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We Shared The Peeled Orange: The Letters of "Papa Louis" from the Thai-Cambodian Border Refugee Camps 1981-1993 Paperback – February, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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After Pol Pot's reign of genocide in Cambodia and the invasion of the Vietnamese in the 1970s, many Cambodians fled to Thailand with little more than the clothes on their backs. Moved by their plight (and encouraged by his daughter, a nurse), Braile left his home and Washington state practice to work as a missionary doctor in Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai-Cambodian border from 1983-1991. Braile's letters home to his wife, collected here, provide day-to-day snapshots of his life, showing what it meant to be a Western doctor confronting the atrocities of human conflict as well as rejoicing in the courage and hope of the Cambodian people. The detailed, daily records are not uniformly fascinating-changes in diet and problems with transportation being less interesting than, say, undergoing dental surgery "in the land of mai pen rai never mind"-but Braile has a writer's eye for description, whether he's relating the terrible injuries of a land mine victim or the surprise of a lizard popping out of the toaster.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 330 pages
  • Publisher: Syren Book Company (February 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0929636341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0929636344
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,313,260 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
We Shared The Peeled Orange: The Letters of 'Papa Louis" From The Thai-Cambodian Border Refugee Camps 1981-1993 arises from the letters of volunteer physician Dr. Louis E. Braile and offers the reader an autobiographically descriptive insight into the world of humanitarian relief work as provided by the American Refugee Committee in the refugee camps of such diverse countries as Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Sudan. Dr. Braile (who came to be known as "Papa Louis" completed twelve tours of duty on the Thai-Cambodian border through the American Refugee Committee between 1981 and 1993. His experiences ranged from treating a child suffering from malnutrition to teaching a young refugee basic medical care. Dr. Braile's letters depict hardships, frustrations, pains, and joys of working in a refugee camp in the midst of chaos. Up until his death in 2002, Dr. Braile remained an exemplar of dedication and sacrifice in behalf of peoples whose lives had been shattered by the forces of war, famine, poverty, and politics. We Shared The Peeled Orange is a unique and candid memoir, and a fitting memorable to a man who made a difference in the lives of thousands of desperate and all to often forgotten people.
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During 12 visits between 1981 and 1993 Dr Louis Braile worked on the Thai-Cambodian border, first in a number of refugee camps and finally at a hospital at Mongkol Borei in northwestern Cambodia. Gentle, introspective and compassionate, his descriptions of his experiences are vivid and often poignant while quietly modest about the author's own dedication to long hours under grueling conditions. Dr Braile worked in virtually every area of medicine, in unsanitary and often unsafe conditions, and dealt with death on a daily basis. His fervent love for the Khmer people kept him returning again and again until the last camp closed and the last refugee went home. Curiously, his life while not at work was a pleasant contrast, as he gives the reader descriptions of meals and journeys through the Thai countryside and a bemused commentary on his encounters across cultural and linguistic barriers.

I worked briefly with "Papa Louis" in 1984 and found this book an open window into those long, dusty days helping patients struggle through disease and injury in bamboo-and-thatch hospitals. If you are one of the thousands of relief workers who worked in the Cambodian refugee camps, this book is a treasury of bittersweet memories.

Those interested in this time and place in history might enjoy Bamboo and Barbed Wire by Margot Grant.
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