About the Author: Tom Weinz serves as the dedicated Foreign Service Liaison Officer for Pacific Partnership 2010."The Moving Finger writes, and having writ, moves on…" -- Omar Khyam's lovely way of saying "time flies." I think of the line often as we seem to fly through this mission. In many ways, we are "living at the office," with all the advantages and disadvantages that arrangement offers. I remain in awe of those supervisors, sailors, and NGO staff and partner nation personnel who manage to (over)fill their days working within and outside of their areas of expertise. Leading that charge is Commodore Franchetti -- her schedule is (over)booked, but she makes time to visit as many individual projects as possible, which is greatly appreciated by PP10 personnel working long hours, often under challenging conditions.
I joined the Commodore and a few others on June 21. Since the ship is at anchor -- Mercy is too big to approach most of the piers where we are working -- the day starts with a trip to shore on one of our two smaller boats, which was affectionately branded "Bandaid boats" a few years ago. Captain Sasaki and party met us on shore -- JDS KUNISAKI is pier-side in Sihanoukville -- and vans took us to the day's community service (COMSERV/COMREL) site, where Chaplain Horne and his merry band of 30 volunteers were painting a local primary school and repairing some swings and playground equipment. Any COMREL, especially where local children are present, is often a reminder of our common humanity. Several languages are spoken (English, Japanese, Cambodian); people are there from all walks of life (teachers, students, administrators, parents, neighbors); and everyone joins in to complete common tasks. Chaplain Horne has that kid-friendly air about him, and easily gets the students to sing "Old McDonald,""Hokie Pokie," and other songs with accompanying sweeping gestures. The kids don't seem to notice that the songs are in a foreign tongue -- they participate enthusiastically.
We broke for lunch in a driving rainstorm, then visited the medical/dental/optometry site at Sihanouk Provincial Hospital. The rain didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the several hundred people on hand to take advantage of the clinics. The KUNISAKI carries a large, self-contained medical truck, which is used as a small clinic, and it was also in service at the hospital. But most providers simply set up in rooms provided by the hospital. Some of the dentists were examining patients outside on the balconies. Neither patients nor providers seem to notice the lack of the latest facilities or equipment, and most local people expressed their appreciation to all the PP10 personnel who are doing their best to help as many people as possible.