Sunday, May 13, 2007

Driving Reflections

We drive. Flat fields with palm trees popped up like feather dusters. Everything is brown and dusty now in the dry season, layers of sand coating the palm trees like chocolate, as though the entire country is an attic waiting to be dusted off from misuse. We visit a rural hospital where the prisoners from the local jail who come for treatment are restrained to their beds, where a patient with HIV lies forgotten outside.
There is hope here, in the form of the monks with their saffron umbrellas and turmeric robes. The monks preach of HIV prevention in terms of good karma, in a way that speaks to the Buddhist religion of the Cambodian people. The monks tell us they are willing to talk about condom use, about reproductive health.
It is not enough of course. Inequality and domestic violence still exists, and in the shelter nearby, women are rocking their babies in hammocks in this place to which they have escaped. "Whenever we argued, my husband threatened to cut our baby in half so we could each have a piece of him," she explains. The chubby baby sleeps unawares of its impending doom, at peace now because his mother had this shelter to run to. It's my hope that this is an extreme story, but the message and call for help remains prominent.

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