Archive for January 8th, 2012

Mekong Journals: 14

January 8, 2012 in Mekong Journals | Comments (1)



[In January 2003  I accompanied an expedition that was conducting a survey of river dolphins on a stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia. The expedition was led by Isabel Beasley, who was then a PhD student specializing on Orcaella brevirostris: also known as the ‘Irrawaddy Dolphin’ this species is found in many Asian river systems and deltas. The journal I kept during the expedition will appear on this site as a continuous series of posts. This is part 14 of the series.]


All this while Isabel had been agonizing about what to do with the dog. In New Zealand he would have been put down of course, and she was considering whether he ought to be put down anyway, in case he did this again, to someone else. When we got back to the house she tried to explain this to the landlord, through her Cambodian colleague, Mr Somany. But he did not understand what ‘put down’ meant. ‘Killed’, said Isabel, ‘killed in his sleep with one injection’. Mr Somany went pale and was at a loss for words. When he finally succeeded in translating this to the landlord’s family they merely tittered in amazement. I remembered how amazed I myself had been when I first heard of ‘putting down’ as a concept – I couldn’t imagine what it would sound like to Buddhist ears.

We left the matter unresolved and Isabel went off to change and clean up. Then we went down the road to have some dinner – Isabel was perfectly cheerful, very much in command of her emotions. I was amazed; I had thought that she would go into shock once we were back home. But no; she was quite remarkably brave and took it all in her stride.

While we were eating dinner, the landlord appeared, on his moped. The private doctor was back from the wedding he said, and was ready to give Isabel her tetanus shot. Isabel went off with the landlord: ‘It’ll just take a minute…’

Fifteen minutes later she came back, looking puzzled. The doctor had given her a note scheduling six more shots over the next several days. ‘But then,’ I said, in alarm, ‘he must have given you a rabies shot – for tetanus you get only a single shot.’

Her colleague was summoned. He looked at the note and confirmed our suspicions: she’d been given a shot for rabies, not tetanus.

‘Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse…’ But still she stayed cheerful and finished her dinner. She even insisted, over my objections, that she would not postpone the survey, and that it would go ahead as scheduled. Later she called another veterinarian friend, in Phnom Penh, who told her that she should continue her rabies shots, just in case, and she’s already worked out a schedule of how she’s going to do this while we’re heading north towards Laos.


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