Early Morning Sweat Box

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This morning we arrived on site in time to video the shaky transfer of our shipping container from the bed to four tire posts. We then spent the next hour or so completing site measurements and updating our drawings from yesterday's day in the office. Whether or not we have mastered the metric system is still up for debate, but our plans are accurate and our elevations are underway! Working inside of a steel box in 80F+ (23C?) degree weather is perhaps not the most comfortable way to start one's morning, but marking cut lines on walls and drawing out column locations inside a shipping container was surely an exciting way!

The latter half of our morning was spent in a coffee shop (Java) meeting with a civil engineer to discuss structurally bracing our container to prevent the glass walls from shattering during transportation. While each of us admitted to not being experts in the structurally integrity of a shipping container that has had its side walls completely removed, we were comfortable that we had enough options to discuss bracing with our contractor later that evening. 

We returned to BTI's office and immediately began working on updating our drawings and researching precedents for successful transports of containers that had been transformed in similar ways to ours. We had a brief lunch exploration that took us to the small Japanese ramen shop at the corner of BTI's narrow street, preceded earlier by cherry coffees from the coffee stand directly in front of the ramen restaurant. We also had local Cambodian dessert, which looked and tasted a lot like a custard filled donut, as provided by BTI's local staffer, Penglong (he also brought the crickets and tarantulas the previous day - thanks Penglong).

Our meeting with the head contractor and the winch expert was a mix of sketching, hand gestures and pauses for translation by Penglong. We successfully made decisions about various aspects of the project and agreed to exchange more detailed drawings. More importantly, we were reassured by the contractor, based on his previous projects, that our shipping container would NOT be shattering glass during transport. Tomorrow we return to the site to oversee the actual cuts, and will be joined by the whole BTI staff!

The three of us ended our day with Happy Hour pitchers of Angkor beer on a roof top deck overlooking the Tonle Sap River. We reflected on the day, exchanged various stories and toasted to the beginnings of our health clinic. 

What are these fractions??

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Today was the day of details. Our shipping container was delivered to the construction site this morning with work ready to progress. One slight problem is that we have to figure out what that work actually is. So after a hearty breakfast of Pho Bo we set off to Building Trust International's office to get to work.

Shifting between white boards, sketchbooks and computers, we worked our way through multiple detail questions. We think we solved all of them, but no pressure, it's not like they are cutting the walls off the container at 7am tomorrow.

In addition to negotiating the intricacies of Cambodian construction tolerances, we also had the slight issue of the metric system. After coming to grips with the 12mm gap between the floor and deck not actually being a concern, we got the hang of it. Every once in a while we would slip back into our old ways just to get blank stares from David. He kindly reminded us that the first set of drawings we sent, full of fractions, was kindly greeted with a "I don't know what this is!" and a raising of the hands in surrender. 

Despite spending 4 hours at the whiteboard detailing the winch and pulley systems, the day wasn't all details. Our late afternoon snack was provided by one of BTI's local staffers and included a few delicious deep fried crickets and tarantulas. They were a little over flavored for our liking, but not too bad. Patrick preferred the crickets and JD preferred to keep working. 

Tomorrow morning we will arrive on site to see the uncut container before we take it all apart. We'll draw the cuts on with chaulk and reassess our initial floor details, all while tightly crossing our fingers that it all goes, at least somewhat, according to the plan. 

“Yeah, Don’t Drink The Tap Water”

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We landed in Phnom Penh last night, Saturday the 11th, after about 28 hours of being in three airplanes and three airports. David, our host with Building Trust International, met us at the airport and kindly took us to our hotel, the beautiful Lucky Star 2, at around 10:30 in the evening. David’s driver, and now our driver for two weeks, is a man named Tom, and he will be escorting us around in his Tuk Tuk.

We rode into the city, chatting with David about “what kind of people we are,” and about what we should know about the city and the schedule for the week. When asked if there was anything we should know about the tap water, David quickly responded, “yeah, don’t drink the tap water.”

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 We woke up early on Sunday, largely because none of us know what time it is, and made our way around the corner to struggle through a breakfast order. Coffee, or what we hoped we had ordered as coffee, arrived in the form of green tea. We poured our teas and sat looking at other people’s food, wondering how on Earth we could order it. Then actual coffee came (although it tasted more like Nesquik), and we waited concernedly a little longer.

 Finally, the group decided, and Simon ordered, “three of those please” while pointing at the neighbor’s table. It was beef and noodles, or what we later researched to decide was Kuy Teav, and it was tremendous.

 David met us at 9:30 at the hotel with Tom. We immediately headed to meet the contractor and see the site where the container will be cut, dismantled, and reassembled in the next couple of weeks. We then went to pick out our container!!!!

In a large open storage lot, among hundreds of other containers in mixed condition, we selected a container from 2004 that will be the home of our new clinic. Although not much to look at right now, and not something for normal people to be excited about, all of us, David included, are giddy about the purchase and so excited to start working on it.

We sat for lunch after the purchase and reviewed a few of the details of design. The newest change will be the inclusion of a significant amount of glass instead of metal panels, allowing much more light and an easier surface to sanitize and keep clean.

The design details will be completed tomorrow, but since it’s Sunday we decided to have a beer and sit looking over the river. It’s been a big day already.

More to come tomorrow. Thanks again for all of your support.


-Jhanea, Simon, & Patrick


Shopping Trip

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The people at Building Trust International are hard at work making our project a reality. This week they have been shopping for the guts of the clinic. The design has been modified slightly to accommodate budget and available materials but all of the ideas remain intact.  This cargo container and trailer will form the bones of the clinic.

We cannot wait to be in Cambodia in a little more than a weeks time to see all of this hard work become a reality.