Sunday, August 24, 2008

Back on the Far Side - Part 5

Well, I'm back on the 'far side' again. Fifth trip in the last year.

Seems like I live here. Sometimes I feel more at home in Cambodia than I do in the United States. I got into Phnom Penh on Thursday morning and checked into my little hotel on the riverfront and everyone welcomed me back like a long lost son. Well, not son exactly, since I turned the ugly 'six oh' earlier this year. Now they call me other names. Ones I used to call my parents and grand parents.

A bit annoying, but I guess it beats the alternative, which is being dead.

If you've ever wondered why I sign all these things "Babu" it started when some friends and I went to Africa in 2006 to try and climb Kilimanjaro (we did). Every time we got into camp the porters would call out "hey Babu, you doing good" or 'you okay Babu?". I asked our guide, Frank the Tank (who chain smoked all the way to 15,000 feet) what Babu meant. "Term of endearment" he kept telling me. After a few days of pestereing him for a better translation, he said it meant "grandfather". Let's just say I was NOT pleased. Then my buddy Jack said, "Bill, these guys are like 19 years old. You ARE old enough to be there grandfather." I was still not pleased, but at least I could rationalize it some.

I need to cut this short, as the Blue Pumpkin, where I am writing this has no power this morning and my computer is beeping at me.

Well, I'm back again. I can't believe all that happens arund in the short spurts in which I am gone. The Blue Pumpkin is doubling its size. It's what you would call a "patisserie' in France. they have wonderful pastries and good, if small, coffees. And they have AC. They have wonderful fruit shakes which go down well on the hot and humid Cambodian afternoons. But the 'net is often down and their power, as noted above can be sporadic.

So I headed down the street to my back up location, the Warehouse, a nice American owned bar that has a balcony overlooking the stret and a real good internet connection. While it's open-air, and doesn't have AC, it's a nice place to hang out and do some work. But they are re-doing the upstairs and the wifi is out. So I headed to my third location, Molly Malone's, an Irish bar at the end of pub street. While the wifi is good, the coffee strong and the balcony empty, they are a haven for mosquitos. They know this and offer free squirts of "Off" insect repellant for when the little buggers get too interested in my sweaty body ( I know, that's a real scary picture.)

Our most recent 'project' at CSHD is getting some tools released from Cambodian Customs. I bought some thngs CSHD needs. I bought them in the US and had them shipped DHL to Cambodia. I spoke with DHL and was assured they would take care of all the customs transactions over here. Right.

The goods arrived on 24 JULY and are still tied up. Seems someone at DHL turned them over to Cambodian customs, through their own broker, and then wiped their hands of the whole transaction. Our initial 'quote' to get them released through DHL's broker was $650. Now the stuff only cost us $600.

I met with DHL on Friday and played the 'crazy barrang' (foreignor) - quite well I thought. Our price now looks to be around $150. Threats of police, judges, the anti-corruption committee, and the US Emabassy seemed to knock the price down a bunch. We only have one problem. The paperwork is in Siem Reap and the customs guy is in Phnom Penh. So I get to go back to PP next week to finish the deal. No problem. It was cheaper to tak the bus here, stay at Grentown, and go back to PP than to just stay there an addtional 3 or 4 nights.

Our fundraising campaign is chugging along real well. Look for an email from me later today or tomorrow about our progress. We've received checks rangning from $5 to $1,000. NO contribution is too small. Thank you everyone who has donated. And to those who haven't - go to our website: and click on the PayPal button.

Don't forget to pass our video on to your friends. We want 1,000 hits as soon as possible. Its quite good and gives you a rela feel for what Aki Ra and his team want to do over here.

More from the jungle as it develops.

Just chuggin along in Siem Reap

from the Far Side.

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