Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Every day is 'busy' in Cambodia

Every day is 'busy' in Cambodia
Mike Morgan Guest Columnist

I have been very negligent in writing my article to the newspaper, and I repent and promise to be more punctual. I have been so busy with all of our assignments the article has dropped down the priority scale. I use the word "busy" because that is the most common word in Cambodia. When we speak with people about attending church or other activities, the most common answer is "I am busy." We have been serving more than one-third of our time in the mission field, and it seems like every day is more challenging but every day is very "busy."

We have spent our first Christmas out of the United States and away from our family. It was a very difficult time for my wife. Luckily, there are very few men in Cambodia who are built like Santa Clause. We were asked to play Santa a number of times - 12 to be exact. I ordered a Santa suit from the states, but it still hasn't arrived. We managed to adapt an old Santa suit and life went on. Cambodia is 95 percent Buddhist, but there are many Christens from Europe, Australia and the United States on assignments in Cambodia, as well as many native Cambodians who want to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. Many of the stores sell decorations, trees and other Christmas items. We played Santa for probably 500 kids in church units, orphanages and schools. We were so "busy" worrying about helping others, we scarcely had any time to worry about home, family and the holidays.

Recently my wife and I traveled with a puppet show from the church, a company of about 10 young people, out into the provinces. The area we were in was very rural and had many very, very poor people. Most homes had no electricity and probably would not even be called shacks in the U.S. There were a few water wells, but most collected the rain water for a water supply. The weather does not get below about 65 degrees all year, so keeping warm is not a factor. The puppet show group would pull up into a village and begin playing music and setting up their portable set. The skit was very simple and cute, teaching people about breast feeding, hygiene, clean water, simple disease and mosquito control. After the music was playing for about 30 minutes, about 50 to 75 people - mostly mothers and young babies - would gather and sit on the ground and enjoy the performance. The people were so kind and appreciative of the presentation.

I read the e-mail from the T.R. almost every day, and I enjoy reading the articles and news about the community. I, of course read the sports columns and the obituaries, but I also follow the election results and some of the local politics as well. I compare the editorials about the taxes and school levies to life in Phnom Penh, where there are no taxes. The schools receive almost no money from the government officials. Teachers make about $30 per month and almost all teachers work several jobs. If a student wants homework or anything more than babysitting, the student pays the teacher directly. There are many, many private schools throughout the city, but they are very expensive. Additionally, there is one fire station and five fire trucks to handle the fires for a city of more than 2 million people. There is also one post office for the entire community; no home or business mail delivery system. There is no sewage treatment plant, as the sewage dumps into an open canal that courses through the city and empties into the Mekong River. There are two or three police officers on many of the street corners and pull over motos and some cars for various violations. The violator pays a fine directly to the officer, who keeps the money as a supplement to his salary of $30 per month. As I evaluate the community services in this third world country to the services we receive in the states, it makes the taxes that we pay a bargain. I love the USA.

Mike and Mary Lee Morgan are on an 18-month assignment in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have been assigned to do both proselyting and humanitarian services for the Cambodian people. Dr. Morgan retired from his dental practice in Zanesville, after 41 years of practice. He will periodically write about their adventures.


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