Monday, April 7, 2014

Cambodia - Representing the Under-represented

As I searched for patient support groups and medical associations to meet with during my travels, the options in some of the 44 countries were obvious going to be much greater than others.  It was evident that while some nations had organizations down to the local level, others did not even have a national organization that was widely publicized.  After searching the internet and making contact with the regional organizer for the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society, it was evident that Cambodia was in the latter category.

My stop in Cambodia almost did not occur - for reasons that likely parallel reasons that Parkinson’s support organizations in countries like Cambodia are not well established.  First, when barriers to a route exist it is naturally less likely that the route will be chosen.  I imagine that barriers such as, the number of movement disorders specialists, the lack of general public knowledge regarding Parkinson’s and a lack of available funding are some of the limitations to creating Parkinson's support organizations in countries, such as Cambodia.  For me the barriers to traveling to Cambodia were a question regarding whether I would be allowed to board the plane back  to Vietnam to make my connection to Tokyo, given I had a single entry visa for Vietnam, and just simple fatigue.  When confronted by a difficult path, it becomes easier to find potential reasons, or excuses, that allow us to simply pursue a different path.  It is easier to grow existing Parkinson’s support network, than it is to try to establish networks from scratch, especially in areas that have barriers entrenched.  I must say that I had a sense of relief when I made the decision to skip the side trip to Phnom Phen and just stay in my hotel in Ho Chi Minh, rest and try to make up the country somewhere else in the itinerary, probably hopping across the border from Switzerland to run in France.  But for some reason I rallied and decided to catch the flight, check into a cheap guesthouse in Cambodia for a few hours, access the internet, do laundry and shower after my run. Besides I knew I was correct when it came to the immigration rules and I should be allowed to return to Ho Chi Minh City and make the international transfer without a visa.

As is often the case, when you take the more difficult path…you are rewarded.  I found a guesthouse in the small town near the Phnom Phen airport and running through the streets was a great experience.  Getting chased by little kids and dogs added to the adventure.

So how do we get the force that be lined up to overcomes the existing barriers, so that those affected by Parkinson’s everywhere in the world will have surprising rewards like I had running through the streets in Cambodia? 

P.S. The answer to your question is "Yes", the Vietnam Airlines reps initially balked at issuing my boarding pass, because I had used my single entry visa for Vietnam earlier in the day.  But as I had already anticipated the answer to every concern that they could come up with - I was able to walk them through what they should do and why they should it for me – we just needed to get a supervisor involved to figure out how to override the computer.  Lila and I are so ready for Amazing Race!!

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