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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Time is moving quickly

Time is going by so swiftly for my wife and me, as we are already completing the fifth month of our 18-month assignment to serve in Cambodia.

We have been so busy with the dental service and the missionary work that we often lose track of the world away from ours. Cambodia does not have much variation in weather. The temperature fluctuates from 75 for a low to 85 for a high and the humidity is usually 80 to 90 percent. The monsoon season is now coming to an end. I don't believe it rains any harder here than it does in Ohio, but it certainly does rain more often. It will rain very hard almost every afternoon. We have a paved street in front of our apartment that is kind of a low spot. When it rains hard, we will have 18 inches of water flowing down our street. The children have a great time swimming and hooking onto the bumpers of the cars and trucks that dare to venture down our road. The children are pulled along behind the vehicles. I am certain it is very dangerous, but no one seems to care. There are almost no laws of safety to restrict anyone.

The Mekong River has now reversed and is flowing in the opposite direction toward the Tonle Sap Lake. At this time of year the lake expands and becomes two or three times as large as it was in the spring. The floating villages just migrate right along with the banks of the lake. The Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Asia at this time of year. As the lake recedes throughout the year, the river will reverse again and the water will flow to the Gulf of Thialand.

We went to the beach at Sihanoukville over the Bonn Pchum Ben holiday. This holiday week is a celebration of the dead. People leave the city and go out to the providences to attend special Wat services for their ancestors. People make the trip using about any method possible. We saw a number of vans that were absolutely loaded with people making the trip. One van had about 30 people in and on it. I counted seven people in the front seat and 12 on the roof. Phnom Penh is like a ghost town during the holiday, so we ventured by bus. The beach was great and the water was very warm. We discovered that one can really get sunburn when the beach is only 15 degrees north of the equator. We got the worst sunburn we have ever had. We can now say that we have been swimming in the Gulf of Thailand.

Phnom Penh is a very interesting city of about 2 million people. I don't believe the area is much larger than Muskingum County, but the density of people is much greater. These people will live in a 10x20-foot area with several families living together. It is normal for married children, parents and grandparents to live in a small area together. The people that we are working with are so poor that many will not use electricity for fans or a refrigerator. Electricity is very expensive (25 cents/KW). The electricity comes from a large dam in Vietnam. People go to the many shops every day for their food. A typical meal will consist of some rice and dried fish or pork.

Last week we had seven LDS dentists from the USA and two from Australia come to Phnom Penh. In addition we had two senior missionary dentists. With 11 dentists working hard for five days, a great deal of dental work can be accomplished if there is an unlimited supply of patients. We set up in one of the LDS buildings with missionaries and some of my International University dental students serving as translators and assistants. The dental group brought all the equipment and supplies with them. Patients were lining up at 6:30 a.m. for the 8:30 a.m. start time on a first-come, first-serve basis. My wife and several other senior missionary couples organized and controlled the hordes of patients. We served more than 600 patients during the week. We had many Cambodian and Vietnamese patients both members and non-members. One day I kept track of the number of extractions and I took out 60 teeth. The dental health is so poor and the Cambodian people are so humble and appreciative for anything that is done for them.

We are really learning to love these people, and we can see that great progress is taking place. I strongly believe that the next generation of Cambodians will have totally put the Khmer Rouge/Pol Pot regime behind them. Almost everyone that we teach and work with will have a horror story to tell about some of their family members that were killed during the Pol Pot period. We in America cannot appreciate the terror and fear that still lingers in the minds of the people in Cambodia. Every day in my personal prayers I express appreciation for the blessing of living free in the USA and having the freedoms that we have and often take for granted. I am so blessed to be able to pay taxes and know that the money is not going into the pocket of corrupt officials.

Mike and Mary Lee Morgan are on an 18-month assignment in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have been assigned to do both proselyting and humanitarian services for the Cambodian people. Dr. Morgan retired from his dental practice in Zanesville, after 41 years of practice. He will periodically write about their adventures.

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Cambodian trip a real treat, but not tempted by roasted crickets

BOOTLE WI: For their September and October meetings Bootle WI travelled to Romania, Cambodia and Vietnam – vastly different places but all most interesting.

In September, member Sally Titmus and her husband, Mike, showed slides and talked about their many visits to Romania, with a charity based in Essex.

Since 1999 they have taken clothing, wheelchairs, shoes, artificial limbs, tools and a hand loom. Buildings are in a poor state of repair and the roads are full of potholes. The government is unable to improve things.

Schools are very good and the children are very keen to learn, attending on either morning or afternoon shifts. Pupils have to provide their own paper, pens and text books.

In hospitals, children are provided with food but adults have to be fed by their families.

There is no medical community care – perhaps a doctor will visit a village once a week.

The small church congregation has outgrown its premises, and they are now building a new larger church.

The old building has been converted into a DIY centre for handicapped children. Mike showed us some very moving pictures of the families they visited. Barbara Shaw thanked Sally and Mike for their talk and the slides, which have shown horrific conditions.

There were eight entries for “The Best Ankle” competition and the winners were Debbie Singleton, Winifred Craghill and Jean Phillips. Supper was served by the hostesses, Mesdames Bewley, Dunn and Irving.

The minutes of the August meeting were read and signed and the county letter was discussed.

Several members agreed to sing part of hymn at the Harvest Festival Service and names were taken of those wishing to attend Seascale WI party and the home economics meeting at Seascale Church Hall.

In October we journeyed to the Far East and spent a fascinating evening with Judy and John Hall on holiday in Vietnam and Cambodia, travelling most of the time on the Mekong River.

Angkor Wat was the capital of the Khmer Empire from the ninth century until it was abandoned in 1432.

The ruins of this wonderful city, which attracts more than one million visitors each year, is being restored by the French.

It was interesting to see beautiful stone carvings of Shiva, a Hindu God and the Buddha together. By contrast, Judy and John spent time in a village on the water. Houses are built on stilts and some houses have to be moved uphill in the rainy seasons.

They visited a school were young people learn to do intricate carving, then return to their village to teach others, enabling them to earn a living.

They decided not to try the roasted crickets which were being sold at a roadside stall.

In Phnom Penh, the capital, a very busy city, they visited an orphanage which is sponsored by the boat company they were travelling with. Next stop, Vietnam where everyone seemed very industrious, working in and around the paddy fields.

One large boat on the river was carrying rice husks which is used for fuel – nothing wasted!

On the way to Saigon they visited a beautiful temple and in the city went to the opera house and city hall, both built in the French design.

In the square there were people doing Tai Chi exercises.

We noted that the houses were all very narrow, and some were several storeys high. There is a planning rule that houses can only be four metres wide, but as high as you like.

Debbie Singleton thanked Judy and John for once again sharing their most interesting travels.The competition for a picture of a sunrise was won by Irene Irving, Winifred Craghill and Connie Temple.

The minutes of the September meeting were read, agreed and signed and the county letter was discussed.

Notice was given of the Gosforth Show 2008 WI Exhibit – “A leisurely lunch” and the Esk Group Carol Service to be held in Gosforth Church on Sunday, December 2.

A letter had been received from Jamie Reed, Copeland MP, in reply to our letter of concern about the future of community hospitals. Mr Reed said in the letter: “The future of community hospitals are not only secure and will be subject to exciting plans to develop and expand local services”.

The meeting ended with supper served by the hostesses, Mesdames Dunn, Harrison and Titherington.
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