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Published: January 29th 2006
Chickens in their bed
Our chickens always get into the boxes we built for laying eggs, right at sunset!
In my last blog entry I wrote about my half day+ trip to pay my $66 property tax for 2006. If that wasn’t exciting enough, this past week I went to take my car to be inspected near the airport in Alajuela. This must be done annually, along with paying the “Marchamo,” or car tax.
So, my emissions sticker expired last July and my Marchamo was due in December. Yes, I have been very remiss in my duties (apparently I am not alone in this as over 200,000 Costa Ricans, in a country with about 1,000,000 cars, are in the same boat). However, I learned recently that if one doesn’t pay Marchamo by the end of January, the police can take your license plates. Not wanting to risk losing the plates (and hence, the car), I sucked it up and made an appointment to get my car inspected—yes, you must make an appointment. You cannot just show up at the inspection garage.
Prior to taking my car down to the inspection facility, I had my car thoroughly looked over by my mechanic because unlike in the states, Costa Rica’s inspections are very detailed. Called “Reteve” or short for “Revision
Technica,” Costa Rica farms out its inspection duties to a private firm. In fact, there has been quite a bit of an outcry that the inspectors are too thorough and many, many cars fail (hell, you cannot even bribe these people—just kidding!). There’s even the possibility that the new government, coming into office this spring, will dump Reteve and put it firmly back into government control. That could be good, or bad.
So, I decided I needed some assistance in getting through Reteve. I needed to find someone to go with me who spoke Spanish and knew something about the ins and outs of getting through Reteve. I initially decided on my neighbor up the hill, a nice older gentleman who has been living here quite awhile and knows about Reteve. He agreed to go, for a small fee: lunch at Denny’s afterwards which is near Reteve! Figuring that my appointment was at 9:45am, by the time we got done, it would be time for lunch, so I agreed. The more I thought about, the more I realized, based on stories I had heard, that I needed to add some sex appeal to the process—namely, someone who could distract
Our neighbors Etlima and Isadore
They run an "ad-hoc" cooking school occasionally--outstanding chefs!
or throw off the inspectors a bit. For that, I selected Carol, our housekeeper/assistant manager. She’d be perfect for the job and Beth even suggested she wear something “low cut!” So, there we are at 8am on Friday morning getting ready to drive to Reteve: me, my neighbor, Carol, and Carol’s 4-year old son Brianaire! It was almost surreal!
My biggest fear in driving down the Inter-American highway was getting stopped by the “policia.” I lucked out and did not get stopped but that is where my luck ended.
We pull into the Reteve and I hand my forms to the surprisingly friendly clerk. My second fear at this point was that I would not have all of the required documents, but luckily I did have what was required as I had Carol call and confirm for me (She’s a Godsend!). So, I handed the clerk the 9,830 colons ($19.73) and was directed to the lines. There were four lines and we decided the best line to get in was #4, behind a newer car as the inspectors apparently don’t always reset their machines before checking the emissions level in the next car.
Now, two cars away
until the gut-wrenching process is to occur, my neighbor reminds me that every car is supposed to have a jack, first aid kit and one of those triangular, orange signs you put behind your car if you have to stop in an emergency. Well, not having any of those things, I was directed by my neighbor to leave the line, and we were off to find those items.
Luckily, there was an auto dealership just down the road a kilometer or two and next door was what looked like an auto parts store. Well, it wasn’t an auto parts store however the man sitting outside the shop, seemingly bored out of his mind, told us Reteve does not require all of my missing items any longer, only a jack. So, lucky for us, he loaned us a jack. That was really nice of him because frankly he had no way of knowing if we’d return with his jack after the inspection (but we did).
Back in line at Reteve we proceed to our turn after only a 10 minute wait. Our inspector, a man in his early 20s starts checking my car. He has me turn my lights
on, turn the high beams on, and flip on each turn signal. Then he inspects all the windows to ensure they move up down, jiggles each door handle, locks and unlocks each door, checks that all the seat belts are present and working, and well, while doing this, he hardly takes his eye off Carol! I knew she was a smart move on my part! Besides that, I think he was somewhat amused by my lack of Spanish as Carol translated each one of his directions.
After the rudimentary checks, the tough part occurs. I’m directed to move the car onto some rolling pin type of contraption and asked to turn the wheels left and right, work the brakes, engage the parking break, and undertake a whole host of other maneuvers that apparently simulated driving. At this point, I was told one of my lights (high beams) was “mal,” (bad), so I didn’t think I would be passing the exam and I’d be back. The final check was the emissions. They took a bunch of readings and I pulled up to the end of the garage, to wait for my results.
I knew I wasn’t going to pass because when the clerk in the dingy, dirty booth was printing out some documents, I didn’t see he getting a sticker to affix to my windshield. So, Carol and I review the results. I wasn’t failed on my headlights or even the lack of a center seat belt in the back seat. Reteve failed me for holes my muffler. My mechanic had checked the brakes, engine and many other items but neither of us thought to check the muffler (and as it turns out, my mechanic is not a muffler person—that’s another shop to go to in town).
So, on Monday I get the muffler repaired/replaced and Tuesday morning its back to Reteve—the last day of the month and the last day before they start taking license plates! Wish me luck! Fortunately, they will only check the muffler when I return, so hopefully on round two, I’ll pass.
We have been contemplating lately what to do about the back of the house where we have a decent size area with a concrete floor but because of the retaining wall behind it, there isn’t a view of anything. I went out back one night, flashlight in hand, to look over the roof to see what kind of views there are if we put something back there at the site line above the roof of the house—what I’m not sure but we have some ideas. So, I grab my rickety wooden ladder to climb the retaining wall to get a better look. Well, I don’t see the barbed wire fence in front of me and came within ¼ of an inch of slashing my eye! I cut myself about ½ an inch long just barely to the left of my left eye and got a little dirt in it. Lord, was I damn lucky!! I now know better to do things in the daylight from now on! A trip to the San Ramon hospital in the evening would not have been fun!
The other night we had some drinks and appetizers at a house up the hill for a neighbor’s birthday. Several neighbors came and Carol and Carol’s brother, Gustavo, who is a teacher but is doing some yard work for us while he is on summer break (funny, I keep forgetting it is summertime now in Costa Rica because it is January!). It is always fun to attend an event like this here because they are always multi-lingual events and the more I interact with Spanish-speaking people, the better. Throughout the evening, in addition to Spanish, there were conversations raging in English, French, and even some German.
The party got off to a great start, until my nosey dogs made their way to the party. Lately, we’ve been only letting them out of their pen after dark so they don’t run all over “Gringolandia,” and so far it has worked. I was very annoyed because our neighbor’s dog started howling and there was no way in hell I was letting Osita and Reina get near the appetizers and booze! One of our guests, who also attended the party, helped me get the dogs to my car up the steep driveway, and I threw them in the trunk and drove like a bat out of hell down the hill to return them to their pen.
I made it back to the party and after a few toasts to the birthday boy (man), more appetizers, and me trying to understand all conversations in all languages (I think I understand French better than Spanish—after eight years of French in school, I should right!?), I took Carol and Gustavo home, in San Ramon. At this point, Gustavo had a few drinks in him and he doesn’t weigh much at all—you get the idea. To my surprise, on the drive to town, he was almost fluent in English. Previously, I was under the impression he spoke very little English. Carol calls him an “Americita,” a Costa Rican who is fluent in English when drunk! A fun night indeed!
More soon! Thanks for reading!
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