Thursday, June 6, 2013

Arrived -- After 7 Months!

One of the many lessons that anyone learns quite quickly in Cambodia if you live here is that things often take a long time to get done! This is just the way it is and if you let the process irritate you, you will certainly be stressed and frustrated. You always have a choice: accept that you are working in a different culture and do not try to impose your cultural expectations because you are not living in North America. This is the mindset we have to constantly remind ourselves when we live here.  Its easy to fall into this trap and compare and say ''well we do it this way in Canada or the USA, and why can't they do it this way.'' But that in many ways, shows what cultural antropologists would call ethnocentrism whereby we judge another culture solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. 

I share this because over the past 7 months we have been in the process of buying a new vehicle for the RAP community home. Perhaps some may ask, why buy a brand spanking new vehicle when you could get a second hand one for cheaper. Well, believe it or not, its cheaper to buy a brand new vehicle here than a used vehicle if you are an international NGO because we do not pay the custom duties and import tax. Several months ago when we went car hunting to buy a 4x4 vehicle, we discovered that the same vehicle that was 4 or 5 years old had a higher price than a brand new one. Now this almost defies logic given that cars are depreciable assets so how can that be? Well, most cars are imported by car dealers and as a result, they have to pay a heft import tax on the vehicle where we as an International NGO are given the benefit of purchasing a tax free vehicle. So to our surprise, we discovered we could buy a brand new Toyota Hilux 2013 model for either a cheaper price or the same price as one that was about 5 years old because we were getting it tax free. So it was a no brainer----a brand new vehicle, with a warranty from the dealer and cheaper than a used version----only in Cambodia can this be possible!

Now this all sounds good in principal but I must say, the process one has to go through to get such a deal is long, tardious and is not for the faint hearted. If you want to learn patience, this is one experience that will either teach you to become an expert in patience or at least close to being an expert! There were many documents to complete for different agencies that we work with and report to. I am thankful to our Finance Manager Sathya who did all the research and prepared all the documents. I told him this is like giving birth to a child. One has to do a lot of preparing and waiting. His patience and our patience to wait for the vehicle, finally paid off. Yesterday, he went to the Toyota Dealer to pick up the vehicle. One of the main reasons we purchased a 4 x 4 is many of the families of the young women at RAP live out in the rural areas so it is difficult to get to those places in a regular car or van.

RAP Vehicle - Toyota Hilux Vigo
Here in Cambodia, if you want people to know you have bought a new car you leave the original tape and paper on the door knobs and hood. However, for us, we were not concerned with letting others know that it was a new vehicle, rather we just wanted to clean the truck and so our drivers had fun washing it this afternoon.

Tomorrow we are hoping to have a drive in it but we are waiting for the insurance documents. Unlike North America (or at least in Canada) you have to show you have car insurance before you can take the car off the lot of the dealer. But here, that isn't necessary as car insurance is a new phenomena in Cambodia and is not required by law as yet although more and more people are beginning to buy it. Nonetheless, we were not exactly going to test that new phenomena. For anyone who has driven here, you know how congested the roads are with motos, bicycles, tuk tuks and cars and it is very easy to be hit or to hit others. I have had encounters with motocyclist and tuk tuks with our other small Toyota RAV4 so we made sure we had confirmed with the insurance company that we had coverage before we drove this vehicle to the RAP Home. Nonetheless, we still don't have any official documents so no driving will be allowed until we have copies in the car and we know who to contact in case an accident (God forbid) should happen.

For now, we are thankful that the vehicle has arrived safe and sound in its new home. Now the fun begins---driving in chaotic, Phnom Penh traffic. Pray for our driver Sambath that he will be alert at all times as he drives the car. As for our young women, well that's another set of fun to happen as with many teenagers they are concerned about the way they look and worried that their hair will be windblown if they sit at the back open area. Teenagers! I suspect they will be using the RAP tuk tuk to church instead since its rainy season, they will not want to get their hair wet! :-)

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