Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"What do you do all Day?" Part IV

I have become used to "slower paced Cambodia." When I write, "I ran errands," it seems insignificant in the context of America. Things are rarely efficient here in Cambodia. This makes most things take longer. What would be one trip becomes 2 or 3, what would be 1 conversation becomes 5, what would be done in 20 minutes takes 90 minutes, what should be done by one person is done by 2 or 3. Here is a list of what this looks like:

1) Shops have no selection or are low in stock.
Stores run out of items regularly forcing you to look elsewhere or come back later. They have an item 1 week and not the next. What would be a trip to 1 store becomes a trip to 3 or more and you still have to go out later for the other items.

2) There is always someone doing a job and another person watching them.
2 employees at the cash register, 2 employees at the teller window, video cameras watch the employees and not the customers.

3) Things are more unreliable.
Internet, electricity, and phone services are all subject to interruption without warning. Satellite internet is better than no internet but when it is really cloudy or rainy there is no service. One word "Tropical." The power still affects our modem. Before we transferred everything to our laptops we constantly had parts of projects lost from power outages. We have power outages about 3 time a week and some weeks, every day. So far the longest outage was only about 6 hours. Cell phones in a city off concrete buildings, need I say more.

4)Most things are just slower.
The highest speed in the city I have driven is 30 mph but usually it is below 20 mph. Power outages create traffic jams. The roads are not planned to handle the volume they have on them.
"High speed internet" is the speed of Dial-up.
Rene and I have to communicate through a translator or stumble through it till we get what we need.
We have 12 guys to inform/gather for meals, meetings and trips.
About 50% of the time people are late, an hour or more is not unheard of. Every now and then they are early, the most irregular so far was 3 hours early.
The average person's level of education can slow things down. Explaining germs and that hot water kills a lot of them, the importance of washing food and why we don't want everything fried, are the kind of things that are often ignored before they are explained. Most people aren't dumb, just uniformed.

5) The random government official that want his cut.
I have been stopped by the police 3 times now. The first time was for not seeing a hidden no left turn sign, the second was "just checking if you had a license," and the last one was for not seeing a bleached out no left turn sign. The last time the cop tried to get me to pay ten times what the first one did. Rene, Caleb and I waited on the side of the road for 40 min while the cop tried to convince me that I had to pay both him and his buddy just to get my drivers license back. In the end I had to get my license from some station in the boonies just to avoid paying unrealistic fines.
We have random officials come to the house to "check for fire extinguishers" and charge us a fee just to see if we still have 3 in the house. It has happened 2 times in 6 months. I get the feeling that it is a scam but I've been told it's normal.
Airports can be the worst. They have "not gotten the visa paperwork" at one time after it was approved and confirmed. Really, they are hoping for the person to offer them a "fee" to help "speed up" the process.

That sums it up pretty well.

As I read what I have written in the last four blogs I see why I don't write about this for fun. I don't enjoy writing about the negatives of Cambodia. It is too much like work. I would prefer to let the monotonous and irritating things be done and over for the simple fact that I want to stay positive in a potentially frustrating place. Therefore I conclude this series of Blogs. I prefer to talk about the fun and positive side of our time here. After all... We are here for a long time. I really want to keep loving what we do.


Emily said...

Thanks for posting those, Joe. It was nice to get a window into your daily life, frustrations and all. Makes me feel more 'in-touch'. :)

Josh said...

Wow -- these are great views into what your life is like day to day. It sounds frustrating! I think of all the stuff I get frustrated with on a regular basis here in the U.S. I guess there's so much everywhere that can be better everywhere... :)

Kiley said...

It sounds like you guys are having such a great experience, I love reading your blog!