A Classified Ad on Cambodia Parent NetworkSeptember 3, 2013
Eagle-eyed K440 correspondent, Ned Kelly, spotted this strange-but-almost-true advertisement on the Cambodia Parent’s Network yahoo group and felt it deserved a wider audience. We concurred.
My wife and I are moving to Haiti for reasons of economic hardship, as the cost of living here in Cambodia has just outpaced our salaries working as we do in government and the non-profit sector.
Haiti is perfect for us because it is the poorest country in the world and we’ll be able to afford a bigger house there and we’ll have the entire road to ourselves in our new SUV. (Finally! Driving a 2010 model was starting to embarrass the whole family.)
This is probably no surprise to some of you, since we’ve been *trying* to sell some of our bulkier furnishings and things to make the move easier. I don’t understand how you all are simply passing up amazing deals like our 72 inch HD flat screen, bought new just last year when we arrived and being offered up for fully 10% off the retail purchase price. It is JUST like new, not the way Khmer claim something is “like new”. This TV was only ever turned on once because it overloaded the circuit breakers and so instead we’d just purchase all of the seats for every showing at the movie house one day a week to catch up on our TV viewing in private. Thanks guys! You’re legends! We haven’t forgotten – we’ll pay the bill as soon as the U.S. gov’t approves the expense report. You know Uncle Sam, what a slow poke!
I’m getting a posting at the embassy in Haiti where I’ll receive hazard pay for working and living in a gated compound with armed guards. It must be very dangerous or they wouldn’t have Marines guarding the place, but I will be brave and do my duty.
My wife will found yet another NGO that will provide a much needed layer of bureaucracy between donors and the poor, so that international donations are spent appropriately on things like her salary and not wasted on other things, like paying a Haitian (or 100 Haitians) that same amount. They are a simple people, sort of like the Khmer who aren’t CPP party leaders or Sam Rainsy, and they are not equipped to deal with such large sums of money, it only confuses them.
So, obviously, we’ll be moving out of our five-story, seven-bedroom, seven-bathroom home with both sauna and swimming pool quite soon. (I tease; it is wonderful but the sauna is quite primitive and who could take it in this heat anyways. All the same: No inquiries! Sorry! It’s taken already, HE’s nephew has taken a shine to it and his family does own the country after all.)
This leaves our staff, who work and live on the premises both out of a job and out of a home. No, before you object, of course they don’t live in the house proper so they won’t expect that kind of treatment if you take them in. They live in a series of tin-roofed sheds out back that appear to be quite cozy, just like little playhouses – the same size as the plastic one set up for our children, Mandela & Ferraro, or almost that large.
We’ve arranged transport for most of them down to Stung Meanchey and outfitted them with rakes and poles so that they can try their hand at “treasure hunting” there (it sounds so romantic and exciting!) but several of them would prefer to continue on in their current fields of employ and so I’m listing them here for your perusal, in case any of you are shopping for servants:
Srey One (Yes, one not Oun, you’ll see why): Maid and “companion Khmer.” Srey One is a beautiful young woman who would make the perfect companion to any expat or the perfect addition to any expat family. She’s very well trained and attentive and loves to go on walks.
Srey Two: Srey Two (you see? we can’t pronounce her name; this is easier) is a wonderful cook who knows the interior of Lucky Supermarket by heart, because she shops there for us daily.
She can heat up all of your western favorites in the microwave, or if you’re feeling adventurous she’s fully conversant with the operation of a telephone and is just as handy with a Door2Door as she is with a can of air freshener, as one of her main duties is covering up the – pungent – aromas that arise from her more traditional cooking eaten by the other staff.
Raksmey: Rocky, for short. Rocky is our butler. He looks wonderful in a service uniform but his English is pitiful and so he does little else but open and close the door for us and our guests all day. He’s kind of a fixer-upper or charity project, to be honest, but he’ll take lower pay if it means a place to sleep at night and some clothes on his back. Keep him away from the glue! Just trust me. Far away.
Veasna: Veasna is technically a part-time employee, because he also holds rank in the Military Police (Royal Gendarmes) and he only guards us part time. He’s hardly needed since we have a fifteen foot wall with barbed wire and so forth, but it’s reassuring to know that he’s there with his automatic rifle, drinking with his friends out on the lawn whilst we slumber inside or perhaps just tooling around the block in his APV (that’s armored personnel vehicle for those of you who aren’t military buffs; he may let you take it for a spin if you give him a bottle of Mekong whiskey.)
We did run into trouble on one occasion; the gate hadn’t been secured properly and some sort of vagrant or beggar slipped inside the perimeter but before he could go three steps Veasna had winged him and he was on the run. We tried to follow the blood trail a good long ways but it ended at a sewage canal. We filed a police report and I’m sure Cambodian’s finest law enforcement officers have an APB out for him even now.
The other three dozen members of our household staff have, as mentioned previously, decided to take up a life of adventure as treasure hunters. I wish them the best of luck and truly hope that one of them strikes it rich, perhaps unearthing an ancient Khmer Buddha that had been tossed into a dumpster to make room for a highway expansion, or maybe even a pile of rare and exotic wood that some mysterious smuggler had to abandon just as he arrived in town. There are endless possibilities out there and I truly envy them and their children and other family members, young and old. The memories will last a life time, however long these people live.
Thank you all for your time and look us up if you’re in Haiti. We’re going to be renting out the old Duvalier compound until something more modern and a little larger opens up or is constructed for us. We’re already in negotiations to have some land cleared.
It will be MUCH less messy than this last time and that fiasco with the whole lake being filled in. We have it on good authority that there are no notable natural features where we’d like to build, just several hundred families squatting there with – you guessed it – no legal titles or documents or anything.
It’s the same wherever you go, their word-jumble languages or complexions might change, but their basic deficiencies in civilization remain, always, the same. So our work must continue.
Alan & Wilma Creed, Civilizers