A New Year

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Cambodia feels like it is worlds away. The hot, the dust and Thom all seem like a distant memory. But last night we we brought back to it with the first update on Moved2Care. 

Okay so it doesn't look like much has changed and you would be right. The project has been plagued by contractor issues since we left. This picture does give us hope. The first is that it has been moved and did not collapse. It also has two containers on its roof. It will be just fine. 

The second is that it is being moved to a new site with a new contractor so once again we are one small step closer to this clinic becoming a reality.

Even with this clinic moving slowing along things here stateside have not slowed down. If you noticed the web address continues to change. We are officially Ratio Partners. If anything it just makes us feel more official (and JD was tired of sending patrick.lp.morgan.com to all her friends). We are using this business attitude and submitting for grants to finish and build more of these clinics in Uganda, South Africa and maybe even here at home. Building Trust has also released their newest competition for a school in Mongolia and Shelter Global is looking for designs and ideas that address slum housing around the world so our brains are spinning on ways to create new winning designs.

Enough about architecture, since the whole idea of Ratio is that it is the realationship between two or more things JhaD presents ENERGY 6 on June 12th at the Oberon in Boston. This event is bigger than one paragraph will allow just know to clear your calendar and book your tickets.

Oh and JD continues her job at Sasaki, Simon is "back" at Marwood and I have moved onto Kieran Timberlake, so we should have tons of free time to do all of this.

Our website will continue to grow as these new projects become a reality.

 

 

លា (Goodbye)

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Today is it. 15 days, 6 temples, 40+ hours of tuk tuk rides, a handful of crickets, 4000 degree boiling beef noodle soup and 1 shipping container. Although the clinic is still far from the colorful box we showed back in February it has progressed and is closer to becoming a reality. We have learned a huge amount about the Cambodian culture, construction techniques and even a few words in Khmer (well enough to tell our tuk tuk how to get home).

As it is our last day, we got an early start to make it up to the site to meet up with William (our contractor) and upon arrival our clinic was full of activity, much more than had been seen previously. A crew of about six continued to weld in the framing for the glazing and the start of the cross bracing. Our concerns about the bow of the container were solved with some brute force and spare lumber. The whole container needs to get leveled prior to the concrete floor but as we drove down the dirt "road" for the last time well felt much more confident in the crew and the completion of the project.

Although we arrived with much grander ambitions about how much further along the clinic would be, upon our departure we leave our gutted shipping container in the capable hands of David and the rest of BTI. After being here, seeing the container, and spending the first week working through the details, we will be able to continue providing assistance with more knowledge than when we first envisioned this project.

We'll continue posting updates and photos as BTI passes them onto us, but this will be our last post from Cambodia. We will soon eat our last official Khmer meal and board the start of our 24 hours of flying (hopefully with a short trip into Seoul to break it up).

It's been two weeks that none of us expected, it had its ups and downs but in the end we are closer to providing healthcare to the rural population of Cambodia, the whole reason we made this journey in the first place.

More photos and hopefully more clinics to come in the future.

The walls are off!!!!

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None of us can think of a time when we were more excited to go shopping than we were today! After a brief discussion and writing of our shopping list over coffees, we set out in search of items such as a toilet, sink and winch. We are excited to report that we were successful at selecting the aforementioned, including all the proper hardware, in addition to the hinges, bathroom tile and door! Additionally, we picked out paint colors for the container walls and purchased primer! JD is most excited that the exterior of the container will be painted in an aluminum color and texture - which will make it look more like the transformer she's dreamed of building. Needless to say, smiles were abundant this morning as we checked things off our list. 

Energized from shopping, we headed out to the site to begin priming the container walls. During our morning meeting, we were ecstatic to learn from William that the walls had finally been completely cut and removed from the container. Unfortunately, our enthusiasm to get our paint rollers wet was halted by the fact that there was glue on almost every other rib of the corrugated walls. Luckily for us, our completely random but hugely helpful tuk tuk driver, Chenda, stuck around to wait for us and insisted on helping out. He immediately noticed that our attempts to scrap or rub the glue off was unsuccessful and suggested that we remove it with gasoline. Conveniently, there are gasoline carts readily accessible, and Simon went off to purchase a 1L Coke bottle of glue remover. The sales women were very confused about how he was going to get it into his motorbike without a funnel, and as he told them that he didn't need it they became more concerned that he planned to drink it. They finally agreed as Chenda arrived to explain away the issues. Simon returned later to return the bottle and collect more. The women continued to laugh at/with him.

Glue removed and all of us higher than kites off of gasoline, we returned home. We'll be back tomorrow to discuss the order of welding/painting that needs to happen and hopefully we can continue to move forward quickly. No matter what, seeing the walls off of the container make the feeling of our clinic become much more real.

A Nice Strong Sweat

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After a weekend of thinking that we're tourists, it's back to real work in Phnom Phen, sort of. David and Louise have returned from the Building Trust International fundraiser in Singapore which was apparently a huge success. After our breakfast of boiling hot noodle soup, hot tea and hot Khmer coffee (to make sure our insides are the same temp as the outside) we met up with David and joined him in Thom's tuk tuk  to head out to the site.

Despite our excited anticipation of the previous day's progress, upon arrival we were once again met with a locked shipping container and no real sign of progress. The 10 columns are in, but the side walls were still firmly in place. After an hour or so of enjoying a coconut with Thom, some of the crew showed up, but the language barrier made even the simplest conversations a challenge. We were able to manage to set up a 5:30pm meeting with William, the contractor, back at BTI's office, but that is the extent of today's known progress. Hopefully tomorrow proves us wrong.

Back in the office, we worked on putting together a few more details of the clinic, designing a roof, and creating graphics for the glass walls. William arrived and we went over our concerns regarding the timeline and quality of the work. Most items were met with "Yes, OK" or "that will be very expensive", so almost exactly like a contractor back home, but with less adherence to any of the original contract.

After a bit of an unproductive day, we retreated to the A/C of our hotel room to put all the structural information into one drawing. The air conditioned environment meant that our routine of eating boiling hot food to match the outside air temperature was slightly confused - so we ventured off to remedy the situation. If you haven't guessed by our breakfasts, we are not staying in the tourist area of town, so the language barrier at the local restaurants can sometimes and often does prove challenging. Tonight we found what is best described as hot pot, with a small single burner stove in the center of our table and multiple items to cook in the broth that they provided. The three of us sat there with a staff of at least five trying to figure out what we were asking for. Despite wanting noodles and beef, and believing that we know the words for those two items, it proved incredibly difficult.

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Attempt #1. The stove on the table was turned on and the water began its rolling boil, as if it wasn't hot enough already. Five red trays arrive on the table with a variety of items in it, most noticeably none that resembled beef. The first tray was a very nice soft shell crab, second was five prawns and third was what we believe to be squid. All looked delicious but not what we were looking for and JD has an allergy to shellfish. JD, as the staff appeared to perceive it, rudely sent those items back.

Attempt #2. Three trays of beef arrive. We are still trying to google allergic in Khmer so they don't think we are rude, it doesn't seem to translate. The hot pot ended up being delicious and our staff remainded by our side through the whole meal, they must have known we were special people.

So after breaking into a nice strong sweat over dinner we have retreated to the A/C of the hotel to continue our drawings over a beer. We hope tomorrow proves more productive. 

Our Vacation Weekend

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After a bit of a frustrating Friday that saw limited progress on the clinic because the welders were not on site, we headed off to Angkor Wat.

The entire ruins complex is incredible. We had a full day available because our flight was not until 8 on Saturday evening, so we asked the driver to take us on a mix of the short and long tours. We started the day by viewing a cloudy, but still incredible sunrise over Srah Srang, then had the entire ruin of Banteay Kdei to ourselves for a quick exploration. We then drove 20km to the northeast of Angkor Wat itself, winding through rice fields and countryside homes - the view of Cambodia that I think we all expected. 

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The day continued with more tomb raiding, lunch with our Tuk Tuk driver's brother-in-law, and complete saturation of sweat in all of our clothes. The level of detail in every temple was astounding. From the 300m of carvings surrounding Angkor Wat to the tiny details that were tucked into every corner across these massive complexes.

We fit a lot into our single day, seeing 5 major temples and countless smaller ones we felt we had been very successful. We went back into Siem Reap, found a bar that was playing an Australia-New Zealand rugby game, and had a few beers. We watched a brief, but heavy rain from the bar and then returned to the airport. 

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The rain in Siem Reap was nothing compared to the rain we saw upon returning to Phnom Penh. Thom, our local Tuk Tuk driver, kindly picked us up at the airport, which was a remarkable decision considering how badly it was raining. He stayed out front on his motorbike, while we sat cocooned in the rain protected cabin that he zippered closed for us. We couldn't see anything. The rain was absolutely pouring down and while driving through 4-5 inch mini-floods, the water would spray up into the tuk tuk. The craziest part was not the rain, but rather Thom's persistent smile. Despite being completely soaked and only kept dry by a thin pink poncho, he seemed genuinely happy to be working. 

Whitewater Rafting

Parents please read at your own risk.

In our few days here we have seen many amazing and new things but the most obvious and constant is the traffic. It is not the density or traffic jams or speed, it is the ingenuity of what you can do with a motorbike.

Before we even landed JD asked what side of the road do they drive on? The answer we would soon realize is whatever side they want to.

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The streets are full of motorbikes, scooters, tuk tuks (motorcycle with a rickshaw on the back), food trucks (motorcycle with a food stand as a side car), delivery trucks ( you guessed it, motorcycle with a trailer) and a strange amount of Land Rovers. It is more like a river than traffic. The cars all just seem to flow past each other, so much so that we have only seen one accident while we have been here. There is constant honking, not in anger but because a honk signals that I have priority and am coming through. If you are traveling the wrong way down a street you can do that but you don't have priority. Other than that it seems to go cars, tuk tuks, motorbikes, bikes and finally pedestrians. Hopefully this video gives you a better sense of the flow we are talking about.

You might see this crazy flow of traffic and think there are just no rules. It is a major city of course there are rules. Some of the favorites we have learned are that  a passenger on a motorbike is not allowed to wear a helmet and if you drive with your headlights on at night you might get a ticket. These seem backwards but the reason for getting a ticket is not really based in the severity of the rule breaking but how hungry the cop is.

We have also realized how underused our vehicles are in the states. Did you know you can easily fit four people on a motorbike along with groceries. Did you know school bus could be a tuk tuk with 28 children on it. Did you know that you can increase the cargo capacity of your van by leaving the back door open and just tying everything on. And don't worry there are still the comforts of home, a coffee to go comes with a handy carrying case so it can fit over your handle bars (it also made JD very happy).