Monday, September 1, 2008

Bureaucrats, Ambulances, Jails and Happy Chicken Soup

Well let me tell tell you what’s been going on around here in the last few daze.

I spent 4 days in Phnom Penh trying like crazy to get some tools released from Customs that we shipped over here in July. They’ve been sitting in the warehouse since about the 20th of that month.

I went to the Customs office Thursday and the agent who told me last week I had to have all the copies of the original document now told me I had to go to another office to get a form filled out so we get them released with no duty. I headed over there only to find out I needed 2 letters written stating what the goods were and that CSHD was a recognized NGO. While I had the NGO registration certificate and the invoice, I still needed the letters.

So I went back to my hotel, wrote the letters, had them printed out and returned to the office the next day. Then I was told that I had to have 5 copies of the original docs and they were closing in 5 minutes. It was now Friday and they wouldn’t be open until Monday. So I called our good friend Bunra, a lawyer who’s done a lot of work for us and asked him if he could get this stuff released. He’s handling it for us. Today he called and I needed another 2 letters. One saying that he could negotiate the ‘deal’ for us and the second telling then exactly what was in the shipment. Now – they have the invoice, and one of the letters already details the contents, and they have catalogue pages with descriptions and pictures of the 3 items we shipped….but they needed a separate letter detailing the details. So I wrote those and fired them off to Bunra. We’re waiting to find out the outcome. Let’s just say I am peeved, and certainly will think twice about ever using DHL again. They assured us that they would take care of all the details. After it got here, they turned it over to their broker and washed their hands of the entire transaction.

Did I say that originally the broker wanted $650 to clear it? Hmmmm……..

Then I got to go to jail.

Bunra, as I said is a lawyer. He picked me up Friday and asked if I had a bit of time to run some errand with him. Sure. He had a client in jail and said he needed to go see about getting him out. So we headed off to the ‘new’ Phnom Penh Central Jail. It’s a complex on the road to Sihanoukville, near the airport. Looks pretty much like an office complex.

The jail here is better than many of the others, only a few guys per cell, and families can see them on a regular basis. We spent about a half hour there and I decided that if I ever get in trouble over here I’ll start screaming ‘US Embassy” at the top of my lungs and fall down and roll on the ground like a 3 year old. No way I want to wind up there.

We’ll be setting up the CSHD office at Aki Ra’s house in Siem Reap. The deminers are building a nice fence around the house now and we’ll expand the gate so we can get our 2 vehicles inside and locked up at night.

Our Australian buddies, from the Vietnam Veterans Mine Clearance Team, are footing the bill for an ambulance for CSHD. That’s a huge donation and very much appreciated by Aki Ra and the team. We have to have one to do our work. It needs to be a 4x4 and able to carry a casualty to the nearest hospital in case we have any accidents in the field. I spent part of Saturday looking through the used car lots in Phnom Penh. We’ll probably wind up with a Toyota Land Cruiser that we’ll retrofit to what we need. There are lots of them available in PP. The pricing I got gives us a base to work from. I am sure that Aki Ra and Pov, our number 2 at CSHD will beat my “barrang’ price.

On a personal note, I bought a couple of pairs of shorts before I left home and brought them over here. I’ve already gone down to the last notch on my belt and I can take off the shorts without undoing the snap or zipper, so I guess that’s good. But they still call me ‘Grandfather’ and it STILL pisses me off.

And lastly, for dinner last night I had soup…’Happy Chicken’ they called it. I didn’t read the entire description. Turned out to be Alice B. Toklas soup. If you don’t know what that means, Google it. And yes, I WAS hungry after I had the soup.

Back to PP later this week to buy the ambulance and then north to the jungle.

Babu from the jungle.

1 comment:

Jimbo said...

Yes please - stay out of jail and stop eatting the soup