Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Sim Cards, Tuk Tuks and Meetings

Well I finally got a sim card for my mobile phone. In Cambodia, you have to have a government ID card or proof of residence to get a sim card for your mobile. Even though there are phone stores every block or so, and they all carry boxes of sim cards. The last time I came to PP my guide had a friend buy me a card. This time I had to fend for myself.

I found a friendly tuk tuk driver who 'knew a guy'. After some negotiations that began with the request for $100 to help him with some repairs to his tuk tuk, we agreed on $20. That covered his time and a ride around town. He bought the card with his ID (I reimbursed him for the card) and I put $20 worth of time on it. $58 later, I had a ride around town with a mobile phone that finally worked. Amazing what an Andy Jackson can accomplish.

I met with my friends, Ms. Sok Sophea, VP of Acleda Bank and her husband, Mr. In Channy, President and CEO of the bank. I talked to them about how to establish a micro loan program for the kids at the Museum who want to start their own business and about starting a recycling center in Cambodia. The micro loan program is pretty simple. The recycle center could be a pretty daunting task. They took me to lunch at the VERY nice Phnom Penh Hotel and then I headed back to my hotel to avoid the afternoon floods.

Night time is not a time to be wandering alone around Phnom Penh. This can be a pretty nasty place if you don't take some precautions. Crime and drugs combine to make the night scene a bit scary if you are not careful. I knew that but it was reinforced in my meeting with the Regional Security Officer, Andy Simpson, at the US Embassy. I met with him this morning and he was very gracious in giving me a good overview of the security situation here in Cambodia. Don't carry more than you want to lose, always travel with insurance, and stay away from the minefields.

Well, I guess 2 out of 3 isn't all that bad.

I also met with the Education Development Specialist of the USAID office in Phnom Penh, Lynn Losert. Lynn's been over here for more than 6 years and is a fountain of information about the educational system, how to help and, best of all, how to make that help effective. She also gave me some wonderful information that she researched and printed about landmine casualties in Cambodia over the last few years.

There have been more casualties from UXOs (unexploded ordinance) than from landmines. The price of scrap metal has risen a lot over the years and that has encouraged many peasants to search out UXOs, cut them open, remove the explosives and sell the casings. Only sometimes in cutting them open, they blow up. Not a good job. But it's hard to explain that to starving people. Last year when I went out with Aki Ra he blew up more UXOs than he defused landmines.

Throws another light on a recycling plant, doesn't it?

Well, its almost 4 and the rains have started. Right on time. (I sound like I've been here forever, huh?)

Tomorrow morning I head for Siem Reap and the Baphoun Guest House.

Some good news I've been holding back. An Australian, Natalie Cowx, has produced a stunning book on Aki Ra's kids. It is just remarkable. It tells the story of each of the kids who live with Aki Ra and Hourt. I'm bringing back as many as I can and we'll be selling them over the website. I'll post a cover of the photo when I return. Price is $10 plus shipping (I'll post the price inclusive). All the money, less shipping cost, will go to the Museum. I've seen the book. Natalie did an absolutely phenomenal job. Get your orders in early.

I had a funny thing happen to me on my walk across the street to the US Embassy today. I was crossing the street with another American and he asked me if was "on TDY at the Embassy." Man, that took me back too many years than I care to even think about. Gilson, that should give you a giggle.

Don't know what the internet connection is like in Siem Reap at the guesthouse, so bear with me.


Ps: Since incoming calls are free, I'm going to be very brave and give you my mobile number. Country code: 855 Number: 012-189-6644. From the US dial 011 and drop the 0. And please remember, there is a 14 hour time difference from LA. If its noon in California, its 2AM in Cambodia.

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