Monday, July 31, 2017

How to get a Cambodian birth certificate after a home birth

Hi all, this is Benjamin popping in talking about the baby popping out.  Dad joke there.
Having gone through getting a baby registered outside the US before in a somewhat (UAE), I knew it could be done, but HOW was the question.  

First, I asked around after we got here because all the old online advice basically said “Go to Thailand” - I figured babies were born here all the time, no big deal.  The wrench in the works was that the midwife was coming and we’d be having a homebirth.  After talking with some people who I thought had connections, (and perhaps do, in areas not related to homebirth,) my mind was at ease.  Have the baby, then deal with the paperwork.
I was told “easy - just go to Calmette Hospital after the baby is born and they will issue you a certificate, even if the baby is born at home.”  Let me tell you folks, this is NOT the case.  My wife and the midwife showed up with me and we carried that baby all over the hospital right up to the director’s office and the answer was always a look of utter confusion and resounding "NO."  While we were waiting, I decided to call the US Embassy line, as I was a bit flummoxed.  In hindsight, maybe we should have done that before :)  A quick call cleared it all up - Calmette was not the place to be.  I’ll never forget the look on director’s assistant’s face when she came back out in the hall for what had to be the fifth time, expecting me to argue with her yet again, only to have me thanking her for her time and wishing her a nice day.

Basically, we had to have the following things:
1 - Get an affidavit from the midwife (or other witness) saying the baby was born at home, what time, etc. with signature and thumbprint (they do that for everything here).  If the baby is born at a hospital, this part is unnecessary and makes #2 easier.  Everything else is the same.
2 - Take that to the sangkat (local commune) office to issue a local birth certificate.  This has to be done before baby is 30 days old.  I went with the baby and midwife and had a Khmer friend on standby who I could call to translate. That turned out to be highly necessary.  Ultimately I paid $30 to the officer at the sangkat with no receipt. I’ll let you figure out what that means.
3 - Get that birth certificate translated officially from Ministry of Foreign Affairs (I think) into English - we got several copies.  Cost about $15 - had a friend at work who knew someone there.  Relationships are super important here!
4 - Show up at US Embassy to make sure documents were all in order - then have them issue an actual appointment date.
5 - Have the appointment at US Embassy, pay for CRBA and passport - $210, I believe
6 - Get US passport about two weeks later
7 - Apply for exit visa for baby (valid for 7 days and has to be done before baby is 90 days old) - about $75.  We used Rosato Travel for these last few steps - very professional and they have great English. They can probably arrange the translations, as well, but I didn’t need them by then.
8 - Leave country with baby and come back on same day - we ended up finding an agency to arrange #7 and take passport to border to do it for us - $180 but way cheaper than a flight and a lot less hassle.  Included initial 30-day visa which is $35 normally.
9 - Initial visa good for 30 days - renew again for one year ($295) and breathe huge sigh of relief!
These are the general steps for registering a baby.  A hospital birth would be cheaper and easier but wouldn’t change the process much.  I would definitely call your embassy to see what they require but it did all work out with not too much hassle.  Having 4 kids and dealing with several developing countries has increased my patience a lot, so if you’re a first-time parent, maybe get all the facts in order well in advance.  Getting everything done within the 90-day window is kind of tight but we did it...barely.  The only penalty is a $10-per-day fine, but nothing like deportation (probably).  And if you’re reading this, congrats on the baby!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Mondulkiri, Cambodia: Part 2.5 The Coffee Plantation and Pizza

While we were in Mondulkiri, Cambodia at Nature Lodge, we went exploring nearby places. One that wasn't a waterfall was this coffee plantation (video here.) We didn't even find it on purpose, but Ezra had to stop to use the restroom and Elias was carsick so I took them both with me and we went exploring (as the bathroom was hidden down a windy trail around beautiful trees.
Some of the large plants had green berries on them that I thought might be coffee...
Down one trail, hidden in the trees, we came across a two story water slide. We didn't know what it was until we got to the top and saw...
that the slide went all the way down to the lake!
 There were also banana trees:
And what I think is jackfruit now, but I called durian, trees:
Elias thought their horizontal branches that went all the way to the top looked like a great bench!

The lake didn't look very big, but it had been channeled under the road, and into sluices to irrigate the coffee plantation.
This tree with the red leaves was one the boys found interesting, but I don't know what it is called:
And this hosta-looking plant that got super tall was cool:
It was nice to be surrounded by nature and hiking through trees rather than concrete buildings and whirring traffic.
We even found a cabin on our hike back up to the van.
The day after this we met our new friends and had more fun playing around Nature Lodge than going on more explorations. However, we did find an awesome pizza place out on a dirt road called Mondulkiri Pizza. The guy who owned it had previously worked in Phnom Penh making pizza. The restaurant went under new management and they changed all of the recipes to inferior ones in his opinion. He moved up to Mondulkiri and opened his own restaurant, got married and started his family there. He liked the more natural environment and pace of the place. We didn't blame him, and his pizza was incredible. I highly recommend you check out Mondulkiri Pizza if you ever go that way.

The pizza place had a spacious lawn and a lazy river flowing through the back yard. After lunch the kids went exploring the grounds and the owner mixed a little flour and water to make a simple dough bait and made a bamboo fishing rod from scratch. The kids loved it!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Mondulkiri, Cambodia; Part 2: Monorom Waterfall

After visiting the beautiful Busra waterfalls, where we didn't see the places safe for kids to swim and the options to zip line over and see the views were too expensive, we found another waterfall closer to home the next day. Many roads are packed red clay once you get off of the highway. The road to Monorom Falls was one of those:
It was a relatively smooth ride. We passed banana trees, which the kids liked to see.
This waterfall was called the Monorom waterfall, (video here) and it had a sign saying it was used to make hydroelectricity. Someone had set up fallen tree branches into a booth/tented area and there were some logs to sit on at the top of the falls. The log in the picture, by the way, was not one of those...
We saw butterflies here.

The path down to the bottom of the waterfall was way too steep for me to go down with a baby, or for Ezra to go down without significant help, so Ben took Talia and Elias to play in the water at the bottom.

Ezra and I went exploring the nearby bridge and banana grove. This beautiful place re-emphasized to me how some of the best experiences are beyond paved roads.
Back at Nature Lodge, we took the next day to rest and play around the camp site. We try not to give our kids electronics whenever possible, so it was nice to see them using their imaginations and playing with sticks. (video here)