It’s amazing how good a shower, air conditioning, and cold drinking water can make you feel. After a quick stop by the NGO office to use the facilities and drop off bags, we boarded a 12-seat van—with only one person assigned to each seat—and hit the road. The a/c worked and the road to Siem Reap was paved. Nothing broke on the way, and no oxen were involved in travel.
In the morning, I joined a youth workshop on reproductive health. It brought together three NGOs and a group of university students from Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Battambang. They’d been learning about sexual health and birth control and were being trained as peer educators. For the final day, we were going to visit a university for a Q&A with students and stop by the Marie Stopes International clinic, which is sort of like Planned Parenthood but with men’s healthcare, too.
One of my NGO’s youth leaders, Heng, was assigned to be my translator. He’s only studied English for a few years but did a great job keeping me in the loop during this discussion, which couched birth control in the practice of family planning. The workshop leaders said: “You make a plan for your education and for your career, so you can make a plan for your family, too.” I liked this soft sell for a culture that’s not accustomed to talking openly about sex, bodies and what they do, and it was refreshing to hear a conversation about reproductive health that wasn’t tethered to a political position.
During the Q&A Heng and I got tangled in technical terms, and I drew him a picture of a uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, and taught him the corresponding English words. Think about it: how many conversational English books have you seen that a include a page on sexual health and reproductive vocabulary? It took a lot of restraint to keep from teaching him sex-ed slang along with the correct words.