Striking A Bargain

Posted on January 14, 2012

Socheat picks me up on his motto bike and we go zig zagging off through traffic to see a guy about a truck.  Cambodians are absolutely unmatched at stacking people and things precariously high on their motto’s and then zipping off through traffic with supreme indifference to potential catastrophe on every corner.  A van with the words Milky Way Organization swerves so close to me I can almost taste the creamy nougat, caramel and concussion.  There are a number of games one can play on the back of a motto.  My favorite is amusing myself with odd items I see drivers balancing as they careen along.  It is a much better game then counting all the ways I could become a organ donor.

It has been a fairly pleasant day in Phnom Penh.  I indulged myself by sleeping in and lingering over coffee before chasing down leads on possible trucks for sale.  Socheat, as good as his word, had spoken to a couple of buddies who were mechanics and asked them to keep an eye out for any good candidates.  I was glad for his assistance.  Cambodians love to bargain and my Khmer skills are excellent to negotiating with street kids over the price of rebottled water.  However, I don’t think they would be quite up to the task beyond that.

Speaking of bargaining with street kids, Lina was in the mood for a little negotiations of her own when I picked her up for lunch.  We headed to The Pizza Company, which is the Khmer version of Pizza Hut.  Lina adores pizza and frankly, can put away more food than any Cambodian kid or adult I know. She flips through the menu and immediately starts bargaining for her favorites.

“You know what I love, Mak Tor?  Pizza!  But I LOVE chicken.  So hard. SO hard to choose.  Maybe I can have both?”

She smiles up at me and in short order, we have an appetizer of chicken fingers with BBQ sauce in front of us.   She happily munches away until the pizza comes, then she shows off her counting skills by dividing it up between us.

“One for you.  One for me.  One for you.  One for me.  Mak Tor, you know what I love?  Pizza and chicken!  And ice cream?  Maybe I can have ice cream?”

There is no maybe about it and I am fairly certain Lina knows she has me competely wrapped around her BBQ and pizza saucer covered fingers.  But it is all worthwhile as she feeds me the cherry off her sundae, kisses my nose and smiles happily.  She looks out the window, points to the sidewalk and tells me she is happy she does not live on the sidewalk anymore.  That makes two of us.

After dropping Lina off, I get a text from Socheat saying his buddies think they have found a decent truck, which brings me to my perch of death on the back of his motto.  A dude balancing a large mirror zips past us and brakes hard, cracking his head briefly on the glass.  I wonder if he knows that is seven years bad luck.  We squeeze past a food cart and I debate reaching out and snagging a little salt to toss over my shoulder.

The mechanics and truck owner meet us in the parking lot of hotel.  As we pull in, I am sending up a little prayer that the hot pink colored jeep the Cambodians are all standing near is NOT the truck we have come to see.  Though I can sertainly understand why someone would want to unload it.  However, I have no intention of buying a truck that looks like it belongs in a Hello Kitty ad. Thankfully, it is the white Toyota crew cab next to the Hello Kitty mobile that is the one that is for sale.  The 1998 truck seems to be in excellent shape and we pop the hood.  I call on every ounce of butchness in me and act like I know what I am doing as I inspect the hoses, belts and engine.  We take it for a test drive and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic.  Anything with working selt belts would have impressed me, but this seems to be a fairly good deal.  Socheat lets them know I am interested and I will call them in a few days once I get to Siem Reap and disucss is with my business partners.

I get back to my hotel with just enough time to get ready to head to the village at Stung Meanchy, the city’s garbage dump.  I’ve promised Layseng and Nghan I would pick them up after school and take them home.  The kids are excited for me to visit with their families and I have a special message for Layseng’s mother.  Her older sister lives out in the village of Kandal and she has not seen her sister in many years.  Her sister happens to be Meng Ly’s mother and in August, I went to Kandal with Meng Ly to visit his family.  I took with me a video message from Layseng’s mother to her sister.  Her sister had watched it with tears in her eyes over and over.  She recorded a message back and I had promised her I would play it for Layseng’s mother when I returned to Stung Meanchy in January.