Asia, Cars, Culture, Food, Funny, Garden, Summer, Travel

Cabbage Cartel

My hair smells like cabbage.

Actually, everything about me smells like cabbage. 

I’ve gone from Kimchi Princess to Cabbage Patch Kid. 

So, I’ll go ahead and answer the question everyone has been asking. How exactly did I end up surrounded by cabbage on a van from Laos to Cambodia?

Well, the real answer starts back in 2013. I went on a trip to Cambodia then and saw the establishment of the first BMA church there. I became friends with the believers there and have kept up with them since. So, when I found out that we weren’t far from their border here in Laos, I asked if we could go visit.

I have crossed land borders before. We’ve driven to Canada, and that one is pretty easy. We drove from Jordan into Israel. That one was a little bit tougher because of the high security, but still okay. But, as I was told: Laos to Cambodia is a whole different story.

We were told our van would arrive at 8 am to pick us up. Joy had warned me that it would be an “interesting” experience. 8 am and we’re waiting. As I see vans pull up, I ask Joy: is that the one? To which she kept responding, that one looks pretty nice, that one is pretty new.. Which made me wonder what exactly I had gotten myself into. And what exactly our van was going to look like.

Finally, at 8:40 am, it arrived. Looking okay, not bad at all, a little dusty, but that’s to be expected around here. Then, they opened the door.

A Lao-Vietnamese family occupied the first row of seats. As the door opened, they all gave a sort of amused look like: you’re riding in here? The second row was to be occupied by Joy and I… And cabbage. 

So. Much. Cabbage.

The driver gets in the back to start re-arranging and makes just enough room for us. I look at the floor and look at Joy, trying to figure out where to step. And finally, as the driver is getting out, I realize that I’m just supposed to step on the cabbage. Because what else is there to do?

We settle in for the ride. It’s about two hours of pretty good roads to the border. Along the way, I notice, we stopped to hand off some money to a man in a uniform. I thought possibly it was some sort of toll system. So, I asked Joy why we randomly had stopped in the middle of the road. She informed me that these are passenger vans only and not allowed to haul any type of goods. But, our driver has a friend (the man in the uniform) who will look in, make sure we only have passengers (and not 700 pounds of cabbage), take some money, put it in his pocket, and let us pass on by. Seems okay to me. 

About an hour or so in, we stop for a bathroom break. Which looks like this.

We continue on our way, smelling more and more like the produce aisle as we go along. We arrive at the border, where I have to get a Cambodian visa. While I am waiting, I notice the van door has been opened and the driver is ripping into a bag of the cabbage., the one that was at Joy’s feet nearest the door. He hands off six heads of cabbage to a man on a motorbike, who stacks them all in front of him, balancing one on top of the other, and takes off. He starts passing out a few more to the men at the border, which they all happily accept. I finally get all my paperwork filled out, get stamped through, then, we hop back in the cabbage wagon and take off again. 

The roads get more treacherous to navigate as soon as we enter Cambodia. Causing a lot of bouncing around. There are no seat belts, of course, so its hard to anchor yourself to any one thing. We arrive in Stung Treng, which is our transit town where we switch vans. As we unload our stuff at the stop and say goodbye to the cabbage van, all I can think is: what will we be hauling next?

Auto, Cars, Craft

Learning Curve

There always comes a time in life where the road meets the rubber. Or in my case, where the needle meets the needle plate. Except when the needle can’t meet the needle plate. Or when you’re learning to drive a standard and having trouble getting the road and rubber to meet. Which would both be the case with me.

Re-learning to drive...

Re-learning to drive…

I take most of our orders for screenprinting and embroidery, especially since January when we hired my dad and I became permanently chained to the inbox. However, my brother will occasionally take an order, without my knowledge. Which is fine. Until he tells a customer I can do something for them that I don’t know how to do. It is at this point that I get a little flustered. Because learning new things is difficult. Especially when you are on a timeline and have someone wanting to pay you to do said new thing to a high standard of quality. Not ideal circumstances to learn. But, no one asked me. Obviously.

Embroidering hats

Embroidering hats

I have finally become proficient at running the embroidery machine. It is a single head with 15 needles and on most days, we get along just fine with one another. But, with 20 hats with puff embroidery thrown in the mix about ended our relationship.

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Puff embroidery is a new ballgame. It is essentially taping craft foam onto a cap and sewing over it to create a raised effect. Sounds pretty simple, but there are a lot of technicalities that are unaccounted for. So after a few phone calls to a technical support line (me and Juan, the phone operator, now know each other on a first name basis and I have an open invitation to dinner if I am ever in the Houston area) and endless explanations for why my machine was acting up, I got it right.

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I wish I could say I’d mastered driving in the same way. I can do it, I just need a lot of practice. So, my practice course of choice? A dirt road. Good decision, not much traffic. But, a dirt road that ends with a hill that pulls out onto the highway on a corner: bad decision. I put the clutch in, had the brake down, and when I judged it was clear, I let the brake and clutch off and slammed on the gas. Which resulted in some major gravel slinging and the tires taking off out from under themselves and nearly landing me in the opposite ditch. So, I’m basically as good as I expected I’d be.

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But, I am getting better. And eventually, I’ll get really good at it. It might take awhile, but I’ll get there. In the words of one of my missionary friends: life’s about the journey, not the destination. So, I’m gonna keep learning new things even when it’s hard and avoid hills in a standard at all costs.

Auto, Cars, Travel

Jeepers Creepers

Remember how we were talking about how I get weird job assignments, like organizing kindergarten signatures? Well, I think this might top that.

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I always hope that my brother gets a good nights sleep. #1: I have to work with him, so I don’t want to deal with any crankiness. #2: we run a business together, so when everyone is well rested, we are more productive, and productivity = profitability. #3 (and this might be the most important): if he wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep, he’ll sometimes do “research” and end up buying things we don’t need. Our eBay account is linked to my email address and I woke up to this notification on my phone.

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We have been talking about needing a better delivery vehicle because shoving 15+ boxes of shirts in my Honda is getting a little tiresome. And, we have talked about a Jeep. But, we hadn’t talked about buying one (sight unseen) from an eBay auction. Only a small detail, right? Well, that’s what we ended up with. A 1990 Jeep that was used by the National Forestry department in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri.

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Three other small details that weren’t mentioned. #1: the Jeep is located in southeast Missouri. #2: the Jeep is a manual. #3: neither of us know how to drive a standard. But why dwell on the small details?

Missouri has a reputation around here. I live close to the border on the southwest side, so depending on who you talk to, you’ll get varying opinions. When the man selling the Jeep called to ask if we would trade part of the cost on the vehicle for three feeder pigs, I knew exactly the type of person we were dealing with. So, I spent my morning calling all the local pig farms I knew of to see when they’d have some feeder pigs ready. Unfortunately (or probably fortunately), all the pigs still needed a few weeks until they were ready. Hauling three squealing pigs across the state isn’t really my idea of a great time anyway.

The man selling this Jeep has quite a story. Unfortunately, he is not the most politically correct individual, so most of his stories, I can’t repeat. I’ll summarize: he got hit by a semi-truck while walking near the highway (yes, this is actually a true story) and has continued to fall on hard times and that was his reason for selling the Jeep. When we showed up to his place (with more “over the bridge and past the barn” directions), he informed us that the neighbor had recently killed his son-in-law (three shots: two in the back and one in the head) and was now in prison. He also informed us that he hadn’t seen or heard anything. Yes, this is still a true story. So, obviously, I really wanted to stick around and hear all the rest of his stories. Plus, he had a bathtub in his front yard. I feel like that speaks for itself.

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We’re not tire kickers, so after a few minutes of looking under the hood and firing it up, we were ready to make a deal. While he was getting the paperwork together, he continued telling stories about run ins with game wardens, planting green beans, the time he rode a bicycle to a city 50 miles from there to get a job, how he got fired from said job, and ended up back on his grandparents farm, and is trying to get everything back up and running (the motor for his truck was sitting on his porch). I don’t know how I get so lucky to come across characters like him and why they feel the need to tell their life stories, but all I know is I run into a lot of them and they’re all more interesting than the last. So, moral of the story: never judge a house by the bathtub sitting in the front yard or a Jeep by it’s previous owner.

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