I’m writing from a little cafe in Battambang, a relatively new development in this small city’s life. Just a few years ago, there were only a few spots tailored to ex-pats here, and none of them had wireless internet or a steady stream of backpackers passing through. These days, if I want to spend a Saturday afternoon working from outside the office, I have plenty of places to choose from. I rarely take advantage of these new businesses, mostly because on the rare weekends that I spend in Battambang, I’m happy to spend a few hours uninterrupted in my bedroom, listening to This American Life and cleaning up a week’s worth of dirty clothes and coffee mugs.
Today though, I’m happy to slip out, because it’s my first time leaving the compound in four days. I came down with a relentless virus early this week that left me completely exhausted with a low fever and aches all over since Tuesday afternoon. I spent the rest of the week between my room and the kitchen, eating a little and sleeping a lot.
Each day I would stop into the office (a stone’s throw from my house) to ask my staff how they were doing – what problems were they having in my absence? No problems at all, they assured me, but could I authorize some cash advances for more materials? At the time I was just happy to be able to return to bed guiltlessly, secure that I was not neglecting programs or patients. Now that I’m feeling better though, I’m thrilled with how the week went. The official leadership hand-off from me to Theary took place at the beginning of November, but since I’ve still been around and involved with everything, the change of roles has been a gradual process. This week, our program ran three workshops and a focus group evaluation session, counseled four women with reproductive health issues, created a quarterly budget report, introduced the reusable sanitary pads to another village, and developed a new workshop curriculum on health issues for older women. Theary checked in with me for my opinion about one of the counseling cases, and on Monday we’ll review the new curriculum together. But for the most part, with her guidance, the four women in our office have made me unnecessary, exactly what I want to be.