A few days ago, I got a rather special task which I first really didn’t like but turned out to be quite interesting: On Elevate Campus, we got the delivery of the sheet metal which we would use to cover the roof of our Kids Church. Since we prefer double-checking everything and everyone, I needed to organize a tool to take meassures of the thickness of the sheet metal. No really good construction shop has dared to come to Siem Reap yet, therefore, I started at the sheet metal dealer. With my Khmer friend, I tried to explain, what I need. I had no idea what to call that thing in German, let alone English and she didn’t know in Khmer either. There was not much else left than to describe using hands and feet. The kind lady behind the desk smiled at us and replied that she didn’t have it and also had no idea if that was existent in Cambodia at all. Awesome. I asked her a bit unbelieving, whether she would ever control the deliveries. She – still smiling – went, no, that’s not necessary, the deliverer would only send the right stuff. Oh, I see. From such strong trust I need a piece!
From then on, I went searching by myself. Translation or not – anyways, it will not be easy. Firstly, I rode to the “Bosch”-Shop – pretty much the only one which sells good tools. Quickly, I had to detect that her English was worse than my Khmer. Stupidly, I had found it unimportant to memorize the words “thickness” and “taking meassures”. How foolish. Well. There was the other – seller or customer or angel? – who knew both languages surprisingly well. I explained him, what I was searching, he explained her and BLING! she understood. From a dusty corner she brought a tool with which you could take meassures as exact as millimeters. What a pity, that the sheet metal is thinner than 1mm. Well, let’s go then. The seller/customer/angel added incidentally that I should try in the jewellery section in Psah Leu – the local market. And disappeared. Without me having thanked him. I quickly took a photo – could be of use later – and looked again for the other guy. But I couldn’t find him. Weird. Maybe really an angel … ?
Next stop was Psah Leu. The place, where diamond dealer and pork seller meet daily. The place, where clothes boutiques are mixed up with hygienic shops. The place, which has its own smell. The place, where you can buy everything from real to fake, from new to used, from nice to ugly. The place, which is supposed to have everything. You just don’t find it always. You need to try. You need time. You need patience.
I promised myself to not stay there for longer than 10min and then go again with a Khmer. Or send a Khmer to find it for me. The advice from the other guy in my memory, I walked straight to the jewellery section. There, I chose the most friendly looking lady and began with the most stupid question ever: “Do you speak English?” Uhm. If the answer was a “Yes” that would have been an entry worth it by itself. Of course NOT. Well then, let’s continue with Khmer: “I need uhm a thing uhm to know how much uhm that one is.” And indicated “thickness” with my fingers. “Do you have that?”
She thought about it, smiled, nodded and started to rummage around in a drawer. I was flabbergasted. Really? That easy?! But then she hesitated and requested to know what I would do with it. Oh right, not soo easy. With slow sentences I explained my plan and instead of pulling out a tool she took a pen and a piece of paper – “es Fresszetteli” we would say in Switzerland – and wrote something in Khmer.
Kindly, she advised me to go somewhere, let them read those words and I would get what I needed. Ok. And where again? Once more, she scribbled something and said, that specific shop I first had to find would be outside of the market. Oh yeah. That doesn’t sound too difficult.
I walked away. When I stepped into the dazzling sunlight, I realized that I wouldn’t even recognize the shop when I was standing in front of it since I had no idea what she had written down. I prepared myself for the most embarrassing moment in my entire life. A brillant idea seemed to save me: I decided to go to a shop with fabric first – that must be the wrong one. They said, I should go inside to find the shop. The second seller close to the meat section also claimed it to be inside the market. Confused, I stumbled towards the market middle again. And then scales fell from my eyes: I had mixed up the words “outside” and “back”! Well done, Vivi. Khmerlessons wouldn’t harm myself.
A crockery dealer was my third signpost; he pointed exactly towards the jewellery shops. Uhmm. I just came from there originally? Well… At another jewellery seller I asked for the second word and she replied grumpily that she didn’t have that thing. But at least she pointed to another direction. I gathered together the last pieces of hope and walked there. And then I saw goldsmiths. GOLDSMITHS! Of course. Makes sense! Where else? Those have to work with very exact tools. Sure!
The kind guys looked at me a little bit amazed as I asked them friendly if the had that thing. And tadaaa – he took it out of his drawer. Within a few minutes, they explained me how to use it and I persuaded them to let me borrow it for an hour. For him no problem. When I offered him to leave my phone number as “security” they only smiled at each other, pretty amused. That trust!
Zack, I was gone.