Friday, December 08, 2006

Troy Checks In

I feel just like this guy. Wednesday I went to Port-au-Prince. It was actually a very successful trip because I followed the most important rules for doing business in Port:

Rule #1) Do not assume that you will actually get anything done.

Rule #2) Just because a business exists, that does not necessarily mean that
a) they want your money and will do business with you
b) they actually have the products they supposedly sell
c) you will be able to find the business at all
oh, and
d) they will be able to take your form of payment, make change, and complete any transaction without 40 or so people being involved.

Armed with this knowledge, I did pretty well.

First stop, Haytian Tractor, where the new generator was purchased. This is the Caterpillar dealership in Haiti, and a very large and reputable business. Supposedly. Then I tried to buy an oil filter for the generator we've had for a little more than a month. (Oh, yeah- I tried this last week too and spent over two hours there and ended up leaving with two oil filters that will not fit the generator...the generator that I purchased from this store.)

So, after an hour or so of trying to get the incorrect filters returned, I began the arduous task of explaining that I would actually like to change the oil in this new machine and I kind of expected that the dealership from which it was purchased would be able to supply the necessary parts to make that happen. Silly me.

Once I reached the parts manager (after the first two employees informed me that our generator doesn't exist, even with serial numbers and part time I'll bring pictures) I found out that the part number for the oil filter has been changed - thus the confusion - and fortunately he found the index card buried in a pile on his desk with the new number recorded on it. Upon searching the inventory on the 1968 monochromatic computer screen, we learned that there was one in stock. I grinned and heard the Hallelujah chorus. An hour later, the stock boy gave up on searching the warehouse, came to the desk I was waiting at, and shrugged. Then he walked away. I just smiled, since I am familiar with the rules. There was good news though: There are 33 of said filters on order and being shipped to Haiti. The order was placed on September 9th, and according to the parts manager, "they should have been here over a month ago". Reassuring? Not so much.

I left happy that I'd been able to return the first two filters. That way it only felt like one step back and two steps forward, instead of the other way around.

Next stop, Eko Depot. This is the Home Depot of Haiti, complete with the orange and tan and warehouse atmosphere. Not quite the same selection, but for Haiti, it's like dying and going to Handyman Heaven. I previously had acquired a "proforma" (Haitian business-speak for bid) on a large amount of electrical supplies we need for the medical clinic. I called ahead to be sure the items on the proforma were still available and in stock. I was assured that they were. Once again...not so much. I was able to get about half of the stuff, and that is once again counted as a success. Remember Rule #1.

I stumbled onto a Napa auto parts store quite by accident, and was shocked to find the oil I've been scouring the countryside for that I need for the generator. Not the filters of course, but you wouldn't believe how exciting it is to find four gallons of 15W-40 motor oil from a company whose name you recognize. Usually, the only thing you can find easily is straight 40-weight oil from some questionable brand that I'd never heard of before moving here. Not exactly what the owner's manual of the high-tech machine calls for. That alone made the day a success. Then I asked about the oil filters I need for our two trucks, and really hoping hard for this one - the generator. I was basically told to refer to Rule 2a, 2b, and eventually had to experience 2d before I could get out of there.

After that success, I went downtown to try and buy the lights we need to replace on our pickup truck. That experience is a whole other blog story of its own, so you'll have to wait. Long story short - I hurried out of there after giving up due to frustration and traffic and yelling and a general sense that my missing lights were soon to be the least of my problems.

The grocery shopping after that was pretty uneventful, and then I had a nice visit with our friend and pastor John. He had great fun at my expense as I recounted the events of the day for him.

Thursday I enjoyed staying here at the mission and playing the role of electrician, plumber, guidance counselor, hall monitor, car mechanic, and executive chef. Other than nearly flooding out the medical clinic, it all went well and felt like a successful day.

Today/Friday, however - that's another story...

Back to Port to "finish" the items from Wednesday. I went to bed last night reciting Rule #1 praying for safe travels. I'll also be looking for a food distributor that has the chicken breasts and other tasty meats available...I'm pretty much counting on a Rule #2c on that one.

When I get home from Port, I pack my mule and head for the hills with Pastor Rony.