This is ‘Sagan’s Dad’ with another Guest Post.
As many of you know, I am living in Cambodia and working with the United Nations for one year. When I left Canada I brought along a few misconceptions with me. In this post I will share them with you and the reality I have experienced here over the past six months that shattered those misconceptions.
#1. The Doctor in Canada who gave me my various shots and inoculations for Hepatitis etc. noted that the U.N. recommended that I get a needle for Japanese Encephalitis, an extremely serious disease. He told me that that the side effects from that type of shot can be as bad as the disease and said that unless I was going to spend a lot of time around pig sty’s; where the disease is usually contracted there was no serious concern. I declined to get the shot.
After I arrived in Cambodia I found out that I would be spending a large percentage of the time in rural villages speaking to the locals and discovered that routinely, the families have pigs that they keep in sty’s behind their stilt houses. So, I am in close proximity to pigs quite often! So far, no Japanese Encephalitis….
#2. Reading about Cambodia while in Canada I came to the general conclusion that eating vegetables here would be quite healthy as they were probably organic, all fresh from the farm etc.
After arriving in Cambodia I found the vegetables fresh and delicious. I also learned that farmers use all sorts of insecticides on their gardens as well. As there are few if any enforced regulations that I know of here about insecticides I often wonder how poisoned the produce is that I am eating. My colleagues and I have had stomach pain from time to time that we attribute to eating raw vegetables that are not properly washed. Consequently I eat little raw vegetables and that is something I really miss about home.
#3. Thinking about what life would be like in Cambodia, I figured that being on my own for a year with a lot of free time on my hands I would be able to get into outstanding physical condition. Before departing Canada I was doing a lot of running and looking forward to continuing that fitness regimen.
After arriving in Cambodia I found I was not at all prepared for the stifling heat and even after six months, I have not properly acclimatized myself to it. My work day starts when I wake up about 05:30a.m. and leave for work at 07:00a.m. I usually get home about 06:00 p.m. There are no fitness facilities at work. The sun goes down at about 06:00 p.m. so running outside is not practical in the evenings. Working out is impossible when I am traveling in the rural areas, and I am usually out there at least half the time. I know some people get up and go for a run at 4:30 a.m., when the sun is coming up and the air is relatively cool, but I have not yet had the self discipline to get up at that hour yet!
There is not much I can do about some of my shattered misconceptions, but there are some solutions to the Fitness problem. With a little self-discipline I should be able to do some early morning runs. I have also started the 100 push-up and 100 burpee challenge that Sagan has written about on this blog. That is a start!
Shattered misconceptions are an aspect of travel that cannot be avoided. It is impossible to make judgment calls beforehand to know what to expect when we are not familiar at all with the area we are visiting. It seems to me that one has to consciously make a commitment to be more adaptable and flexible in all points of view and activity. After all, you are no longer ‘at home’; you are at someone else’s home. There are always ways to fit health into our lifestyle; it just means that our lifestyle sometimes needs a little bit of creative tweaking.