Learning to wait

19 juillet 2010

Today the Kombi will get lighter ; we will remove the engine. One of the best qualities of a volkswagen vehicle is that you can remove the entire engine by only removing 4 bolts. It’s a one piece unit. And you need 15 minutes to do it. The other great plus is that they’re air cooled, which means no water. The maintenance is way easier than other cars, and they are very resilient if you keep an eye on them.

Mechanics in Afghanistan don’t have necessarily the same concept of ’’cleaning’’ as we can have. This is a little exotic touch at the first glance but it turns quickly into a big nervous breakdown in reality. How can you stand spending half of your time looking for lost tools ? Every two minutes you need something that is not where it should be and these are tools that are half dead and sometimes broken. Screw drivers that turn around the handle, pliers that never really grip.

You work straight on the ground in the vicious dust that goes everywhere when the wind blows. You clean with filthy, oily rags that don’t clean anymore, you use stones to stop the car from moving...... Difficult to stay calm in this atmosphere, these techniques reveal more the negligence of the process than anything else.

I have some trouble to believe that my bus will leave this ’’workshop’’ in better shape than when it arrived. The team is nice though, and I believe that if I show up everyday to work with them, everything will be fine, the engine will stay there in this kingdom of messiness.

We will work on it as soon as I receive the spare parts, nicely sent by Serial Kombi


I remove everything that I can from the frame ( windows, handles, door locks, bumper, seat...), the bus needs to be naked to go to the painter. His workshop is located just behind the mechanics one. Perfect.
Let’s focus now on the spare parts : Pascal the owner of Serial Kombi, my sponsor on this Journey, sent me everything I need to restore : brakes, door locks, electricity and engine. According to the shipping company it normally takes 4 days to ship a 25 kg box from France to Afghanistan with UPS service. Ok let’s see, I hope this will work as well as they “pretend”. I decide to find out where the UPS office is in Kabul, but there is no contact for UPS in Afghanistan. Nothing on their website, no office, no one knows about them.... Great I haven’t received the parts and it’s been more than four days ! When I look online to track the package it says that the box is “on hold” in Dubai.

I finally find the contact in Dubai, and they explain to me that they don’t know where the box is, but they have a phone number in Kabul. Awesome ! I love this situation. Step by step I learn that UPS is working with a sub contractor in Kabul, so they don’t have a real office nor personal plane to go back and forth between Kabul and Dubai. Basically UPS is a team of two people in Afghanistan. (For anyone looking for work, perhaps UPS Kabul is hiring. . .). I call these people and I learn that after having lost track of the box for a while they have found it again. But there is no room in a plane to take it from Dubai to Kabul for now.

UPS uses empty space in other companies plane to make their delivery in Afghanistan. SO they have to wait for free room available.
‘’Farda Inchallah,’’ is the trendy response that I get everyday and it basically means, “maybe tomorrow,” but on the 8th day...
I receive this phone call and the man says my spare parts are here in Kabul ! Freedom !!! I mean sort of. The company in Dubai sent copies of airway bills and the custom clearance can only be done with the originals….. Can you believe that ? Each step bring a new problem and there are always 5 or 6 steps…

In the workshop the engine is waiting, waiting lonely, it gets covered day after by new parts from other cars and dust…
On the 9th day, customs received all the papers to start the process. Only three days more and it should be done, they said. Let’s see.
On the 12th day an other phone call, this one is the good one, they will come this afternoon to deliver the box to my door. A dash of luxury in this endless race is really appreciated.
How great it is to see the pick up coming right up to my door. The driver invites me to pick up the box on the back of the car. 55 pounds that I can confirm by lifting it.
 Then I feel something hitting my feet. Some bolts are falling from the package.
There’s a long scratch on the bottom of the box. . .

If I would have been in India, I would have put myself in meditation to stay really calm, Here I give the driver 170 dollars for the taxes and go home to take inventory, hoping that there is not too many missing parts.

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