I shrugged, “Something to improve the X-ray machine, it was built in the 70’s and needs all the help it can get. Thanks for smuggling this for me.”
“No problem, that’s what volunteers are for, right?
Cambodian law states that if a charity gets a donation of some item or equipment which isn’t available in Cambodia (so no oxcarts) then the charities can import it duty free. This is great, and will help charities spend their money helping people. Well it would, but it doesn’t, because corruption takes its place. Corruption has kept lifesaving medicine, and medical equipment out of the hands of those who can use them. But when corruption exists, so does a way around it. In Cambodia, that way is smuggling.
It started off small, at first I convinced volunteers, who were flying into Cambodia, to bring boxes of medicine and expensive pieces of equipment with them. They flew from England, Australia, The USA, Germany, France, Hong Kong and Singapore. Like shadows they moved with crowds of other flyers, as they heaved and dragged their overweight suitcases through the airport customs. All went well, the guards never checked their bags, the guards never check anyone’s bags.
When you succeed, success becomes the status quo, success becomes easy, and you dream big. Chalk dust covered the floor and our hands. Great, we had our plan, we had our donation, we had our team, we had two trucks and we had our opportunity.
Far away, on docks splashed by cold waters, boxes of equipment waited for us. With a wink and a smile the embassy confirmed it, they would bring them to us. A military ship, stacked with automatic rifles, boxes of grenades, and enough ammunition to supply an army would look away as unreported boxes disappeared.
“Eric, Eric, Eric, Why didn’t you pick up your phone.”
“Because I was sleeping,” my voice scathing.
“They moved the boxes.”
“What?” I tried to shake the dream from my mind, it was Saturday morning and last night had been a party.
“The boxes, the equipment, they’re on a plane now, they are flying here, they will land soon.”