Last night was rental night. Up until now we have had no problems. In fact, we have only paid rent 3 times thus far at The Compound, so there has been no opportunity for any discrepancies and at any rate, I keep ( and have always kept ) a meticulous journal of rent and utility payments for all our Phnom Penh apartments and landlords to avoid any grey areas. So last night Panha ( our landlord ) comes over and I pay him the $800 for the last two months. I point out a few things that need fixing which he notes and says he will get onto and as I am about to head off to the fridge for a tinny, I hear the words ” You owe me $400″. What ensued over the next few hours was hilarious,frustrating, stressful and in the end, educational.
Without boring you with the nitty gritty ( Jeff..I’ll tell you when you get back over a few Zoroks), on the last payment cycle, we asked Panha if Leakhana and I could just pay 2 months in advance rather than the three we had been paying previously. He very kindly agreed however Vattey and Jeff still paid their 3 month advance ( we all basically pay together as it is a single lease ) and therein lied the confusion for Panha because it effectively put the two compound families on different pay months. He just could not get his head around the fact that we (Leakhana and I) were now paying bi-monthly and that actually, everything was on track. He had his journal, I had my journal. We sat down in Jeff’s apartment and Panha wrote down the payment cycles and how much had been paid and by whom and to whom and I did the same. Our calculations and details were identical and my journal even showed where Panha had signed off on our rent
payments !. I tried to simplify to Panha , Vatey and Leakhana as much as possible but the more we talked about it the more they got confused. Eventually,babies started crying and we decided to reconvene when everyone had had a chance to research further.
So Leakhana, Vatey and I go back to our apartment and sit down ( by now I am guzzling Zorok in an effort to stay “cool”). I get out a big piece of paper and clearly explain to both the wives exactly what has gone on each payment cycle and the ask them slowly and calmly if they understand and if they don’t to please ask me / tell me where they are disconnecting – and remember, the wives are trying to read everything ( numbers, dates etc ) in English which is not their first language so I am very patient with them and also proud they are persisting. Eventually I can see the lights going on and then they say ” ok…we get it..lets ring Panha”. I ask the wives if they are sure they do not want to wait until tomorrow and they say ” nope….good to go”. Panha is called and arrives soon enough and within a minute he says ” I am very sorry…I now understand completely where I was getting confused, you do not owe me any money etc”. PHEW !! Hands are shook with big smiles and Panha heads off.
Now I write about this trivial daily incident for several reasons. Firstly, I have to say that our landlord continues to prove that he is a very solid and likeable guy. We have had nothing but fair dealings with him and Panha always comes to the party if things need fixing or if we have small quirky barang requests. Signing up with a landlord in Phnom Penh is like playing the lottery and thus far, we are winning. Secondly, I am very proud of myself for not losing my temper or walking out even when it seemed I could not explain the simplest of situations and was staring down the barrel of a $400 robbery. As the negotiations unfolded, I remained very conscious of what I have learned in Cambodia time and time again ( but have not always applied) and that is, if you lose your temper- it will not get you anywhere . Remaining level headed was made easier by the fact that a) I knew Panha was a good guy and would eventually see the light b) I KNEW 100% I WAS RIGHT ! and c) A 6 pack of Zorok .
Even though in true Khmer style it took a couple of sit-downs and many waving hands and everyone to have a say…..eventually all was well and no-one was left with mud on their face. Big pats on the backs to the wives too. They persisted in the middle of confusion and Leakhana was sick with a very sore squeaky throat and still went to bat.