Dolphins, Diving and Drugs

Kratie, the sleepy provincial capital where I have been staying for the past three weeks, has a surprising number of backpackers wandering around the town.  My volunteer friend, Carole, and I always wonder what they are doing here, then we realize they probably are probably thinking the same of us.

Along the Mekong River in Kratie


Any tourist who comes to Kratie is probably coming to see the rare Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River.  This is touted as the reason to come here.  Carole and I ventured out one morning, renting a tuk-tuk to make the journey north to Kampi (the dolphins aren’t even in Kratie) and here’s what we saw.  We were left still wondering why people come here.

Where’s the dolphin?
They don’t come very high out of the water.
Our captain enjoyed a beer while we explored a small island.


With the anticlimactic dolphin sightings out of the way, we passed on the four other tourist destinations (a mountain, a lake, a temple and a “floating” village) and took the kids to the pool again on Sunday.  It is a tradition that the kids go with any willing volunteers to the pool at 1:00 on Sunday.  One of the students was outside my window at 6:30 in the morning just to remind me.  This was clearly a highlight of their week.  

By noon, I started seeing kids I didn’t even recognize.  When we left, Carole and I had 12 kids with us, all excited and holding our hands to walk the three blocks down the dirt road to the pool.


Unfortunately, I left the pool with an infection.  (Carole was smart and didn’t go in the water, and I’m sure the kids are immune to whatever I caught.)  By Monday morning, my eyes were red and puffy and I felt like I had the flu.

Soon, the international volunteers were all digging into their backpacks to offer me a remedy.  It may not be the best thing to do, but I’ve tried a variety of pills and treatments from around the world.  I eventually went to one clinic, but no one spoke English, and I left with drops for dry eyes.  After googling some symptoms, I was able to get antibiotic eye drops at a pharmacy which helped a little.  

Hospital reception

This morning, I rode my bike to the provincial hospital in hopes of finding an English-speaking doctor.  I was greeted by a doctor outside the reception building who helped me register (all the paperwork was in Khmer).  I paid the $5 fee and was brought across the courtyard to another outdoor waiting area.  It was a good sign that I saw an eye chart and lots of eyeglasses in the office.  I passed the eye exam and was then seen by the doctor.

He confirmed that I had conjunctivitis and prescribed a stronger antibiotic than what I’d been taking.  A woman put the drops in my eyes, gave me some acetaminophen and said there was no charge when I offered to pay.  Even the parking lot attendant didn’t accept any money when I went back to pick up my bike.  Everyone seemed happy to have an American visitor to their hospital.  

A few more scenes from the week:

On the way to the market with Socheat and Ralik.
Car, cow, Carole, kid (taken by one of the students)
Sand storm across the Mekong River
Approaching storm
Made it here just in time
The same view on a clear night
Coconut crepes for breakfast

I will teach my last two classes today, spend some time with the kids on Saturday (not in the pool) and head to Phnom Penh on Sunday.  My next post will probably be written from the US as I begin the next part of this journey.

Students use rulers for writing.
Playing a game
Working hard
After class
Carole keeping things under control
It’s not uncommon to see kids driving motorbikes.
My work here is finished.

Comments (18):

  1. Melissa

    May 5, 2017 at 04:17

    Dang. Wish I would have gone to check out the hospital. Glad I didn’t HAVE to though. Those red eyes must have made you extra handsome, huh?

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:53

      Bought some $2 sunglasses at the market – I think that’s what made me so handsome.
      That storm was amazing. I’ll have to tell you the rest of the story sometime!

  2. Lori

    May 5, 2017 at 05:54

    Glad you are feeling better, Tim! Love the last pic!!!!! You are making such a difference!!!!! Safe travels!

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:54

      The kids don’t always listen, but they spend their time in class making cards and gifts for me. Can’t complain.

  3. Millie

    May 5, 2017 at 05:58

    Two comments: The cow looks like it is talking,good photo and I’D like to see the red eyed selfie.

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:56

      One of the kids took that cow photo. I was impressed. No selfies yet, but another volunteer just told me my eyes look horrible. Still trying to recover.

  4. LInda A Wight

    May 5, 2017 at 08:02

    Great pictures, glad your eyes are better. Safe travels Tim-

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:56

      Thank you, Linda.

  5. Cindy Cassidy

    May 5, 2017 at 11:06

    You said it would never be a matter of IF you get sick, it would be a matter of WHEN you get sick! Glad to hear that it was a quick fix!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:57

      Well, it’s not fixed yet. Hopefully this won’t turn into a series of posts about conjunctivitis.

  6. Deidre Toole

    May 5, 2017 at 19:16

    You have made it this far so you were due! Glad it all worked out. You continue to amaze me by your resilience. You are much braver than I am.
    By the way, SHS teacher Nori Lembree is planning a trip to retrace some of your footsteps at SHS with EF Tours next year. You will have to be in touch when you return.

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 00:59

      That’s great. Tell her to contact me if she wants any help, and to use my blog to promote the trip if it helps.

  7. Vicky Ann Deledda

    May 5, 2017 at 22:06

    Tim, so sorry that this adventure led you to the “hospital ” but again what a lesson in white privileges. No more puffy eyes again! Love how the Cambodian children are so willing to hold hands and anxious to have fun. And wonderful that you have a picture of “We love you, Teacher Tim”
    Mutual feelings!

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 6, 2017 at 01:04

      I’m going to miss the hand holding when I go home. On another note, I had four kids grabbing my hands and arms while my foot was being bitten by ants (very common here). I kept trying to let go of the kids to brush off the stinging ants. Every time one arm got free, they grabbed onto it again. It was also about 100 degrees. One of the kids took a video of me struggling to get free from the kids and the ants – it was quite a scene.

  8. Vicky Ann Deledda

    May 6, 2017 at 09:54


  9. Paula Agins

    May 6, 2017 at 17:28

    Love the pictures and glad you are feeling better. will get the money collected to your sister on Monday. Hope it will arrive on time. Stay healthy 🙂

    • Tim Flanagan

      May 8, 2017 at 00:45

      Thank you!


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