Monday, June 17, 2019

The bucket

So a few months ago now,  we were having power cuts and water issues like many people in our city. I set out to find some large bowls to hand-wash laundry in, in case it got worse, and we wouldn't be able to use our washing machine, and on my way out the door Chris asked me to try to get a big bucket (think larger trash can) to fill up with water in one of our bathrooms so we would have water if we lost most of our water pressure as things got worse. Then we would have water for bucket showers and toilet flushing etc. So I ran to the supermarket because I didn't really know where else to go. I found the tubs for hand-washing clothes I was looking for, but no bucket.

On my way to the super market I had a very friendly tuk tuk driver, who was so happy to have an American customer that spoke Khmer, we chatted all the way there, and I paid him and said good bye. Then when I called a tuk tuk on my app to come get me, it was him! (this rarely if ever happens) He laughed at me for getting a tuk tuk to go so close to my house and the fact that I didn't buy very much, telling me I could have driven my moto (scooter). I explained that I had planned to buy this big bucket for water, but they didn't have any. He then exclaimed that he knew where to get one and it wasn't very far away. He would take me! (Now the thing about wonderful, helpful tuk tuk drivers like him, is it is hard to tell them no, and it is hard to convince them that you can do it later.) So I obliged and off we went to a small local market nearby that I don't know very well. He stopped at one shop asked if they had any of these buckets, and they did not. Stopped at another and they had them! Yay! So I jumped out and talked with the shop owner. She only had the second to biggest buckets and the largest lids. So I could get a bucket and  come back later for the lid... I agreed, and the price was probably double what it would normally be, but I knew we needed it, I knew everyone was buying them, and that this might just be THE price now. So I paid it and brought it home. The tuk tuk driver was proud of himself for helping me, but shocked it was so expensive, and told me all the way home. I paid him, and thanked him.

I brought my new found bucket with no lid into the house, with my washing tubs, and Chris asked me what I had bought. He was surprised by the price, and that it didn't have a lid. I confidently told him that I would go back the next week and pick up the lid as she assured me they would have them next week. Now these kind of errands are hard. She doesn't speak any English and I don't quite have the vocabulary for this area of life. So even buying the bucket is like I want one of these (pointing at  a small bucket) but bigger. She asking me in Khmer, that I only understand about half of, and me saying yes, assuming it is what I meant. Then her bringing out the bucket but no lid. Me asking where is the thing that goes on top? (because I don't know the word for lid) Her saying the word for lid and asking if that is what I mean, me shrugging and nodding because I think so. Then her telling me about the lids, and me guessing she means she doesn't have them but will. She gives me her number to call her in a few days to see if she has them yet, which I take knowing full well I will not be calling it, because phone conversations in a second language are hard,but maybe I can get Chris to do it. I leave wondering if I will ever get a lid for the bucket.

So for a week I put this trip back to this little shop off. Chris presses me a bit that I really should go back. I assure him that he could go, I could tell where. (Obviously he doesn't want to either) Clearly I know I don't have all the language skills I need to do this easily, and if she isn't there, or doesn't remember me, I have to start all over with talking like a 3 year old and pointing and trying to explain what I am looking for. I work up the courage, and I head back on my moto this time. I get there and my biggest fear is coming true, she isn't there her husband is, and the shop is busy. (Sellers are much more patient when with my Khmer when they are not busy naturally) So I wait a bit, and summon the courage to head in. I tell the husband that I bought one of those (pointing at the bucket) the week before but didn't get one of the things that goes on top, because they didn't have them, and the lady had told me I could come get one this week. He looks at me confused. I wonder if what I said made any sense at all. Then he smiles and says oh yeah, not yet. You have to wait. However the way he said it was unsure if I needed to wait like 5-10 mins and his wife would be back. Or if they hadn't received any yet and I needed to wait like another week. So confused I let him get to other customers and headed out to my moto, where I then sit for 5-10 mins replaying the conversation in my head trying to decide do I stay? Or do I go? What does he expect me to do? His shop quiets down, and he walks out to the front to see me still sitting there. He asks me if I need something else. I then ask him, so do you have the thing or not? He then explains to me again (much more patiently) that they haven't come in yet, and I needed to come back another day. Also offers to take my name and phone number and call me when they come. So we stumble through me spelling my name in Khmer, and giving my phone number, and I leave. I buy a few fruit and veggies on the way and go home.

I walk in the door and Chris says no lid huh? I say yup, and I don't think we will get one. We both laugh, and are still waiting for him to call me. Have I gone back to ask about my lid again? Nope. Why, because it feels overwhelming, I don't want them to feel bad for not having it, and if it is someone different I may have the same exhausting experience again. So we have a bucket for water with no lid, and it has been working just fine. It is also a great reminder of all the things we still have learn living in a country, language, and  culture different than the one we grew up in. 

You may be thinking oh that's just one thing, and you would be so wrong. It is many things, and these things happen daily. Sometimes they are worth pushing through, and sometimes like this lid they are not. To be honest that is ok too.


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