I remember when going to the market was easy, a no-brainer. When I first arrived at Wat Opot, I went to the market, although I was a little wary of what to expect. Nowadays, I am the one who drives the kids to the market on Sundays so the ones that have saved up their allowance can splurge their pennies.
It's usually a pretty basic process...you get in the truck, load it up with kids and volunteers, drive there, pick up stuff, drive back. Unpredictable things are bound to happen, like my Belize town trip years ago, and as incidents like that happen more and more you somehow learn to accept them as minor bumps in the road of life.
Our white truck which was donated over 10 years ago from Doctors Without Borders finally bit the dust and just when Wayne and I were discusing the idea of buying a vehicle, we received a donated truck earlier this year. After a few minor repairs (more is needed, but it is fine for now) I am now mobile again. Well the unpredictable happened the other day. We planned our usual Sunday trip to the market so the kids who have saved up at least 10,000 Riel ($2.50USD) can spend their hard earned cash. Two young German volunteers joined us and with a large list myself, we headed in.
I didn’t even get out the gate when one of the kids yelled that we had a flat tire. It wasn’t really flat but certainly in need of air. We stopped at a gas station to air it up and was told they didn’t have air. After a blank look and a shake of my head, I then said, well, okay, I do need gas while we are here. The lady said they didn’t have any gas. This time my look was no so blank, more of a ‘what the hell’ kind of look. Not having air in a gas station is not convenient, but I can accept things are not the same everywhere in the world, but really? No gas?
We drove on and saw a motorcycle shop on the side of the road, but their air pressure tank was not strong enough for a truck, but he pointed down the road to another place. I unloaded everyone to wait for me there and armed with one translating kid, I drove down the road in search of air. About ½ kilometer down the road, there it was. A mechanic who fixes large trucks. He aired the tired for a mere 1,000 Riel (25 cents) and we drove back for the others. All loaded up we stopped at the next gas station, one with actual gas this time. One of our boys, MakPhan said ‘do you need gas’ and I said yes. The man asked him a question and then MakPhan turned to me and said again, “gas?” Swallowing my initial reaction of “No, I drove my truck up to the gas pump because I want a hamburger and fries”, I replied nicely “yes I want 20 in gas and gave MakPhan a 20 dollar bill.”
The man handed the kids change and I was confused as to why $20 in gas paid for with a 20 dollar bill would warrant change, when one of the volunteers said, “He gave you 20 liters instead of 20 dollars’ worth. I am sure I mumbled something about the incompetence of the young man who filled up my tank…and then proceeded to drive away. About ½ way to the market the truck just didn’t feel right. It’s something only the driver can feel, and not really anything describable , but just that it didn’t feel right. I went another kilometer and then pulled over thinking the tire was low again. I kept asking Josh if he felt anything strange and he said he didn’t, so I just thought it was in my mind. I hadn’t driven the truck in a couple weeks and maybe I was just feeling things.
Well just as we got to the local market, the truck died. I was able to coast into a parking place and tried to start the truck again. After a few tries it started, but then died again. I was thinking what could it be and then for some reason, I thought maybe the guy put the wrong gas in it. The truck is a diesel. The volunteers smelled the gas tank and said it definitely did not smell like diesel. I was dumbfounded. DIESEL is written right on the tank as well as on the back of the truck. Even if you do not speak English, the word English word Diesel is prominently displayed on both the vehicle and on the gas pump and as a pumper of gas, that should have been in your first lesson.
Upon further questioning, come to find out when the man asked for a second time “Gas?” MakPhan answered with the Khmer word for Gas instead of the Khmer word for Diesel. I’ve been driving in Cambodia for 5 years now and not once was I ever asked what kind of gas, it’s a given that if your gas tank is labeled DIESEL than there’s a 100% chance that you should put DIESEL fuel into the tank. Pumping Gas 101.
Having never experienced this, I was lucky the volunteers knew that the more you drive it, or the more the wrong gas gets into the engine the worse the damage will be, maybe even causing the demise of our little green truck! I called Channa, one of our Khmer staff and told him the problem. He came on his motorcycle about 20 minutes later to figure out what to do.
Meanwhile, back at the market…the kids went and bought a few things, but with the truck out of commission and not knowing how we would get home, I didn’t want to buy anything from my large list of supplies, so we just hung around by the truck. After a while I saw some little stools for sale in the Bpi Pawn Pram or 2500 riel (63 cents) shop – Cambodia’s equivalent or the USA’s “Dollar Store. I bought 8 of them so at least we could sit down. The kids ran about teasing the volunteers and just doing what kids do when stuck with nothing to do. Finally Channa arrived and said he called someone who would tow the poor truck to a shop that could drain the gas tank. I had to look at the one bright side of the situation and was thankful that the gas pumping dufus who put the wrong gas in also mistakenly put in a lesser amount since it was soon to be drained out.
So we waited and talked, and waited and laughed, and waited and whined and finally I saw a large truck full of supplies and some men pull close to us and I recognized the driver.
I told the volunteers, ‘that’s our tow truck’ and after an initial ‘no way’ reaction, they realized it was true. Now I knew there would not be a proper tow truck come to our rescue, but I was not expecting that! I was then informed that I would have to ‘drive’ the truck behind the larger model AND all the kids should jump in the back of the green truck so we could be on our way. Shaking my head as I got behind the wheel and praying the extremely large rope pulling us would not snap, I took the truck out of gear and we slowly made our way down the highway. Luckily Leon had his camera with us to capture this challenging experience…
Once the truck was safely in the truck hospital to get its stomach pumped, we were then instructed to, of course, jump onto the back of the much larger truck so they could bring us home.
It was fun actually standing in the large truck’s bed with the wind in our hair. When they turned down the dirt road that leads to Wat Opot a man in the back of the truck yelled “lop lop lop lop” or something like that and all the kids ducked, so I ducked too. Well Josh wasn’t paying attention and a low hanging tree branch whipped him in the face which brought about WHOOPS of laughter as much from the previously quiet men as from our rambunctious kids. We pulled into Wat Opot with all the kids running to see what the big truck would bring and to their surprise it was us! With many questions answered and $5 paid to the truck driver we walked about a little in a daze from the whole ordeal.
Our little green truck came home from the hospital a day later a little cleaner and feeling much better.