Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Bad Hair Days & The Kindness of Strangers.

Ok, so the Pollanna smile has slipped a bit.

Turns out that was only the beginning.

On Sunday night, just as I had finished putting the children to bed, washed up, made sandwiches for the next day, I sat down at the computer (still get a little frisson, being able to say that, after 8 mths without) And the power went off. Probably just as well, or I'd have seen photos of my husband posing outside the temples at Angkor Wat. Looking very happy. And curiously relaxed.

The power stayed off till 11 a.m on Monday: which meant I cdn't shower and wash my hair (again) The water works on an electric pump. We have a reserve tank on the roof, but too much of a trickle to power the shower.

Oh, but then there was Sunday night, I almost forgot. It went like this:
Midnight: My son wakes me up crying because he's scared of the dark (no lights , power cut remember?) So he climbs into my bed (I know, plse don't quote the 'Mores of Successful Child Rearing' to me)

1a.m Daughter wakes me up saying she's had a bad dream. So she climbs into my bed.

3 a.m Daughter falls out of bed. Manages to stay securely in her single bed, night after night. However, the night she decides to join me in the king size bed, she falls out.

4.30 a.m Woken again. Daughter thirsty this time.

5.30 a.m Thunder and lightning begin again, in earnest, waking me up.

Daughter still has a fever and has added diarrhoea into the equation, so no school, but she still has to come with me to the Government Car Registration Bureau. this is not all bad, as a friend told me being female and blonde might speed my application process, so I figure a sick, sniffling child might swing it further in my favour. It's a tried and tested method in many countries.

It starts off surprisingly well, I mean we are offered a chair to sit on, there are not too many sharpened elbows in action. It seems almost civilised, there's even a system of sorts. We have a booth number and wait for it to vacate. A man is even keeping watch on who's where in the queue.

I have all 7 documents the previous official said we needed to register the car in our name, plus all the documents notarised by a lawyer, even power of attorney given me by my kind husband so I can collect the documents for him. And be allowed to drive it. However once speaking to the (new) official, we are told the car needs a 'physical' and we don't have it. Essentially the same as a human physical. The MOT certificate was not good enough.

I tried to argue that we had been told all the documents were in place and I had everything I needed. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread...

The Albanian who took me said this is quite normal, the drip feeding of information, so that you have to go away, get whatever else is needed, and then return and begin again. . I'm told it's no good trying to be clever and asking exactly what each and every document you need is, before you go, or even whilst there.

This seems to happen in so many bureaucratically constipated developing nations. Happened to us all the time in Sri Lanka. Also what you need seems to change between visits, sometimes originals, sometimes photocopies. In Albania, every photocopy has to be taken to a lawyer to be notarised.

So we went away. As my daughter really wasn't very well, my husband's Albanian work colleague, bless her, took my car, got its physical done, it was given a clean bill of health, and she took the papers back again alone. I won't go into what we had to do to get THAT arrangement accepted by the official. Suffice to say NO money passed hands.... She brought the car back, and was going to collect the document for me the next day. So actually it wasn't that bad. I went once, this colleague will have been 4 times in total on our behalf. for which I am truly grateful. And she does this stuff every day as part of her admin job for M's NGO. Poor woman.

This morning. I was teaching at my son's school, so had to drop my daughter off, then drive to school with my son. The power was still off. Managed a chilly wash in shower dribble. Still haven't washed hair though. Government official probably wouldn't even acknowledge me as a blonde in my current state.

7.31a.m Pouring with rain STILL. We all jump in the car, I switch on. Nothing. our car which passed its medical with flying colours, only yesterday afternoon, has died.

I immediately call the school, and say that, although yes, we have bought a car which we've had for 4 whole days, it has, in fact, snuffed it, and could I have a lift from the caretaker after all? (our previous arrangement) I am teaching there for free, so I don't feel too bad.

Then I call my husband's work, and ask the colleague (who in fact killed my car) if she could send one of the drivers over to help me.

Meanwhile, unnoticed in this organisational flurry, my landlord steps out of his door, staggering under the weight of a car battery, asks me to open the bonnet, armed with spanner, unscrews my battery, a few sparks fly, puts his spare in and says "off you go, you'll be fine now". All well and good. Mini-crisis over. Car risen from the dead.

Now all I had to do was undo all the contingency plans I had just made.

I arrived at school 45 mins late for my son, and 1 min before my 1st lesson began. However, it was fine, as I had that tried and tested method of all experienced teachers, firmly in my grasp. Winging it.

The power stayed off most of the day, but hey it's on now, I've had my computer fix, and now I must go and make use of the oven whilst I have electricity and make some chocolate brownies for my landlord. And then of course, I MUST wash my hair.

1 comment:

Iota said...

Are you hoping that if you can wash your hair, you will guarantee no more bad hair days? I think relying on the kindness of strangers might be a better bet.