Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Russian Trucks and Barrangs


Well Aki Ra and I went to Phnom Penh yesterday looking for a  truck for CSHD, our demining NGO.  We’d been told about a couple of Russian troop carriers that had been used to carry the Prime Ministers body guards.

We looked at the first one.  It was in several different locations.  The engine was on the ground, the body was in the back of the lot, and the cab….well we never did see the cab.  We looked at it, then we looked at the man who wanted to sell it to us, then we looked at each other, then we left to go see the 2nd truck.

The second truck.  Well when we opened the door the cab was full of cob webs.  The engine hadn’t been started in a year, but it WAS all in one piece.  I asked the guy to start it and he kinda did a double take.  Then they put water in the radiator, added a little bit of diesel, hooked up a battery and it actually started.

He told us it was made in the 80’s.  I found the production sticker on the door, but since I don’t read Cyrillic, I’m not sure when it was made.

Barrangs.  A barrang is a foreignor.   It actually means French.  They were the first westerners to get over here, and as they tell me, we all look alike.  So everyone is a Frenchman, or barrang.

When Aki Ra first found the truck, or actually heard about it, they told him the price was $14,000.  When I showed up, it jumped to $16,000.  So while Aki Ra went on looking at trucks, the barrang flew home. 

I spoke with him tonite and he thinks we need to keep looking.  The seller offered to make the truck as good as new and drive it here.  And that’s a 6 hour drive.  But none of us are too sure we want to spend that kind of money on something this old.

And our budget is $20k anyway.

So the hunt goes on.

Babu Barrang

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Strange Case of the Missing Trunk

Before we left California - in October - we collected a lot of donated office supplies and school books to be used here in Cambodia at the school. We bought a ‘steamer’ trunk, packed everything up tight and shipped it over here from Los Angeles. ‘

We thought that since the case weighed in at about 100 pounds it would be cheaper, albeit longer, to ship it by boat than pay the excess baggage and bring it by air.

Well, I won’t make that mistake again………..

The ‘box of books’ finally arrived in Phnom Penh, via Sihanoukville, Singapore and God knows where else, on 15 December. We have been trying to get it out of customs ever since.

We’ve provided the freight forwarder with

  • copies of our passports,
  • copies of our visas,
  • letters stating that we work at the Cambodia Landmine Museum,
  • copies of the NGO certificate from the Cambodian government,
  • copies of the Museum’s certification from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority,
  • copies of the bills of lading for the shipment,
  • copies of the commercial invoice declaring the value of the goods at $75 (they are all used stuff remember),
  • an inventory of everything in the box,

We are still waiting to receive the goods. Every time we have provided one piece of paper, it generates more paper.

HOWEVER – we have received a bill for clearing our donated school and office supplies - $814.45.

Here’s how it broke down:

- Camcontrol permit: $60

- Customs Permit: $210

- Customs Clearence $250

- Trucking fee $65

- Insurance $30 (remember – the stuff is worth $50)

- Camcontrol duty $10

- Warehouse fee $15 (because we didn’t clear it fast enough)

- VAT $65

- THC (?) Charge $6

- CFS Charge $5

- Scanning Fee $4.50

- Toll Fee $4

- Delivery Order $5

- Doc Fee $15

- CO-Load Fee $30

- Agency Fee $30

- Tax $9.95

We could have eliminated the VAT if we gotten a letter from a VERY senior government official stating that our NGO exists. Now this official works for the same agency that certifies us and from whom we provided copies of the certificate. We had to have a letter, I am sure in both Khmer and English stamped by his office with his thumb print on it. I am quite sure he would have very pleased to have gotten THAT request.

Sheesh…next time I’ll pay the excess baggage. My whole plane ticket only cost $350.

Messed up my budget for the month.

Babu in the freakin’ jungle…….

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Holiday time in Cambodia

Well, it’s still holiday time in Cambodia.

2 Weeks ago we had Christmas.

Last week we had New Years.

Today (Thursday) is Victory over Genocide Day.  Its the day the Vietnamese liberated Phnom Penh from the grips of the Khmer Rouge.   Siem Reap was liberated on 10 January.  The high school here is named 10 January 1979 after the date of liberation.

There won’t be a lot of holidays here for a while after this.  The next major one is in April.  Khmer New Years.

I’m actually sitting here watching the GMAC Bowl.  Who would have thought that Troy and Central Michigan would have been the best bowl game.

After this the Clipps/Lakers are on.

Back to work tomorrow.



Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happenings in the Jungle

They are now calling her 'Mikki Tuk Tuk".

All we have to do is walk past any of our driver friends, they say hello and she hops right in.

She understands "Onhkoy (sit)", "Jho (up)" and sorta understands "Komproos (don't bark)". The last one depends on how excited she is.

"Ot com day" means 'she doesn't bite'. When I used to say "Ot com" my pronunciation was always corrected. I could never get it right. But the grammatically correct way to say it is "ot com day". Once I started to say it properly, I've never been corrected.

We're all picking up a little Khmer here and there and we're starting to understand more of what is being said. I may not get all the words but I get the gist of many conversations.
We spent New Years Eve at a trivia contest held every Thursday nite at the Funky Monkey Bar in downtown Siem Reap. Last Thursday our team won. This week we came in 2nd, and there were only 3 of us on the team. We missed a couple of questions we should have gotten right:

1) What is the new search engine introduced by Microsoft this year?
2) Who starred in the old TV show "The Prisoner"?
(answers below)

After the trivia contest we went to the Warehouse, sat on the roof with 200 of our closest friends and watched the fireworks and roman candle wars. Now we used to have bottle rocket wars when we lived in the States. Here they have been upgraded to roman candle wars. Having a roman candle shot at you will get your attention REAL FAST. The cops were there. They thought it was hysterical.

There 3-4,000 people on Pub Street. We just hope the numbers stay up.

In December we had 3,000 visitors at the Museum. Up from the past and very encouraging. On Tuesday we're taking all of the kids to the Angkor Butterfly Museum to get them ready to build an 8 or 9 foot puppet for the Great Big Puppet Parade in Siem Reap. Kids from all over the province of Siem Reap build great big puppets and bring them to Siem Reap to parade around the streets. The Museum did it 2 years ago and Amatak screamed so loud during the parade he couldn't talk for 2 days. (We're hoping for similar effects this year)

We finished our most recent mine field on Tuesday the 29th of December. We finished in a flourish, finding a dense concentration of Bouncing Betty mines on the old road. We blew up several on Monday. It's always a great feeling to see these awful things disappear in a could of smoke.

Both the Museum and CSHD were re-certified by the Cambodian government. We fully expected it to happen, but its always a pleasure to have the paper in hand.

Tuesday we're having a party for the deminers. In part it is to celebrate the completion of the last mine field and in part its to send them off to the next one.

Suesadei Tfnam Thmai (Happy new Year) from the Jungle
Babu, Bibi and Mikki Tuk Tuk
answers: Bing (we said bling) and Patrick McGoowan