25 June, 2013

Oh the joy of technology...

But what happens when that joy is replaced with frustration?   At Wat Opot we still do not have an Internet provider and the excitement over being able to get online using an Internet stick (think 'dial-up') became old after about 2 days.

Knowing I was going to Phnom Penh today, I began my list of internet related things to do since I would be able to enjoy the freedom of surfing the net and not having to read a book, turning a physical page while waiting for a virtual page to open. 

With temperatures fluctuating from a daytime of 97°F, to evenings getting down to 75°F, many of the children have a cold.  With another (temporary) sick baby sharing my room, I have a stuffed head as well, so when I arrived at my guest house, settled in my room, and opened my computer, I realized the guest house had changed their internet password.  Not wanting to climb down 5 flights of stairs to the reception desk, I took the rare opportunity to have an uninterrupted nap. 

After waking refreshed, I headed to one of my favorite hangouts, The Blue Pumpkin.  With Monument Books on the main level and The Blue Pumpkin coffee shop/bakery on the 2nd floor, I can spend hours there.  I ordered one of their delicious vegetarian dishes, a latte and without hesitation, a slice of blueberry cheesecake, took out my internet to-do list and commenced getting started.  First off was to check FaceBook and see if my niece brought another beautiful daughter into the world (as of 32 minutes ago she had not…), then on to see what the world has been up to the past month.

Before diving into the luscious cheesecake, I closed the lid to my MacBook so I could really enjoy a few bites before getting starting my listed items.  Yummmmm….giving thanks to the little pleasures in my life, I opened up the lid and waited for the computer to wake up.  I waited some more.  Oh, maybe I need to charge it.  Power cord in place, I waited some more.  OK, maybe I need to push the start button…nothing.  I looked at my dessert and suddenly the good feeling I had just moments ago was replaced by a coldness moving upward from my gut. 

I took another bite then a swig of my hot latte, nothing…no happy gastronomic feeling, only a rising panic as I closed the lid and opened it again hoping for the miracle that did not come.  Quickly downing and eating the now tasteless waste of good money, I packed up in order to head to the Apple Service Center. 

A quick call to Wayne set me in the right direction, but since it was nearing 4:30 pm, I decided to jump on a motodop (motorcycle taxi) because my destination is a bit out of the way.  The driver spoke extremely limited English and since I initially spoke a few words in Khmer to him, he wrongly assumed that I understood all his gibberish as he drove me down Monivong street.  As I tried to keep my technological nervousness to a minimum, I didn’t notice the driver had turned the wrong way.  Going about 5 minutes down the road, I realized his mistake and I told him to stop and turn around.  As we drove back the other way, he was again talking in Khmer and said “Muy, be, bpi somnan, yes?  I was like, “ot dung” (I don’t know).  So of course he repeated it again and I just didn’t answer.  I was playing it over and over in my head and realized he was saying that instead of bringing me to the Service Center and back (2 trips), he would go 3 places.  One, 2, 3 trips. 

Since we confirmed a price of 2,000 reil (50 cents) per trip for a total of $1, I was getting my Khmer ready to somehow tell him that his going the wrong way was not my fault and there was no way I would pay an additional 2,000.  That kept my mind occupied and off the computer for a while.  I had no idea where we were at by that time and apparently neither did he because he stopped to ask directions.  Finally we were headed on our way again and found the place.

The place we went to is a certified Mac Service Center, but after looking at my computer, the guy determined that it was a hardware problem and the shop will not be able to service hardware issues for 3 months.  Dumbfounded, I was speechless.  I was handed a piece of paper with the name of a computer shop I could take it to.  With an abundance of bogus computer shops in this city, of which I have terrible experiences, my voice wavered with emotion as I was ready to start freaking out right then and there – conscious that the sales clerks were moving away from me.  Before I could finish my question, it was answered with “Yes, the shop is a certified Apple Service Center.” 

All I could do was believe them unless I wanted to wait 3 months for a hardware miracle worker to appear.   I then went outside to give the news to the driver that we would have to go to another place.  He had NO idea where the new place was and neither did I, so I decided to just have him take me back to where I originally started, pay him and figure out where the new place was before getting on another motodop.  I was willing to pay him an additional $1 bringing his payment to $2 since by that time we had been gone for more than an hour.

When I dismounted, I said “How much” since the original plan had changed and he said $5!  I laughed at him and said “No Way!”  As usual, 3 or 4 other drivers gathered around to give moral support to their comrade.  What they didn’t know is that I know how to work a crowd and with my knowledge of child Khmer, I usually resort to a joke.  Because he tried to be greedy asking for $5, I decided I would not go past 6,000 - 3 trips.  In my broken Khmer I said, "muy" and pointed in the direction of the first place, then "be" in the direction of the 2nd place and then "bpi" to where we were.  "Bpi somnan" (proudly saying my newly learned word). 

In my experience traveling, trying to speak the language of the country you are in gains you a certain amount of respect.  Suddenly I felt the shift of some of the drivers moving over to my team as they laughed repeating in acknowledgement of what I was saying (or at least trying to say).  As usual, the guy pointed to his gas tank, but knowing the price of fuel, I could counter attack stating how much gas is and how he didn’t use a whole liter.  That gained me even more support and I resorted back to the days when I liked being the center of attention.  I smiled at the driver and said that, OK, I would pay him 5,000 reil.  

His shocked face that I went down in price instead of up, caused a burst of laughter and I said, OK, OK, I will give you 6,000 as I handed him a 1 US dollar bill and a 2,000 reil Khmer dollar.  He looked at the dollar, which had a small piece torn from one of the corners and said that it was no good. 

I rolled my eyes but knowing there is no way anyone will take evan a minutely disfigured US dollar, I said, “Kh’nom sombto, Kh’nom hope loy.  Neak hope Loy?  Loy chanine nah”.  (I’m sorry, I eat money. You eat money? Money is very tasty.)  When I got a small smile from him at that one, I handed him a nice dollar, 2,000 riel and an additional 500 reil and said, I will give you 500 more (about 12 cents).  I made a move to put the money in his basket since he wasn’t going to accept it (hands behind his back), but the other guys told him to take it, which he finally did.  I smiled and turned around to go and immediately another driver who wasn’t privy to what just took place said to me “You need moto, lady?”  I said loudly “No more moto’s today, I’m not crazy!”  I figured his quizzical look would be rectified by the others after I left.

I did have to get another motodop, though, but this time I gathered a group around to discuss the location (after again phoning Wayne to get the general whereabouts) of the place.   I did not get on his bike until he showed me where it was on a map and of course negotiated the price.  I was worn down in the money negotiating department and offered 3,000, he said 4,000 ($1) and I readily agreed because the store was closing in 15 minutes 

The good news is that I’m able to post this because the 2nd shop was indeed a certified Apple Service Center and after 5 minutes I was told that the battery was probably drained so low that it wouldn’t start.  He reset the battery for $5, which fixed the problem and I walked out with a perfect computer and warm fuzzy feeling while making a point to ignore the negative feelings that wanted to come out about the first, ahem "Certified Apple Service Center", which did not know the mechanical difference between a battery and hardware. 

It's funny what you’ll pay for…$5 for 5 minutes of work to get my computer running and $2.62 transportation total for 2 hours searching for the place to get it done.