Monday, January 9, 2012

The Ratanak Car!

Well I'm back from my brief holidays in Singapore and today I jumped back into the saddle to make the final payment for the Ratanak company vehicle---- a Toyota RAV4.  Someone once said that buying a vehicle in Cambodia is like stepping into a land mine. You just never know what you are going to get as many cars are imported from the US and the newer the car, the more likelihood it has been in an accident! With that kind of comment, one has to thread carefully as cars here are not cheap. The import tax on a car is so high that the same car in North American can be bought for one third of the price it costs here. So, it pays to have people who are in the know going with you when you are shopping for such big ticket items.
The Ratanak car!
Like everything else I have experienced here, God has been so faithful in going ahead of me and providing the right people at the right time who can help me navigate through these unchartered waters. I think it was Oswald Smith who once said that as Christians we have the largest distribution network but we often don't access it. He is right, it doesn't matter where you go in the world, when you have Christian contacts and connections, it makes a difference in accessing the right type of networks to help sort through all sorts of situations. The Lord has a way of bringing about divine connections at timely moments. Through my missionary contacts here, I got connected with a language instructor who helps missionaries buy cars. He happens to be a Christian and I am actually having him teach me to read and write Khmer given his years of experience in language and cross cultural training. He is like a car agent and goes around and does all the grunt work and then makes a recommendation. Given that he has a good track record, I decided to get his advice.

So after he did all the ground work, I went in test drove the car and then  I enlisted a mechanic that a missionary friend recommended to come and check out the car. Ironically this mechanic reminded me so much of my Dad. The man has a passion for cars and he had some machine with him that literally checks to see how 'healthy'' the car engine is and all the other electronic gadgets etc. But more than that, he takes his time examining the car, crawling underneath the car to see if there were any cracks and test driving it for different things. I think the car dealer was intimidated by him but that's a good thing as my greatest concern was buying a lemon! In the end, he gave his green light on the car.

So today, I went with another Khmer friend to pick up the car along with my car agent/language instructor. It was quite an interesting experience. Since it was a bank holiday, the car dealer was initially reticent about taking my cheque. (Over here you don't have to write a certified cheque). The car dealer had had a horrible experience in which a Khmer man had written a fake cheque and then took off with a car.  The three of us spent some time persuading them that I was not going to do the same thing. This whole incident once again reminded me of how little trust exists here.This is all understandable given the historical context and  so one cannot get upset when situations like this arise.  This brought to mind a comment I read recently in a book called The Culture of Honor by Danny Silk. He said:  Trust is the key to a successful confrontation. Without it, we will discover our limitations quickly. If and when we find a confrontation not going well, the first thing to check is the trust level. When trust is low, anxiety is usually high. When anxiety rises, our priority in the encounter shifts to self preservation, usually by means of seeking to control each other. If we have someone in front of us who believes that he has to protect himself from us, then we will not be talking to his greatness, but instead to his great survival tactics. To have trust, the person we confront must believe that we are for him or her and will protect his or her best interests throughout the confrontation.  And so in the process of negotiating the release of the car, it was fascinating for me to watch my two Khmer friends as they deliberated with the car dealer. They kept their cool, they were smiling and were very calm. They demonstrated this culture of honor, persuasively reassuring the car dealer that we were honest people working for an NGO to help Cambodians. In the end, I gave them a copy of my passport and my business card so that if they had any problems with the cheque they could find me.  Our desire was to help the car dealer know that we really were for them. We thanked them for their support in trusting us and I said in Khmer ''May God bless you!"

With that out of the way, we were suppose to go to get the car registered but the Ministry of Transportation was closed because it was a government holiday so that will be tomorrow's job. Nonetheless, I was most paranoid about driving without car insurance. You see in North America, if one plans to buy a car, the car dealer prepares all the legal documents and works together with the car insurance company to get all the necessary paper work ready. Well, the opposite happens in Cambodia. You buy the car, then you take it to the government ministry to get the car registered and to receive a license plate and then you buy your car insurance. Many Cambodians do not have car insurance---its an option not a necessity although I think that is slowly changing with the increasing amounts of vehicles on the road. Thankfully I enlisted a few of my prayer warrior friends and claimed Proverbs 2:8 for myself this morning as I headed out for today's car dealings---for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.
Home at last!

So tonight I arrived home safe and sound with the Ratanak car in tow. I took it to a car wash for them to clean the inside and out for a mere $2.50 and then with the help of my friend, we went to another store to get a remote key alarm installed and then finally to the insurance company. So effective tomorrow the vehicle is insured! It feels weird driving around with no license plates but we are hoping to get the car registered as an NGO vehicle tomorrow which is equivalent to diplomatic status so the car has ’immunity” from any potential fines and that includes the drivers as well!

Tomorrow is part 2 of my car registration. If you remember, please pray for the Lord to continue to go ahead of us and prepare the way. Usually government agencies require a lot of documentation and as I am learning a bit more about all the requirements here, I am taking a long every piece of paper that demonstrates not only my identity but shows that I am living and working here---this includes: my passport, drivers licence, rental lease agreement, employment letter, three passport size photos, cheque book and bank statement. Having all of these papers helps save time as it will avoid a potential second or third trip to the government office. So we'll see! 

The Ratanak vehicle will come in handy over the next 6 months as we begin to set up our centre, buy the furniture, have training for staff , participate in meetings with partner organizations and the local church and meet up with the young women who will be part of our program. Pray for God to continue to give us success as He establishes the works of our hands in this land!

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