Singing the New Home In Costa Rica Blues

BUILDING A HOME IN COSTA RICA HAS ITS CHALLENGES

So we've been living in our new home now about 2 months and things come up here and there that have to be dealt with.

I am not a handyman. I'm not handy around the house. Why? I've never owned a house. Always rented, so someone else had to take care of things in the house like plumbing, electricity, etc...

Last night after getting home from San Ramon where we went to by groceries, I jumped in the shower and immediately the lights went out everywhere except for the bathroom which is on a different circuit.

But as luck would have it, the shower is not on that circuit, it is on one of the others, all of which went out.

In spite of what one would think it is NOT warm here, not after dark, not in this month of February, not at this altitude of 2850 feet, not in THIS microclimate.  So it was actually cold when I was trying to take my shower and couldn't get any hot water out of the shower head. So I stood there in the cold water for several minutes trying to get the water to heat up, to no avail before I figured out that the electricity had gone out. (We have an electrical powered hot shower system). Since there was light in the bathroom it didn't seem that the electricity had gone out so I kept wondering why the water wasn't getting hot.

So anyway, that was the start of it. The shower never came back on and I had to get out and dry off before properly washing, and then this happened:

The lights in the living room, kitchen and bedroom ceilings began "strobing" on and off about every 1/2 second.

Now I knew we had a problem that was probably not an electric company problem but rather a house wiring problem. My thinking was: If it were an electric company (ICE) problem we'd get either no electricity or full electricity, not strobing.

Never heard of strobing symptoms before anywhere I've ever lived in my life. "Has to be something the guy did wrong with the wiring", I figured. Maybe some cable not tightened enough of something.

So this morning I got up and checked the electricity. Still strobing. BUMMER!

Walked over to the main driveway to check the incoming electrical box and connection to see what might be wrong over there.

Diego was doing some work nearby there so he stopped working for a second to help me look at the box etc.

We opened up the little box where the meter is and it was full of leaves and stuff. I thought, well this COULD be a problem, no? So I started using my hand to move out all the leaves and stuff. What's THIS? Fluffy fur of some sort...?

Then Diego says "Look!" and just inches away from my had was a mouse who had built a nest in my electric box.

He got him out and we got rid of the nest and he looked at the connections and it seemed fine.

Told me to go check the connections inside the circuit breaker box in the house. He explained how to do it and what to look for so I came back and did that. I saw nothing wrong but the lights were still strobing. I looked at the connection to the light switch and it seemed to me the wiring going up to the roof from the switch might be loose. He called from over in the driveway and asked what was going on and I told him and he said he'd come and look at it.

He did and he said it almost has to be the wiring inside the house and we should probably have the builder's electrician out to check it, but he'd drive home (about 1km away) and get a home made meter to see if there was electricity coming in correctly to the cable first.

All of this took most of the morning.

He comes back and says he checked the cable amperage or whatever down at the incoming cable from ICE and the problem is ICE's line coming in (we have 2 for some odd reason) and that ICE's line is coming through with very little electricity, thus the strobing.

He called them to report the outage but they said there were many ahead of us so GOD in his Infinite Wisdom only knows when ICE will actually repair this problem. Meanwhile I have gone a day and a half without a shower and my guess is there will be no shower for me tonight, so I'll take one cold before it gets dark and cold outside.

What would we do without Diego? I truly don't know! We'd be screwed without Diego's help! I would gladly pay him much more if I could! And give him a big bonus for all he's done for us! Unfortunately we're on a limited and small income so not much I can do for him as of now but shower him with thanks and do him a favor when I can and give him a small bonus when I can.

Anyway, they say necessity is the mother of invention or perhaps it is the mother of learning "on the job", and thus I have been learning how to do some stuff like plumbing.

One day I had to replace the faucet because after a month of having Diego try to fix it it still leaked. Finally we figured out it had to be the faucet itself when it began leaking from the flexible tube. Luckily the store took it back for credit and we bought a better one.

We got home late and I didn't want to bother Diego at supper time so I knew I would have to install it myself. How hard could it be?

Well first I had to figure out how to put it together based on horrible Chinese drawings and instructions! Then I had to get on my back under the sink and reach up awkwardly and install it with very little room to get my wrench in to tighten the various parts.

Took me an hour and a half or so but I succeeded (with a sore back afterwards that is STILL hurting 2 days later).

Meanwhile the bedroom and bathroom doors warped and the builder has not gotten back to fix them. We had to prop the bathroom door ¾ closed because that's as far as it would go due to warpage.

So today I got out my pocket knife and began carving out the door frame to make it bigger so the door edge wood doesn't meet the door "jamb" wood, which is preventing it from closing. The bedroom door was similar except it closes, BUT makes a lot of squeaking noise when closing as wood rubs against wood. Basically, let this be a lesson to you:

NEVER USE PINE FOR DOORS IN COSTA RICA! It warps and then you can't close it properly. I left the choice to my builder and obviously I shouldn't have.

Anyway so I spent 2 hours carving out the door so it will close good. It looks like crap now but at least it works! It will still need to be fixed properly with a miter saw or whatever you call it but at least now it closes. My hands are sore from so much carving.

Yesterday we also carried a whole bunch of big rocks -2-5 lbs each I'd say - from the driveway and around the property, for Diego and another worker, Frank, to use in making a better path down to the lower lots. They'll install the rocks as steps where needed.  My hands are still recovering from scratches and soreness in moving so many rocks! These hands have not done manual labor for many years and even back then didn't do much of it!

So being a homeowner is not without major down sides. This is my first experience with it, and here in Costa Rica it's a very different experience, in any case, than in the USA.

So just so you know: BUILDING A NEW HOME IN COSTA RICA is not without its challenges!

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