Of cashbooks and calories

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May 26th 2006
Published: May 26th 2006
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This afternoon, I finally managed to get down to Psar Tol Tom Poung, also known more affectionately as the Russian Market. Although Nika instantly accused it of being ‘maket for tourist’, it does stock some lovely goodies which only us Westerners seem to like - crockery without beautifully kitsch puppy dogs and floral patterns favoured by the Khmer. And, yes, I was happy to pay a premium for these. Although not cheap, my little kitchen now boasts four handleless matt-green cups, a matching teapot and two dinner plates, as well as two big bowls, though these do not match as the stallowner could dig up only one of the green bowls, after a thorough search. Oh well, I thought, a quirky, unmatching crockery setting has its advantages too…

Prior to my market visit, I had spent the morning in the Happy School office going over the cashbooks and accounts, as Nika had advised me, in a panic last night over mee chaa, fried short noodles with vegetables, that she was down on her petty cash by USD1400! ‘I think my brother he stole from me again!’, she exclaimed in a distressed anger. ‘I ask him tomorrow if he took, and he will tell me’. Yeah right, I thought, as if he is going to tell her that he stole money from her.

This morning, Nika had a ‘meeting’ with Daniel, an Aussie lawyer working for the World Bank in Phnom Penh, who had become her close friend and official Happy School mentor over the years, as she wanted to find out from him what she should do and if he could help her to find the money to give back to the Happy School. By 8.30am, I was sitting across from Daniel and Nika at ‘The Shop’, a very groovy, Melbourne-style, garden-like café in the heart of the city. ‘I think this is a good job for Maria, Nika. She can check all the bills and accounts, and I think we will find the problem is not your brother afterall’, Daniel recommended. To this, Nika exclaimed that she knew it was her brother, as she had asked him last night, and he had said, yes, he had stolen USD700 from her.

Nevertheless, Daniel’s instinct was correct, and Nika was more than relieved that her brother had luckily stolen from her stash, not the school’s. The accounts spreadsheet was an absolute mess, partly do to with poor setup, partly because Nika didn’t really understand what she was punching into the computer. Not to worry. This was my specialty, having spent endless hours over this very laptop designing and updating the budgets of my father’s busy wine business. Add total columns, add formulas, remove the 12 different colours Nika had added to improve the ‘dotument’, as she affectionately calls it. Le voila, the money was lost only in theory. The account balanced nearly perfectly, out by only USD0.83 over a six month period; it was funny - Nika’s amazingly atypical style of paying and recording bills would have set my accountant into a fit over a fear that money could be pocketed left, right and centre. Yet Nika’s books reconciled like clockwork. Hmmm…

All of this brought me to a lot of thinking - thinking about my life, my decision to come to this small spot on earth, where people and values are so vastly different to what I have surrounded myself with in the past. Having said that, the dynamics here are changing very quickly. As I lie in my freshly-hung hammock under the starless sky, the Khmer lady across the street from me gains pace on her treadmill, watching cable as she counts calories. I wonder whether she thinks of her descendents as she builds up a sweat on this crispy evening. Perhaps they counted pennies instead of calories as they completed their day’s exercise by pacing up and down the filled market rows, selling sticky rice in banana leaves to keep give their children a more prosperous life. One on a treadmill, I wonder? As I watch her little feet march away, I am cognizant that I have learnt a great deal already after a mere week in this country; I am also aware, nonetheless, that I have so, so much more to learn…

X Maz


30th May 2006

Na, Hasenmax, habe ja gestern auf dem "moto" mit Deiner Freundin unter viel Giggeln gesprochen! Noch immer nix mit Flat 2, naja, gibt Schlimmeres. seit Du da bist, denke auch ich viel ueber unseren Wohlstand nach, und wenn ich nicht diese Schulden haette, waere ich schon laengst bei Dir und wuerde hier alles Stehen-und Liegenlassen! Gib nicht zu viel aus fuer Haushaltssachen, weil Du wahrscheinlich den ganzen Kram eh da lassen musst, wenn ich komme, kann ich ein paar Blechteller und Tassen oder auch Papierteller, mitbringen, und wenn ich dann auf der Terese schlafe, denke ich wenigstens, dass ich im Outback bin. Aber sternenloser Himmel???? Wie, nix???? habe gestern einen "frentic' Anruf von Richard, dem Zauntypen aus T'ville erhalten, als ich endlich nach Wochen einmal in Ruhe im K-Markt shoppen wollte. Die Firma, an die ich letzten Oktober mit Eva nach langem Verhandlen Aus $ 3000.- angezahlt hatte, ist pleite und er Liquidator schon da. Also, kann er noch schnell wenigstens die $ 3000.- an Zaunmaterial irgendwohin liefern, innerhalb TV natuerlich nur? Gut, wenn man ein so gutes verhaeltnis mit seinen tenants hat, wenn auch manchmal schwierig. Also, Kristine Riedel, alles klar...Weiss noch nicht, ob das auch geklappt hat. habe Richard gesagt, er soll die ganze Farbe fuer Anstreichen/Lasur vergessen und alles in Material bringen, und ob er vielleicht ALLES liefern kann, und ich bezahle die differenz auf "evtl. ? sein? Konto?, wenn er weiss, was ich meine? Keine Ahnung, ob er so etwas in dem ganzen Durcheinander machen konnte, und ob ich ueberhaupt etwas abbekomme. Naja, wieder etwas gelernt. Obwohl wir ja eigentlich alle niemals vorher bezahlen, oder? War nur passiert, weil wir so den preis erheblich runterdruecken konnten. Hatte mich neulich schon beim Anruf gewundert, warum sich der Name geaendert hatte und hatte so ein komisches Gefuehl! Maria, wieso kann der Bruder bei der Schule theoretisch Geld klauen? Wieso koennte er die Buecher manipulieren oder dort an cash drankommen? Ist dieser Aussie lawyer nix fuer Dich? Naja, muss noch so viel tun heute, mache mal lieber Schluss. Werde heute Abend von Eric Weiss hoeren, ob er gestern beim Syd. Haus war und die 4 verschiedenen Rasenflaechen ausgemessen hat. Er will uebrigens $ 20.- cash fuer Hilfe haben, ganz schoen viel, habe aber noch nichts dazu gesagt, erst mal abwarten! So, viele liebe Gruesse, auch an Nika, und 1000000000000000Kuesschen.Mein boyfriend ist bei seiner Mutter zu Besuch und ich habe endlich Ruhe, weiss auch nicht, wie das weitergehen soll, wahrscheinlich gar nicht.

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