13 March 2010

All in a Week's Work

As I look over my journal to get an overview of this past week, I see alot of lists.  The lists changed from day to day, sometimes because the work was accomplished and we could move on to next steps; other times spanners were thrown into the works, which necessitated a change in tack; sometimes things got carried over from day to day because we just couldn't finish.

On Day One, I sat down with Jennifer, the store designer, and got the lay of the land.  The goal was to open the store as soon as possible. A list was already in place in order to make this happen, but without someone on-site to manage the work, nothing was being accomplished.  There were willing workers but there was no leader.  Kind of like sheep without a shepherd.

So, there was this huge pile of garbage outside directly in front of the store.  What do we need to do to get it removed, was the first question.  Inside the store, there was 1000 square feet of ceramic tile that was dirty & paint-splattered and badly needed cleaned.  There were paint touch-ups on the walls, fixtures that needed to be painted, over 100 wooden coat hangers that had been painted but didn't look great.  And garbage was strewn everywhere.

It seemed easy enough to start painting.  But the brushes weren't great--more craft brushes than paint brushes--and while I discovered that there was one roller, there was no paint tray for it.  How does one paint with a roller without a tray to roll it in?  Well, apparently, there are two methods:

  • dip the roller in the paint and then brush the excess off; roll on the wall but with lots of drips & paint running down your wrist

  • dip the brush in the paint and apply to the roller; roll off on the lid of the paint pail but pick up flecks of dried paint in the process which then have to be removed from the wall
Another problem with painting.  We had one roller but were using two colours.  This meant that only one person could paint at a time, leaving two more standing around waiting.  Not very efficient.

Let me interject at this point and be very clear.  I found all of this rather humourous, so this is not a rant or a complaint, merely an overview of the things I experienced this week.  I was blessed with some great help in the form of a young Khmer man named Rath (pronounced Rat), who was more than willing to do anything I asked and would ask if there was anything he could help with when finished his task.  His English isn't great but we've had some great chats.  Today, he told me he was singing two songs in church on Sunday.  When I asked him which songs, he simply replied, "Christian songs".  That made me chuckle!

I began to think we were actually making some headway on Wednesday when we started cleaning the floors off, but the smell was absolutely acrid.  I immediately recognized it as the acid that Dave used to use to unclog drains!  So, there was Rath and his brother, with their shirts tied around their faces and no shoes on their feet dripping this stuff on the floor, then walking through it, hunkering down and scrubbing!  The bottoms of their feet must be like leather because this chemical burns!  But at the end of the day the floor had been thoroughly cleaned.  It just needed a good washing to remove the residue.

However, progress was not to continue.  The tile at the back of the store, near the spa area, consisted of two different patterns and Ruth, the director of Daughters, wasn't happy with it.  Enter new tile, a pile of sand and cement mix.  Needless to say, a large mess ensued, bringing any further floor cleaning to a halt.  So, I returned to painting fixtures.  By this time, I had located a paint store and purchased a couple of paint trays, along with two decent brushes and two small rollers.  This certainly improved the painting efforts.  Rath was very impressed with the small rollers & the roller tray!

Huntley Street has a film crew here at the moment filming a documentary on the work that Ratanak is involved in.  Brian had the idea that "maybe" they could do a little segment on the Daughters store.  This was fantastic motivation for getting the front of the store cleaned up!  Garbage removal is not routine here in Phnom Penh and you generally have to arrange for it yourself--no curbside pick-up!  But removed it was and the outside began to improve.  Too bad we won't be part of the documentary!  They didn't have time to do it.

Next step in outside improvements was to clean the plate glass store front.  Rath and I set about this yesterday after I made my second independent shopping trip in Phnom Penh.  I went to Lucky Mart, a Western-style grocery store, and purchased Windex, shop towels, floor cleanser, and some chamois-like cleaning cloths.  It's very cool to get into a tuk-tuk (the motorbike taxis) and give them an itinerary, then getting driven around the city--a great way to sight-see, but not for the faint-of-heart!  It took us about an hour to clean both sides of the window but it was very gratifying when one of the neighbouring business owners (a wood carver) gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up when he saw us working!  It is so clean that today, when I was going to dump a bucket of water at the curb, I banged right into it!  Fortunately, it didn't break!!  And I'm okay, too!

So, by the end of today, we are in pretty good shape.  The new tile is not only installed but completely cleaned; the front of the store has had all of it's painting done, including fixtures.  All of the fixtures are in the shop area, albeit pushed to one side because only half of the floor has been washed--no point in washing all of it until the new tiling had been finished.  The spa area is cleaned.  For next week, some painting & floor cleaning are all that's left.

Every night I have come back to the hotel grimy, sweaty and bone tired.  But I've also been completely contented.  Remember back to my post about my requirements, one of which was to be doing something I was completely incapable of performing?  Well, on the surface it may look like this is something exactly up my alley and in terms of the actual work, it is.  But there is something deeper going on here.  Ruth, the director of Daughters, has begun to put her trust in us because we have been able to accomplish what she was afraid might not get done.  Organizations such as Ratanak and Daughters are very dependent on volunteers to achieve their objectives, but not all volunteers prove to be as reliable as might be hoped.  Gaining Ruth's trust isn't something I could have gained on my own at all.  God placed both me and Bonny in a position where we now have some credibility, which means she will be more open to anything else that we might be able to offer.

It's amazing what God can accomplish when we are willing to do the task He sets before us, even if it is just washing floors!

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