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  • ivanildotrindade 11:21 pm on June 7, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: being poor, , cambodia traffic, dangers in cambodia, health care in cambodia, life in cambodia, motorbike accidents, motorcycle accidents, Siem Reap, traffic accident, Vietnam   

    Roads Kill in Cambodia 

    One could argue that what keeps the world moving are the stories of people. When I travel overseas my ears are always attuned to hear stories. I know that most of the times these stories will touch the depths of my heart. They make me cry and laugh, but mostly, they make me walk away at awe of people who have to endure so much for so long with so little in return.

    Traveling through the roads in Cambodia, especially between two big cities, one cannot miss a most unusual sign – women riding on the back of motorbikes, holding an IV tied to a makeshift pole, their one arm is outstretched in a most uncomfortable position, the other arm holds an infant, usually wrapped in a soft blanket (the picture above does not do justice to the shock of the scene, since you cannot see the baby nor the expression of concern on the face of the woman, but I had to quickly snap it from inside the car as we passed by the moped).

    These women, by any standards, are the heroines of this world. Having no other option but to recourse to the motorcycle ambulance, or the favor of a friend or relative, they brave the dangerous roads of Cambodia with only one goal in mind — to do all they can to get their child well.

    But children are not the only ones who suffer the consequences of willfully inadequate medical services. I was here only two days and feel like I was here one month, judging by the number of tragic stories I heard.

    A friend in Siem Reap, whom I have known since 2000, just suffered a terrible loss in her family. Only yesterday the ceremonies for the funeral of her uncle ended. He was 51 and had just bought a field for farming. While preparing his field for planting, he accidentally stepped into a B-40 unexploded device, left over from the time of the Vietnam war. The devastation from the explosion was horrific — he lost his arms, legs and his head was hit hard. He lived four days but could not resist the injuries.

    The irony is inescapable. Just a few days after Vietnam opened a couple of new fields for Americans to try to find the remains of their brave soldiers who died during that war, an innocent man who was barely out of his teens when the war ended paid the ultimate price for decisions others made and were never held accountable to it. As my friend said, “You hear about people dying from land mine related accidents, but you never dream that it could happen to your family.” There are some wars that never end.

    Then another friend and co-worker shared about his brother-in-law’s death due to a motorcycle accident. Only in his twenties, already married with three small children, this man was struck by a car while riding his motorcycle — a common occurrence in Cambodia. He sustained multiple injuries to the head but lived for a couple of weeks.

    During that time, my friend and his wife sold their car, their land, used all their savings and borrowed money from the bank. They took their beloved relative to Vietnam, where health care is more advanced. But after a few days in the hospital, they had to return to Cambodia because they didn’t have enough money to continue the treatment. What is particularly sad about this story is that 10 years ago my friend also lost his younger brother, also in her early 20’s to a similar accident.

    An American couple who has lived in Cambodia for about 9 years now told me that during that time, they know of at least 25 people — in their circle of friends and acquaintances — who were killed in motorcycle related accidents, mostly young men in their early 20’s. The roads kill in Cambodia with ferocity and no one seems to care. The poor continue to order their rudimentary coffins, if they can afford one, and life goes on.

    And that is only one of the many reasons I believe followers of Jesus Christ everywhere must act on behalf of the poor and suffering of this world. If we don’t, God will judge us harshly one day. And as the Word of God says, “It is a hard thing to fall into the hands of Almighty God.”

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

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  • ivanildotrindade 8:01 pm on February 3, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: being poor, discovering poverty, fooling your mom, giving gifts, invisible friends, stealing from your mom   

    Stealing from your mom 

    I grew up in a family of 9 children. From time to time my mother brought other kids to live in our home. At times we had little to eat and we were always wearing stuff that other people gave to us.

    I don’t believe I have told this story here. This is about the day I felt the saddest for my older sister. Every year we were sternly reminded not to participate in any “invisible friend” gift exchange games at school, but this activity was so prevalent, especially at the end of the year as part of the Christmas festivities, it was hard to pass it up.

    My parents couldn’t buy gifts to all our friends, invisible or not. But we were kids, we didn’t get it. And we loved playing the game of trying to guess who your friend was as we wrote notes to each other leading up to gift exchange day. The temptation to throw your name in the hopper was just too great.

    But therein lies the problem. If you went against your parents’ advice, you were on your own. For months now you schemed about how you were going to get a gift to your “invisible friend.” We had no allowances, we didn’t get any small change for cleaning our neighbors’ yards and just about anyone we knew was as poor as us so there was chance we could rob them!

    We thought about faking illness, but there was a good chance we might be dragged to the public hospital and have to wait hours on end to see a doctor or a nurse. My mom didn’t fool around with illnesses. Worse yet, she could come up with one of her home-made concoctions, usually involving bitter herbs, tree barks and maybe even some dog poop…

    No, we had to come up with something that was not as painful and we had to fool our mom, an impossible task. So my sister came with a perfect plan: Since our house was built with enough space between the ground and the floor boards (I remember playing underneath our house when I was a little boy, usually doing something I was not supposed to do), my sister carefully wrapped the gift and hid it under the house.

    She put on her school uniform, got out of the house, and started walking the street down the hill toward the school. She walked long enough to make someone lose interest and then quickly she did a u-turn, got under the house, retrieved the gift, hid it under her school stuff, and headed down the street again.

    But the sentry had not left her post! From the vantage point of her bedroom window, my mother watched her children walk down the street, up toward the big water tank until she could n0 longer see them. My sister didn’t time her walk right. No sooner had she hit the street a second time, she heard a thundering voice saying, “Celeste, turn around and come back here!”

    Time to run. That’s what I would do, but my sister was smarter than me. She turned around and sheepishly showed my mom the beautiful package she had wrapped — a stolen cup and saucer from my mom’s kitchen. A lecture ensued. My sister put her head down, said nothing, and was forced to walk to school empty-handed — and her “invisible” friend had an invisible gift!

    My heart sank deeply. I was ashamed to be poor, I was mad at our predicament and vowed I would get out of that situation some day. To this day I think of my sister on that sad day and wonder what kind of impact this may have had on her. But as I’ve talked to her about this, it seems like this event impacted me more than it did her. She laughs about it today and we both agree that it was a good thing to have such a vigilant mother — even when she forced us to discover the full extent of our perilous existence.

    It is still hard for me to laugh at that incident.

    Ivanildo C. Trindade

     
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