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April Showers

May 8, 2010

More like torrential downpours. Not in the sense of precipitation, because it’s not yet rainy season in Cambodia. Instead, I mean April was a whopper of a month. A real doozy.

I spent the beginning of the month in Takeo, explaining all of the changes to our staff there, which reminds me that I don’t think I’ve fully explained the changes to you, dear reader.

[SIDEBAR: While the donor for my program was visiting in March, all parties involved decided it was too hard to try to run a business under the auspices of an NGO. Especially a fashion business, which would be changing seasonally and exporting goods to Western markets at least 2, but possible up to 4, times a year. The NGO financial structure just isn’t built to support those kinds of concerns.

So, the donor and I struck out on our own. Dan is the CEO of Push Pull Cambodia, a socially-based business that will redirect profits back into the communities in which we work. Kongkea, a former co-worker at the NGO who is from Takeo, is joining the Push Pull team. Lastly, we are rounded out by Joellen, a fellow American and former volunteer on the ikat project.  Dan really liked the creative energy Jo and I fed each other, therefore he offered her a full-time positing and I am beyond glad that she accepted.]

So, Kea and I spent close to a week in Takeo explaining the changes and overseeing business as usual.  I returned from the village and the very next day welcomed Kate to Siem Reap. Becky was supposed to be arriving the same night, but a delayed flight set her back a day.

It was amazing to have both Kate and Becky in Cambodia. For starters, I’d been extremely homesick and was thrilled to have friends in town. Secondly, I was able to show some folks from home what I do here and why I moved to Cambodia. I took them up to the Silk Farm and through a guided tour they learned all about the Ikat process. Plus, I finally had an excuse to go see the temples and do other sorts of things usually meant for tourists.

Kate and Becky were here during Khmer New Year,  which meant the office was closed. I took off a couple days before and ended up with an exciting 11 day vacation. The day after the girls left, I was back to the grind. One day was spent trying to tie up loose ends. The following day I moved all of my personal belonging as well as all of our office supplies to the new space.

This began a two week (eh, closer to three), process of trying to set up the new office. Signing contracts for the internet, finalizing proposals for networking, and having furniture delivered. With no internet, Jo and I spent much of this time working remotely from cafes and hotel lounges. The rest of the time was meeting vendors, or picking up a laundry machine, or scouting prices for a refrigerator. You know, all the usual stuff you have to do to set up a new home or office. Except, this is Cambodia. Everything takes a little longer than you expect.

Then, bam! In the middle of all this hustle and bustle, I found myself sick sick sick. I worked through the first day. I thought it was normal traveler’s irritable bowels. I thought it would go away. I ran errands, sent e-mails, made phone calls, worked from the hotel de la paix lobby.  I made it home and begin to think my situation was worse than I first thought. After a hellish night, I decided to go to the hospital first thing Thursday morning.

The Royal Angkor International Hospital is lush, like a hotel or spa. It’s clean and wonderful. I was relieved upon entrance. A few tests revealed I had an amoeba, which is parasitic in humans. No wonder I felt so awful. Since I was pretty dehydrated at the point and extremely weak, the doctor recommended staying overnight to get fluids and antibiotics intravenously. All I wanted was to feel normal, so I happily obliged.

I had a single room, amazing air con and a flat screen tv. Things weren’t so bad. But one night turned into three. The doctors couldn’t give me anti-diarrhea medicine because it would trap the parasite inside my system. Thus, I had a hard time staying hydrated. I haven’t been on a scale, but I’m certain I lost weight. My clothes fit different and friends have commented.

The deadline for the sarongs for the big order we’d fretted over for months happened to be while I was in the hospital. So, I did my best to coordinate as best as I could via mobile from the hospital. I was super thankful that Jo was able to take care of most of the logistics around receiving the sarongs, scrambling to get labels sewn in and making sure that everything was in tip-top shape. I arrived home from the hospital just in time to help deliver the product, which was an especially proud moment.

I spent the last week of the month with a sensitive stomach, taking loads of breaks and trying to determine when I’d feel absolutely normal again. Workmen have been in and out of the office. Some days we had internet. Others we didn’t. Finally, on Friday the 30th, our nomadic lifestyle ended. The office was up and running. Wireless worked throughout the house.  The only loose end left is to finish networking all the computers and server.

Of course since the office was finally up and running, it was clearly time to head to Phnom Penh and Takeo. And so May begins like April did. Let’s hope the similarities stop there.

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