Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ATMs, Plane Tickets and Shuttlecocks

Aki Ra needs to get to London on 7 November and I promised to buy his ticket when I got here.

I thought that would be a relatively simple process. Au contraire.

There is a travel agency right around the corner from my hotel so I went over there on Monday and told them I needed to buy a plane ticket for Aki Ra to fly from Siem Reap to London. He needed to arrive in London on 7 November and return on 5 December. He told me it would be done on Tuesday morning. Bring cash…$1,285.00

It is very hard, relatively impossible, to buy a plane ticket in Cambodia for anything but hard currency. Obviously Homeland Security has not spoken with the Cambodian travel industry. The travel agent drove me all over Siem Reap. Your credit card DOES have a limit, and I don’t normally take an extra $1,285 with me when I travel. So I maxed out my ATM card for the day and then went to Western Union to withdraw money off it. $900 cost me 2%, $18, not all that bad. I still don’t know how WU got the money off the card when the ATMs said “You have reached your daily maximum”. I shouldn’t ask those questions to which there are no answers.

When I got back to the travel agency he had the ticket all ready for me. And I do mean for me. The ticket was made out for Bill Morse. I pointed out to him that the ticket needed to be for Aki Ra. And he told me no, the ticket was for Bill Morse. He pointed to the notes I had left for him that said “1 airplane ticket for Mr. Aki Ra, travel to London on 7 November and return on 5 December. Mr. Bill Morse needs receipt”. Head in hands and a whispered “Oh my god” came out I was collecting the $1,285 from the desktop.

He agreed that the ticket needed to be reissued. It would be ready in 1 hour. So I went to breakfast. This all happened before 8am.

At 9am I went back to the office and all was in order. It did cost me a negotiated reissue fee of $10, but that was okay with me.

So now all Aki Ra needs is his visa for the UK.

Then I headed out to the Museum with 375 pounds of luggage. The books about the kids who’ve lived with Aki Ra and Hourt have been sitting in storage in Siem Reap and I needed to get them moved. Now I ain’t obese, but neither am I svelte. Between the 14 cases of books and me, I had to negotiate a different rate with Rock, my tuk tuk driver. I’d told him yesterday that I had some books to take to the Museum and he said “no problem”. When I showed him the 14 cases and he hefted one he said, “I need to go get more gas”. When he came back he said “price goes up today Bill”. It did.

After we unloaded the books at the Museum and I had a brief meeting with the staff it was time to go shopping for some toys for everyone.

Everybody at the Museum likes to play badminton. Heck, everybody in Cambodia plays badminton. They play in the street in front of my hotel. And the rule is “we don’t need no silly net. Just keep that shuttlecock in the air.” But the racquets they have at the Museum are really flimsy and they’ve run through a bunch. So I went to buy some good ones. Rock found a place in central Siem Reap that had some racquets right out front. They quoted me the price. I said “No, that’s the borang (foreigner) price. I want the Khmer price.” I was expecting to pay about $20 each. We finally wound up with 4 racquets and 10 shuttlecocks for the $80. Probably not the best price, but I was happy with it. Then we went and bought a new soccer ball and a pump. And a needle to pump the balls up. It was explained to me quite clearly to make sure the pump came with the needle. It did. Eventually.

My last stop was at the pharmacy. One of the kids at the Museum has conjunctivitis and they don’t have any eye drops for him at the Museum. They cost me $2.10. Would have been at least $20 in the US.

Richard Fitoussi, the International Project Manager arrives in a couple of days and we need to get ready for the Museum inspection on Friday.

News at 11


No comments: