Day 13: Having Doubts

For the first time ever I am having doubts about living here.

I am hoping it's just a long "rough patch" and/or "adjustment period", "working out the kinks" and so on but ... things have just been SHIT for the past several days, ever since we bought this Chevrolet Tracker (I called it a GEO but it's actually a Chevrolet), which everyone I know has said is a good car in general and my "trusted mechanic" who is very trusted and recommended by my friend John said is in great shape, specifically.

I of course realize from many bad past experiences that used cars are a crap shoot, whether they are approved by a good mechanic or not.

I quit buying used cars in 1984 for that reason and never bought a used car after 2 bad experiences in a row with bad used cars that were approved by mechanics.

So... here's the story...

Yesterday evening on the way home it began to rain and fog rolled in and the car died at the turn off to our road off the main highway.

I called the mechanic, _____, who had just told me there was nothing wrong with the car when I asked him about the Engine Needs Service light coming on sometimes right after starting, then going out. He may have been right on that count and all the events that follow may just be coincidence. I don't really know.

So the car stalled and we called [the mechanic] and - to his credit and my appreciation - he came within 15 min. and got the car running with a new battery. He said it was the generator but this would get us home and back into town tomorrow to fix the generator.

We got into his shop around 10am and left the car and took the bus into San Ramon. We had shopping to do but I was surprised when he said it was going to take  until 3pm or even 5pm to fix it. Diego had told me it would probably be an easy and cheap fix.

I guess it involved sending it to an electrician to fix or get a used one instead of getting a new one. That seems to be where the break-down occurred so this may not have truly been [the mechanic's] fault. I'm sorta kind of giving him the benefit of the doubt at this point but am beginning to suspect he may not be trustworthy even if he did go out of his way to rescue us the other night.

So anyway we left the car, took the bus and went shopping in San Ramon. All was well until it began to pour rain around 2pm and we had no car. It usually doesn't rain that early so I wasn't prepared for it as I had expected to be heading back home by 1pm in any case.

So when it began to rain I said "Let's go over to the bus station so we don't get wet going there later when it pours down", thinking the car would be ready by 3pm in any case.

Well we sat at that fucking bus station for 3 hours and watched it literally pour down rain the whole time, and finally at 4pm I wrote Charlie and message and asked if we could take the next bus (i.e. would the car be done by the time we got there) and he said "5:30".

SHIT! I couldn't believe it! ALL FUCKING DAY  - 7 hours! - to replace or fix a generator?! WTF?!

There were 3 issues regarding this fiasco:
1) we really needed to go to the grocery store before we went home because we were super low on food at home, but we wouldn't be able to if we got the car too late; and
2) we wanted to get on the road before dark which falls around 5:45pm because I'm not that familiar with the road and it's a narrow dirt road with cliffs and ditches on the side, and if the car breaks down there's no one around for a long ways and no lights nor cell access, in some areas, and
3) we didn't want to drive home in the rain - which started around 2pm and never stopped - the rain makes the road even more dangerous especially our car which has crappy windshield wipers that need replaced and the defroster for humidity/steam doesn't work well either

So we caught the bus from the central bus station in San Ramon - which is a bummer in its own right - at 5pm and got to his place right around 5:30.

He was still working on it.

He said he was finishing up and then when he finished he told me to start it and of course the CHARGING PROBLEM light was still on.

He messed with it for another 30 minutes and finally realized it just wasn't going to work.

He finally said that the electrician he had sent the generator out to had replaced it with a used one and that the used one wasn't right for this car and that he'd have to order a new one tomorrow and put that in instead. He said he'd tried to make the used one work because he wanted to get us back on the road as quick as possible.

However I was never informed I'd be getting a used or rebuilt generator and definitely thought I was getting a new one which is why I thought 7 hours was way too long for the repair.

So he gets us back on the road again just like yesterday, with a strong charged battery and gives us a back up battery just in case the other one dies. (This morning when I took it in to him, as soon as I got there, and turned it off, it would not start the car again.)

But the biggest problem, in addition to having WASTED the entire day in San Ramon and still having a car that is as broken today as it was yesterday, was that now we have to drive home, the long way, in the dark and probably fog and rain, because the short way may be very dangerous due to the super heavy and long rain we had in San Ramon today. (Maybe it didn't rain that much there, as it did here but maybe it did.) And I know the long way less well than I know the short way and neither are super safe to drive at night.

So I started out in the dark and now I realized the windshield was - how do I describe it? - stained or fogged in such a way by wax or ? which causes it to be nearly impossible to see through when oncoming headlights hit it, especially in the rain/fog.

I had to almost stop at one point because I just could not see where the road was and a guy following too close behind me - as I've learned Ticos often do - around these parts, anyway - honked in anger and I said - to myself and Joanie -  "What the fuck do you want me to do?! I can't see the fucking road!"

So I continued on, in the fog and rain, and just went slow and cautiously but honestly there were times when I was very afraid I'd go off the road because I just couldn't see it.

45 minutes later down roads with NO lights or reflectors, roads with cliffs on one side or the other, a road with a hole big enough to get stuck in on my side of it that I had to swerve around at the last second... we made it PAST our driveway.

I realized I had passed it and then had to turn around except turning around was scary in itself on a small road in a muddy driveway. So Joanie got out and helped me do it but I didn't have a lot of confidence in her guiding me correctly. Luckily we managed to turn around and get home.

There is a King Crimson song where every so often a spoken voice says "This is a dangerous place!" and that kept going through my head as I found my way home last night and tonight - 2 nights in a row of driving in the dark and/or rain and/or fog on bad roads.

WHEW! Holy Christ!

Another thought that I have spoken and/or thought the last few days it "It isn't supposed to be like this!"

Other people aren't having these problems! Why me?
Is Someone trying to tell me something?
Is this a test or sign? Am I supposed to read this as a sign to give up and go back to the states to live?

I don't know. Maybe this is just some sort of weird "trial by fire" ritual the spirits of Costa Rica are putting me through... Or maybe it's simply random chaos. Or maybe it's simply the result of having bought a used car that has problems, nothing more...

I guess if you look at it objectively, the major problems we have had since getting here have been associated with finding/ buying/ owning an old used car.

I knew this was potentially a risky proposition (buying a used car here) and I just was hoping for some luck along with skill to get me beyond the risk. I guess I had little or no luck and not enough skill and bought a bad car.

So anyway...

We made it home Thank Goodness!

Tomorrow we take it back in to [the mechanic], this time he's supposed to have the part ready to go and ready to install. I don't know whether he's to blame for any of this or not. He said the car was in great shape after I paid him to look it over thoroughly... I suppose there are limits to what a mechanic can find wrong.

But making me wait all day at the bus station and then drive home in the dark, rain and fog after what I think should have been a fairly simple straight forward repair does not endear him to me. Had it at least been truly FIXED after that, I would feel much better about him but as it turns out that is not the case at all.

Maybe I expect too much from people?

Maybe I look for blame where there is none?

Maybe I just find it hard to accept problems like this... Sometimes I realize I don't handle difficulty and challenges of this sort very well (car problems and such shit that happens from time to time).

Anyway, I don't know how much more of this kind of crap I can take before beginning to hate living here. I can only hope it stops and things get better.

Oh, and did I mention we live across a driveway from a family of Ticos? I think there are maybe 6 of them living there, 2 little kids, a teenager or two, a mom, a dad.. who knows how many? All I know is they are always playing their stereo or tv loud and kids yelling, wife yelling, and dog barking and it's a real disturbance of our peace and quiet in what would otherwise be a great location!

Maybe we just expect too much...

Hopefully things will get back on track - on a good track - soon...

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