We have had an interesting week full of medical adventures just a bit on the crazy side because we're missionaries and we're in Cambodia and that just makes everything a little different. I can't even tell these stories properly though for obvious reasons pertain to other people's privacy, so forgive me. Because I have probably made a few people nervous by this point, let me assure that nothing happened to me. Everyone will be fine. No one died or anything...actually, the former king of Cambodia died, but that's a completely separate issue.
So last week I think I mentioned there was a festival and everyone left town, right? This made it hard to buy food for the week because the markets were pretty deserted and what little food was there was really expensive, so we kind of gave up. I thought things would kind of go back to normal in the next day or two, but then the king died (on Monday, last p-day, the 15th), so everything just stayed closed for a while longer. On Wednesday, they brought his body back to Cambodia and people all over Phnom Penh wore black pants or skirts and white shirts with little black squares of fabric or bows pinned on their chests and crowded on both sides of the street along the route from the airport to the King House. The ones with squares of fabric looked like they were trying to pull off a poor imitation of LDS missionaries. Chi Ly and I were visiting an investigator at the southern edge of our area. By the time we finished, the crowds and the guards were so numerous we couldn't get back, so we were stuck, cut off from the church building, our apartment, and all the other people we were hoping to teach that day. The elders were similarly trapped near the airport, so our meeting at the church didn't happen. Using some extra effort and a little creativity, we made our way to the mission home and found the office elders and Elder Westover at the end of the street in the crowd. They blended in so well given the dress code. The elders speak Cambodian, so they helped us out, and we managed to get back to our area in time to make one visit before we had to go home for the night. Crazy, but that wasn't the craziest thing this week.
Just before my mission, my stake president told me that I was going to be a blessing to my mission president's wife and I should tell her about my training and background and offer my assistance. I didn't do that. I learned that one of the senior sisters serves as the mission nurse, so I figured I would never be needed and didn't say anything. Lately though I have advised on or helped out with a few things like boils, chest pain, a rash, and a couple anti-nausea medications just because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. A few people decided I knew what I was talking about, so when an situation came up one night, I was asked to take a Cambodian sister to get checked out - at about 9:30 at night. Sisters are supposed to be home by 6 PM, 6:30 if they are teaching, so I've never seen Phnom Penh at night. We were out until 11 PM on this occasion, and was kind of weird to see the main streets in the city center lit up with strings of white lights (like Christmas lights) and decorated because of the king's death and then to reach my part of the city and see the sorts of places people slept there. This weekend I have also confronted a few unsolved stomach ailments that have lasted for weeks and an impressive staph infection. More and more people were asking me about how I knew what I knew, and I finally confessed to Sister Moon. I told her about WMI and nursing school and UMass and what my stake president said. She teasingly chastised me for not telling her and told me the senior sister who is a nurse will be leaving in January and thanked my for my offer to help if she ever thought I might be of use. I don't know how useful I will be though. Apparently in Khmer - at least at the education level of those with whom I have tried to discuss medical complaints - tumor, cyst, lymph node, and tonsil all translate as "meat." This is going to be an interesting challenge.