pretty darn good reason for such a short visit…my wee sis is to be wed!

So after a bit of a monster journey home (bumpy 4×4 road trip, plane, bus, plane, couple of trains and a car ride) I arrived home and straight into wedding-mania!

And so tha mania continued until 8pm saturday morning – when I think we hit the eye of the storm and had a very lovely calm and relaxed bucks fizz brunch (thanks Dad!)…then 11am hit and we heading straight back into mania!

Needless to say the bride looked absolutely stunning (well – she is from T’buckle stock!), the sun shone, the champagne flowed and we danced til dawn. Well – actually, some of the wedding party partied til dawn – those of us with confused body clocks went to bed slightly earlier than dawn!

It was all over far too quickly and before i knew it I was back in terminal 2 of Manchester airport waiting to board my first of 3 flights back to rice heaven.

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Trust me, I’m a doctor

Before we were allowed to set foot inside our minefield we all received full first aid training (and had to pass the test at the end!). Even with my first aid qualification there was alot of new learning, the slightly scary part being that we all had to be able to cannulate – basically putting an IV drip into someones arm.

Our classroom was on a huge tarpaulin under the trees outside so when they said first aid training ‘for the field’, they really did mean learning in real field conditions.

Our 2 Cambodian teachers were incredibly patient but also incredibly good fun. The guy I felt most sorry for was their willing (!) assistant (in the blue shirt above) who had several days of 5 foreigners poking, prodding, bandaging and sticking needles into him. He had the patience of a saint – although I’m sure this part of his job probably wasn’t mentioned in his interview!

On our final day we were let loose to test our skills on real people and real arms. This time the willing victims…oops, I mean patients, were each other.

I am pleased to say I passed and can now successfully administer an IV drip…so if you ever find yourself in need of one feel free to give me a shout!

p.s Big congrats to my scuba buddy Drose who just passed his instructor exam and can now go and teach the world to dive…well done my friend!!

‘Fizz’ is no longer the sweet bubbly nectar from France

In my new world it’s spelt ‘phys’ and involves running faster than I generally care to run along a dusty road in 30 degree heat! I’m also learning not 1 but 2 new languages…Cambodian Khmer and the less commonly known ‘TLA’ (three letter acronyms).

Practically the British army ‘mother tongue’, old habits obviously die hard and for my first 2 weeks in Cambodia I could decipher more of what the Cambodians were saying than my ex-military co-workers!

Language difficulties aside (!) I am truly living a life like nothing I’ve even come close to experiencing before now. Ok, so I’m working for an international development charity which is not particularly new for me but in practice the last few weeks…well…rather large and incredibly steep learning curve comes close. So here goes a slightly condensed version of my time so far in Cambodia…

Without exception, everyone in the organisation has ‘come through the ranks’, all starting with time in the field. So for the last few weeks its been the turn of myself and my fellow ‘boot-campers’, as we’re so termed, to do our time in the field working alongside the deminers.

Now I’m not talking a la Lady Di, I mean me on my hands and knees scratching through the dirt on the hunt for landmines. This has literally meant 8 hours a day of hard labour, starting obscenely early in the morning, hitting the sack by 8pm and clean nails becoming a mere distant memory!

In fact the work has been so physical I’ve resorted to eating 3 meals a day to get the energy I’ve needed to keep me going. I’m not talking picking at a few mouthfuls of rice either, I mean 3 hearty meals. Yes me – 3 hearty meals a day.

But it’s not just been physically tough, it’s been an utterly unbelieveable mental showdown too. The whole idea being that actually experiencing first hand what the field workers experience every working day we can empathise better as managers.

I don’t think we will be forgetting our time as deminers any time soon…empathy doesn’t even come close to how I feel towards these guys. Humbled, amazement and sheer unadulterated respect would be closer to the truth.

Consider this – for 8 hours a days these men stare at the ground with the heavy weight of their body armour and protective visors weighing down on them. With meticulous care they listen for the slightest tweet of their detector then ever so carefully they burrow down into the ground – often rain sodden clay mud or sun parched soil hardened like concrete – to identify what signal they’ve picked up…frustratingly often just a minute sliver of metal! All the time patiently resisting the never ending temptation to hurry up their searching or to ignore the quieter of the signals.

I was shocked to hear some of these guys have been doing this job for 20 years. 20 years! Of what has to be one of the most mundane, fiddly jobs going. Well, the master plan of the powers-that-be worked a treat – us boot campers were ready to pack it in by about day 3!

However, we perserved and now, joyfully, with tanned forearms and stiff backs we’ve passed our rite of passage.

It all becomes clear…

So now understand…”well, she’s not the sort of person we normally recruit”!!

Arrived in Cambodia after a long and sleepless journey via Singapore (on the new airbus I might add!). Sat next to me was an American guy who had flown from Atlanta to London purely to take a flight on this new plane. He was stopping in Singapore for 12 hours then heading straight home…crazy man!

Luckily we had Sunday to recover then bright and early on Monday morning I started my new job!

The reason I’m not their usual recruit? Easy. We’ve got one ex-para, one ex-army and one ex-TA who served with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan. Then there’s me…the good old charity tree hugger!!

Tomorrow we head off for 3 weeks to see the field workers in action. It will be incredibly interesting (and probably pretty hot and muddy – the rainy season just started), even so I’m looking forward to it.

It does however mean absolutely no comms for the next wee while while I am out in the wilds, sleeping on a camp bed and trying to avoid getting bitten to death by pesky mosquitoes! The blog stops before its really had time to start!!

However no fear – you don’t get away that easily – photos and stories coming up soon.

On a complete digression…if you are looking for a good book to read or movie to watch get hold of ”Into the Wild”.  Awesome book which is now an equally awesome movie about an interesting character, Alexander Supertramp. It makes you want to sell up and head out into the wilderness. No? Ah well, maybe that’s just me then!