Fieldset
Post 8: Checks and Balances

Well, 4 weeks later I am still in cholera country.  What were originally instructions to “go check it out for a few days to ensure the watsan components are in place” has turned into a month of building fences and latrines, setting up tents, negotiating with donkey-cart owners for water transport

Well, 4 weeks later I am still in cholera country.  What were originally instructions to “go check it out for a few days to ensure the watsan components are in place” has turned into a month of building fences and latrines, setting up tents, negotiating with donkey-cart owners for water transport, choking on fumes as I distribute chlorine powder to health centers and trying to win over hygienists so they will clean vomit buckets on their own initiative.   Not all has been successful….but overall I can say that things are now pretty much “in place”.

Over the last month, I have had to make a lot of random local purchases….kerosene, buckets, beds, wood, brooms, etc.  And of course,  I always need a receipt so that our administrator can balance the books.  Usually, after asking for a receipt half a dozen times and receiving a seemingly positive reply but no actual receipt, the driver intervenes in Arabic.

Sometimes, for example the flasks of kerosene set up on the side of the road, the concept of a receipt is so foreign that I just scribble my purchase and the date on a blank page in my notebook and rip it out at the end of the day to give to our administrator.  Often, the less-than-entrepreneurial merchant searches around and pulls out a dusty old receipt book.   In some cases, he fills it out and gives it to me, as would be expected.  More often than not, though, he hands it to me and I fill in all the details, presumably because he cannot write French (or at all???).  He then very officially, distinguishably and dramatically, signs and stamps the receipt, having no idea what I have written.

Local kerosene enterprise. No receipt.

In one case, after haggling and bargaining and arriving at the still-inflated price of about $60 for some water barrels, I asked for a receipt and the storekeeper asked me what amount I would like him to write on it!!!  Am I a fool to think that he should write $60?