Finding the beauty of life in a Cambodian hospital
During my trip to Siem Reap, the warmth of the magical ruins of Angkor Wat enveloped me. Warmth is when you feel positive energy surround you with undeniable power. It makes you feel overwhelmingly free and safe. It nourishes your innermost thoughts and desires. But most of all, it makes you appreciate the beauty of life. Walking past the walls and carvings transported me through a realm of masterpieces from thousands of years ago. The intelligence and sophistication of the masters that conceptualized the structure radiated.
Marveling at the richness of their culture made me realize how power, might and wisdom withstood the test of time. The kings are long gone, but the artwork on the walls reaches out to visitors. With a pinch of imagination and a thirst for adventure, they come alive in a snap. Apsara dancers illuminate the adorned halls with their energy, lectures being passed on from one generation to another, and elders share inspiring thoughts and knowledge with their people.
After a few days of exploration, my friends and I packed our bags and left Siem Reap. As we crossed the border, one of my friends caught the flu. Since there was an AH1N1 scare, a tight clearance check was about to unfold.
I checked her temperature and felt a tinge of heat. But we thought, if only we could get through these guards everything will be fine. She can rest at the hotel in Vietnam and her temperature will surely go down.
The moment of truth; the border police came with their high-tech gadgets. They immediately started their routine, checking all of the passengers. We saw them getting closer. I was praying they'd leave and let us be. Two more steps. He placed the temperature reader in my ear. It took only a few seconds but it seemed forever. I was cleared. The doctor cleansed the gadget and did the same procedure to my friend. I saw his face -- and I knew that this was the part where we deviated from our itinerary.
They transported us to a nearby hospital -- or so we assumed, we couldn’t understand what they were saying -- and no one knew how to speak English. After a few minutes, an ambulance showed up. We managed to stay calm, taking pictures, joking that it was our border limo.
It took roughly 30 minutes -- the road to the hospital was dark. We figured we were in a remote area near the border, within Cambodia. They took us into a place which by no means looked like a hospital. But it was. They confiscated our passports and pointed to us a room. We shook our heads but kept our cool. The bed was small and we had to share. No cushions. Just a thin sheet to cover the board. Paint was peeling off the wall and some of the windows were shattered.
There was a man, who was also quarantined, that tried to communicate with us. He used hand signals -- pointing and reaching out because he saw how confused we looked. He reassured us through his actions that the doctor will visit the next day. He gestured that we should accept the food he’s offering so as to regain energy. It struck us that in kindness, language wasn’t a barrier.
Warmth of a stranger
My friend and I realized how blessed we were to have felt the warmth of a stranger. He made us feel safe. A Cambodian that didn’t even know our names and where we were from, but was so hospitable and thoughtful enough to have treated us as his friend.
The next day, they transported us to a bigger hospital in Ho Chi Minh where we spent a few more days in quarantine while waiting for the test results.
We met people from Vietnam who helped us translate and understand what was happening. Such a lifesaver. They went the extra mile by making us feel at home as they shared local insights about their culture.
It was indeed an unforgettable experience, one I wouldn’t trade for anything else. We got more than we bargained for. An adventure which showed us how beautiful life really is.
And that is how you squeeze in tons of positive energy within you. So you can, in turn, share the warmth with the world.
Photos of our adventure
Mandalay Inn: www.mandalayinn.com
They can even customize the tour for you. Look for Kat (the manager). Their place is filled with warmth and hospitality. Getting a good tour guide is the key. Ask for Bon. He’s well read and knowledgeable. He can speak good English, too.
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Ara Charissa submitted this piece as part of CNNGo’s CityPulse section. To find out what other stories we are looking for, go to our CityPulse page.