Apparently, opening a bank account requires police intervention. “It would have been quicker to marry Roza” I thought rather uncharitably as yet another bank representative gave us a host of obscure forms we needed to obtain from someone OTHER than the bank that were needed for me to open a checking account that only needed a minimum balance of $1.00. The latest had us puttering off to a local police station on Roza’s motto. Both of us a little cranky from the heat and the hierarchy.
The 1st local police station location was so far off the beaten path, it wasn’t reassuring in terms of response time should someone need something more pressing than permission to open a bank account. The first fellow we found inside was napping on a hammock and the second was playing Angry Birds on his smartphone behind the desk. Slow day at the office. And an unhelpful day. Angry Birds informed us he had NO idea what the bank was talking about. That long ago there may have been a form that resembled what we are looking for but he had no idea about it and suggested we go back to the bank or perhaps try another police station much farther away. I was feeling a little Angry Bird myself but figured hurtling myself at him with the intention of exploding was not culturally respectful.
Numerous phone calls and inquiries later, which included the revelation that another police station we were trying to reach had no one who worked past 3pm, Roza and I went back to the bank empty handed with Roza determined to talk the bank manager into opening my $1 account through sheer will. Then another manager announced it would probably be okay if instead of police permission (and the $100 fee for the non existent form), we simply got the hotel that I stay at each time I am in Cambodia to write a letter saying I was a good customer. I let Roza do the grumbling for both of us in colorful Khmer.
With Safe Haven breaking away from Community First and becoming our own stand alone NGO, our work in the field and at the hospitals with the kids this trip has also been peppered with a great deal of paperwork and administrative details I need to attend. So in between sick kids and home visits, Roza and I have been running all over town laying the groundwork for Safe Haven’s independence. It’s been a very busy couple of weeks.
However, working with the kids takes priority over everything and I love reconnecting with the families and Safe Haven kids while I am here and seeing the amazing progress they have made. One such kid is 8 year old Kea, who gives me a huge smile when Roza and I pull up at her house. She runs over and jumps up into my arms. That in itself is a massive achievement. Kea has spent the better part of a year enduring painful surgeries for her bilateral club feet as well as intensive physical therapy to help strengthen her legs. The fact that she can run anywhere is cause for celebration. Her parents are off to the rice field, so she has been patiently waiting for us to arrive to take her to Handicap International where she will meet with my physiotherapist Pheakdey and get the braces on her legs adjusted. Kea is absolutely filthy from head to toe. She prefers to wear one outfit day and night until it is pretty much falling off her body in disrepair. We start to head back to the city but have an unexpected emergency stop: Lo Lith’s mother calls. She ran out of his heart medication. Four days ago. He needs to go to hospital. We swing by his house. He is looking better than he normally does and thankfully doesn’t have that bluish tint all over him we normally see. Still, Roza gently reminds his mother NOT to wait until after the meds run out to call us if she needs help. Regardless of the destination being the hospital, which for Lith usually means a lot of poking and prodding, he is very excited. Lith just loves our pick up truck and riding in it is one of his favorite things. He is already dragging himself along using his one good arm (his legs do not work) towards to truck so Roza picks him up and puts him in the back. All his brothers pile in for good measure, along with his mom and we are ready to go. It never ceases to amaze me how easily my thinking changes once I get to Cambodia from my ordinary Western sensibilities. We are very grateful to have the pick up. Before, it wasn’t unusual for Lith to ride to hospital with his entire family on a motto with no helmets. But let me just say that if I tossed a disabled child with a severe heart condition into the back of a pick up truck in the USA to drive him around I’d be arrested for child endangerment. (I should clarify we didn’t toss Lith into the truck).
Kea wants to ride in the cab with me which is unusual because practically every Cambodian kid I know gets carsick. (one reason they all like to ride in the back). She gamely makes it halfway back to the city before climbing into my lap so she can hang her head out of the window. We stop at the Ankor Hospital For Children first to drop off Lith and his family before finally arriving at Handicap International for Kea’s appointment, which we are late for. But we need not have worried. The power has been out all morning so they can’t do anything anyway, so Kea will simply stay here until the power comes back on. Pheakdey takes Kea to play on some of the therapy equipment and Roza and I head to our office which is also sans power. Thankfully, the power outage is a short one and the air conditioner blessedly kicks on. I caress the air conditioner remote and whisper sweet nothings of love at it.
By the end of the day, Kea’s braces are properly fitted and Lith has another month’s supply of his meds and everyone is ready for the return trip back to their respective villages. I’m still without a bank account but we’ll try to tackle the problem again tomorrow. At the end of the day, Kea is walking and Lith is breathing easier. That is what matters most.