Friday, October 31, 2008

A Day of Tears and Laughter

Today was one of those days where emotions ranged from low to high. Last night Rick and Piseth decided to go out at 3:00 in the morning to hand out numbers. For the last few nights people were lining up by then to try and get a number. Last night, after my lesson with Sokha that ended at 8:00, I looked out and there were already people camping out in line since they knew today the ship would move. It was so heartbreaking. But those are the people most in need who are willing to do that. Robert and Jeanie went into the city to check out supplies for dry dock so I was in triage by myself; I almost starting crying as I was taking blood pressures. I got a bit overwhelmed at all their needs.
But then Troy, Tabitha and the gang showed up in three vehicles carrying around 15 volunteers to conduct a health fair. Bora, Sovann, and Chamroun from the nutrition program arrived along with church members from the group that meets at the PIP house. Troy and Tabitha started this project in the villages where the nutrition trucks travel. They suggested about their coming to where the ship was docked and we quickly agreed how great that would be. So today they set up four booths where kids of all ages could play games and learn about health issues in a fun way. They had a skit and even a cooking show about healthy eating! My spirit was lifted to see the Khmer Christians wanting to help and work together for this wonderful effort. It was a positive experience for our crew also. gail

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Right to Vote!

We sent off for our absentee ballots a full two months ago and I was beginning to think they would not come. We were surprised when they came in the mail from the Garland County court house last weekend.
We did what every red-blooded American would do. We colored in the little squares, very few at that, and signed our John Hancocks. We placed them in return envelopes and had someone coming to the US mail them for us before the election.
I know our vote won’t make much difference. Two punnie little votes out of millions. But I want to be able to gripe about the people who get in. Especially if I didn’t vote for them! I like to even gripe when I do vote for them.
I am proud to be an American and have come to appreciate what that means more now than at any other time of my life. Being away changes you somehow. It makes you appreciate things more. Not take them for granted as much. It is a hassle to vote form here. So I encourage all of you to get off of that sofa and exercise maybe your greatest freedom of all……vote!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Robert and Jeanie Johnson

Robert and Jeanie Johnson met on the plane to China in 2004. Robert was traveling to build orphanages, and Jeanie was teaching conversational English. Robert is originally from West Point, MS where he studied engineering at Old Miss and served in the US Marines. He also has worked as a staff photographer in the Kennedy White House, a metallurgist, an auto mechanic with his father, a race car driver, and a corrosion specialist. Jeanie was born in Hawaii, studied economics in California at UCSB, and worked as a lifeguard on the beaches of Santa Barbara. Since they met, they have traveled in Europe, Mexico, and are excited to be back in Asia again, working on the Ship of Life.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Don and Diane Johnson

As I am writing this, Rick is heading to the airport with Don and Diane to return to the states. It has been a great and busy week.

Diane has helped in triage while Don worked in Pharmacy with Da. Don also helped straighten out the computer program that along with Jon DeShazo had been set up to moniter the dispursement and managing of drugs. Jeanie is going to continue with oversight of the medications brought in and stored in pharmacy storage and in the pharmacy room. So that was a great achievement besides just having their company on the ship. We had fun in the evenings learning some new games and seeing a side of Don that was new to us! Especially when playing "Pass the Pig" and "Farkle" You'll have to ask him about that! Thanks Don and Diane for sharing your time with us and promising to return next year!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Work and Play

Don, Diane, Robert and Jeanie got to experience the jumping of the rope! Here at Tulum, there was always a crowd of kids playing near the ship. So twice, the gang went out with the rope so the kids could show us how to jump! After sitting most of the day working in triage, Diane and Jeanie were ready to have some fun! It was fun to see Da, the pharmacist, jumping rope, and Sokun, Hai, and Sok Vy playing badmitton.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Pretty Smile

We forgot to get the "before picture" of this young girl, but Rick did an amazing job to give her this pretty smile. Her front teeth were in very bad shape and Rick wanted to help her out. She is only 18 yrs old, and we hope her new smile will give her a new confidence.

This Buddha is not smiling but he is big. He sits about 300 feet tall and can be seen for miles around. The group decided to take the sunday afternoon to check it out. I opted out of going, but by the pictures taken, I could see the Pagoda grounds were very impressive. gail

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Robert and Jeanie Johnson

Welcome to Robert and Jeanie who have come to help us on the Ship of Life. We have been very busy since their arrival, so I haven't written a detailed bio about them. So that can come later! Now, I just wanted to introduce you to them since we have mentioned them in letters and on the blog. While in the city, we were able to see Troy and Tabitha working on the "Back to School" program that the nutrition teams work with. They were filling book bags with pencils, notebooks, and items the kids will use in school.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Washing and Sand Castles

This village is called Potiban. The ship was nestled amoung some trees and it was very pretty. Often there are small boards that extend out into the river for the villagers to get their water, wash dishes or in this case wash their laundry. Actually, I wanted all you ladies to appreciate your washing machines! I know I do!

Rick took a minute to go out during clinic and show the kids how to make sand castles using some plastic tubs. Only one little boy was brave enough to come forward and give it a try. After we went back inside the ship, I noticed several more joined in the fun! gail

Friday, October 17, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect

Gail likes to hold the babies. I think she is practicing up for grand children! This cute little guy was as happy as he could be no matter who was holding him. Sometimes they cry violently when a funny looking “barong” picks them up. That’s what they call white colored foreigners here. But this little guy didn't mind at all. We are heading into the city to pick up some visitors for the ship. So stay tuned to meet them!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Stick Horses

Every child should have a stick-horse at some time in life to ride through the country side. I remember riding one as a kid and also my own kidos doing the same. We saw this little girl getting her time in recently. It was “home made” but she was riding it with gusto!
Living here has certainly made us appreciate the simpler things. With the holiday season closing fast, time with our family is more important than any gift could be. I don’t think we would have given so many “things” that end up in the trash or garage sales if we had lived over here earlier in life. But I have to admit, I liked my real horse better than my stick horse! rick and gail

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Patient Named Khorn

I knew right away that he was not a young man. He had that weathered look of someone who works outside in the sun for a living. He also had a deep fissure in the side of his face. His name is Khorn and he is 50 years old.
I knew that he wanted an extraction. He had told me that in line this morning. When he opened his mouth I could see the numerous teeth with severe decay. When he opened his mouth widely, infection poured from the outside of his cheek!
About once every two or three weeks I see a draining fistula under some ones chin but this was the first one to come from an upper tooth. When I asked him how long he had this problem he said nine years. When I asked why he did not seek dental care before he said, “Aught mein loy” which means , I have no money.
The teeth were easy to remove and the antibiotics will clear the big cyst. I hope he enjoys smiling without yellow liquid coming from his face. I bet others will too.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Traveling Roads

When traveling on the province roads, I will never get use to seeing how heavy laden the motos, and trucks can be. They can be very inventive. My favorite is the moto with the male driver and behind him is a load so big I can’t imagine the balance problem alone could give him. But, wait, on top of that load a women is sitting. A good thing is that we are seeing more and more travelers wearing helmets. The pics attached are ones I took on our last trip to the city. Maybe it will give you a little notion of driving in rural Cambodia. Enjoy the roadways in America. gail

Friday, October 10, 2008


After three years, it is still a thrill to see fruits and vegetables that I was not familiar with in the states growing here. Well, I was familiar with bananas but didn’t see too many trees. There are several varieties and the two shown are the most popular. Both varieties look rather funny as they first begin to grow on the tree. The smaller ones are shown on the tree in the first picture. They are a lot sweeter than their bigger brother. The skin does turn yellow when they are ripe. This variety of larger bananas does not turn yellow. So, for me it is difficult when trying to buy since you eat them green. The last bunch I bought from a lady walking her bike with a basket full on the seat. They were definitely too green, because we couldn’t eat them for a week. gail

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Ferry Crossing to Kampong Kong

Since we are across the river now from the main road that goes to Phnom Penh, we have to cross the ferry. The ferries themselves are not very big, but the roads and ramps on and off are even scarier. The one in the picture we had to wait to exit the ferry so they could pull the cross boards closer so we could drive across. Usually, I ride the ferry standing outside the car, you know, just in case! Whenever we did have problems with getting stuck or something, people would come eagerly to help. Fortunately we haven’t had very many. gail

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Kampong Kong

We have now moved to our first clinic after the holiday, Kampong Kong. The ship arrived on Saturday so we had time to get acquainted with the local kids. After some jumping rope, they were brought on ship for dental instruction. Rick had a couple of them to demonstrate how they brush their teeth. We had given our jumbo teeth and brush to the nutrition group for some teaching, so Rick just used a model of upper teeth and regular brushes. Afterwards, we had them all practice together! The real treat is just coming on the ship. gail

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Pchum Bun Holiday

We have mentioned Pchum Bun previously as a major Buddhist holiday that gives the crew some time off the ship. Rick and I usually stay behind to watch over things on the ship along with the night guard and one of the unfortunate engineers whose turn it was to work this holiday. Unfortunate, due to the fact that the cook is off and I usually cook whatever cooking is going to happen. However, we had the great surprise of a visit from Minea, her young cousin, and Natalie Hayes. They shared a couple days and one night with us and Minea did the cooking! She even brought the necessary supplies, which I felt bad about, but loved her cooking. I even tricked Natalie into making pancakes for breakfast! She shouldn’t have mentioned she knew how! Ha! It was great to have some “girl” time as we laughed, talked, and ate popcorn with our movie! Gail

Monday, October 06, 2008

Article from Russ

We know we just put in a previous blog someone's words, but we couldn't help but add this also. Russ and Rosemary are special to us and have great hearts. The words they wrote must be shared.
On the road of life, the Ship of Life provided a wonderful challenge.
–Russ Burcham

Rosemary and I reached our 80+ birthdays recently. She always jests that I am “much” older - and that is true - I am 83 and she is 82. I have been retired from dentistry for about 20 years. We have usually spent about three months each year teaching at foreign mission points including Austria, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Romania, Albania, Honduras, Kosova, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). Three years ago as we worked to build the church in Cambodia we were challenged by a new opportunity: to work on the Ship of Life, then under construction by Partners in Progress, a mission of the Little Rock, AR, Windsong church of Christ.
A result of the fertile mind of Bill McDonough and with the support of many brethren, the Ship of Life has now, for about one year, plied the waters of the famed Mekong River which flows from north to south across Cambodia. Stopping at villages along the river the ship provides Medical and Dental treatment for poor people who do not have access to these health services.

In early January, 2008, with a good deal of trepidation, we walked across the gangplank for a two month stay and a tremendous experience. The big question was, “After 20 years will I be able to use the surgical techniques which were a part of my life for the previous 40 years?” The answer came quickly: “It’s like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it!”, said Dr. Rick Northen, retired dentist who serves as Project Director. With Rosemary’s assistance in the ship’s modern facility we performed dental surgery for hundreds of impoverished people. Across the hallway, other patients were treated by a physician. Assisting in the entire process might be a retired nurse, an LPN, a former secretary, a housewife.
For us, seniors, this means that the talents which served us for so long are still available. What a wonderful thing to be able to use them again, especially in a setting where we can show the love of God to people who do not know Jesus Christ.
80% of the people of the world have inadequate sewer facilities and unsafe water. Carcasses of dead animals float by in the rivers. Cows wade in them urinating and defecating. Yet, untold thousands of people live in shanties along these rivers. Their sewage is dumped in the streams. They wash their clothes in the water, bathe in it, drink it and cook their rice in it. Christians come to these rural areas to teach the Word of God, to educate and bring basic medical and dental care. If you say the word “Christian” to one of these people, the first image to pop into his mind may be that of a health team which restored his sight or relieved his pain. And –– that is not a bad place to start.
There are many similar activities available to those of us in our 60's - 80's. Numerous helpful areas of information such as the internet exist. Finding them is not too difficult. Most churches support missions. Perusal of brotherhood periodicals shows a surprising number of opportunities. Area-wide lectureships such as the Harding Lectures abound with such information. But active investigation is what it takes to busy oneself in service. To be sure, journeying to interesting world areas is pleasurable and entertaining. However, the point here is to make it really fulfilling by traveling for service in the name of the Lord. As great missionary, Otis Gatewood, said many times from foreign soil, “Please don’t come over here just to see a pile of rocks!! ”

Think about this: Just as you would if traveling for pleasure, use your own resources when possible rather than depending on others to provide the necessary travel funds. It is very rewarding. And, for the most effective service please consider that, in many cases, distance and the necessary adjustment period preclude a quick, short term stay.
I must not leave the impression that only retired health professionals can work in foreign fields. These 20 years before the advent of the Ship of Life Rosemary and I spent 95% of our time teaching the Word one-on-one. All seniors are valuable to the growth of the Kingdom of God and they have plenty of time to make it happen

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Whenever I have a few extra minutes some days waiting for lunch I will play a quick hand of solitaire. It passes the time and unwinds the mind a little bit. The crew think I am trying to do some fortune telling! Evidently the fortune tellers use cards in a similar looking fashion to predict the future! Usually the only prediction I get is that Gail will win at Skip-bo!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Too Hot To Handle

Last week we had an unusual patient in our dental clinic. I gave this young lady of about age 16 a number to come to the clinic at about 7:30 in the morning. Her # came up at about 10 o’clock but when she tried to walk to the clinic I knew something was terribly wrong with her.
Early in the morning she looked fine. She only had a toothache. By ten o’clock she could not walk! She could walk only with her Mothers help in very rigid stiff steps. I told Gail she reminded me of Frankenstein taking his first steps! When we got her to the chair, she was shaking uncontrollably but was not cold or afraid. I knew that she was in trouble so we transferred her to the medical exam room and took her vital signs again. Although her BP was fairly normal her temperature was 107.5! We took it several times to be sure and it was correct.
Dr Ly felt pretty sure she had Typhoid Fever. We covered her in ice bags and started and IV drip with several meds. After a few hours her temp came down and at the end of the day we let her go home. Dr Ly wanted to know if I wanted to do her extraction! I thought she had been thru enough for one day.
It was strange how she came for dental treatment when she was so sick. Guess that tooth was hurting pretty bad.