Monday, June 30, 2008

Snow Day

That's what it felt like when I got a call in the morning saying I didn't need to go to work today.

I did a bunch of cleaning, took my car in and got a new muffler, and finally bought a dish drainer and a roll-up fabric thing to keep the tools in my car. And yesterday I opened up the washing machine and moved the drain to the other side, so that's finally settled into its niche instead of taking up most of the laundry room in its provisional position.

What I didn't do, either day, was read the two chapters for this week or write a book post. Uh, sorry about that. I just completely forgot. Y'all can discuss it in comments here if you want, and we can just do the whole rest of the book for next week.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

According to popular blogging wisdom, "Nobody cares what you had for lunch." But I'm-a tell you anyway.

I had - or rather am about to have - flour tortillas with cream cheese, tomato, peppers, avocado, garlic powder and salt. And a pear. And mint-filled chocolates.

And, yes. My kitchen "table" is really that narrow.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What quilters find funny

I've been among quilters for the past 24 hours and this joke (which one of them received by email) worked on all of us:

A new pastor was visiting in the homes of his parishioners. At one house it seemed obvious that someone was at home, but no answer came to his repeated knocks at the door. Therefore, he took out a business card and wrote 'Revelation 3:20' on the back of it and stuck it in the door.

When the offering was processed the following Sunday, he found that his card had been returned. Added to it was this cryptic message, 'Genesis 3:10.' Reaching for his Bible to check out the citation, he broke up in gales of laughter.

Revelation 3:20 begins 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.'

Genesis 3:10 reads, 'I heard your voice in the garden and I was afraid for I was naked.'

Friday, June 27, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mr Mandela

It's not actually today, but part of the celebration is. You can send Nelson Mandela a birthday message if you like.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Costa Rica is broken today

I submit as evidence the fact that two different cable Internet providers in two different cities had outages today (one all day), phone service and traffic conditions were both very surreal, and finally, my own online status message as it evolved over the course of just 15 minutes this afternoon:

4:11 PM
Downloading latest version of Open Office. 1 hour, 8 minutes remaining.

4:13 PM
Downloading latest version of Open Office. 2 hours, 19 minutes remaining.

4:13 PM
Downloading latest version of Open Office. 1 hour, 8 minutes remaining.

4:14 PM
I blame Costa Rica. See my post that I haven't written yet.

4:18 PM
(48 min)

4:20 PM
Oh never mind. I don't feel like posting about Internet service.

4:22 PM
Wait. Now "9 min remaining." I tell you, it's gotta be sunspots.

4:23 PM
Ooops. 41. Definitely sunspots.

4:25 PM
And now it's 42. At least that means something.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Christina said to tell you...

  • I found something on the floor a couple of days ago. It was the parrot's left right-rear claw (two fore & two aft on each foot, you see). I have no idea how it came off, but it's the whole thing. Possibly she got it caught on the bar of her cage? Anyway. She's a little hesitant with the naked toe, but it doesn't really seem to hurt her. The Internet says "Don't worry about the missing claw." The Internet also says, "It won't grow back."

  • I'm sorry, was that gross? Was it as gross as what I saw on the way to work this morning? Guy driving along with not-a-side-of-beef lying there in the back of his pickup truck. I mean, it wasn't a side of beef, but it was a big ol' hunk of something dead. And I'm pretty sure it was destined for consumption.

  • I'm sorry, was that gross? Here. Have a billboard. It's actually at the same point where I sighted the meat, but in the other direction:

  • And, in the spirit of BoingBoing's unicorn chasers, have a palate-cleansing sunset:

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My little monkey

There's a playground at the end of our cul-de-sac here. It's not much of one--the sort of thing one imagines in an inner-city neighborhood, and an absolute liability nightmare if such existed here--but the girls love it. Today we spent some time there with the girls' friend, who lives on the same street, and the friend's older brother.

They all amused themselves and each other pretty effortlessly, and one of their games was seeing who could hang by their hands the longest. The slide, being way higher than anything that would be permitted by law in the States, provided a horizontal (well, horizontal enough) bar high enough off the ground that anyone could play, and everyone did.

Hanging by one's hands looks pretty easy, especially when you watch children do it. And the neighbor kids have been doing this for a long time, so they're good at it and make it look that much easier. The older brother would let go with one hand to take a "rest," then rest the other hand. It looks effortless, but I am here to tell you, it gets real tiring real fast.

Nonetheless, Julia beat us all. She beat us all one by one and with no breaks in between. Then she beat a few of us again. And again. And was laughing while she did it.

I suppose it's partly because she's smaller than the rest of us, so she's not holding up as much weight. But she's also very athletic. She's the one I had to keep telling to sit down at the top of that slide, and to not stand up on top of the monkey bars. Granted, she gets "tired" when we walk more than two blocks at a time. But give her a playground and she'll go till you stop her.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday Haiku

new washing machine
starting laundry after dark
hope the school clothes dry

owner's manual
many pages, diagrams
mostly makes no sense

fancy appliance
very large and powerful
drains on the wrong side

Sunday, June 22, 2008

The Bean Trees: Chapters 12 & 13

We're reading The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

Click for the posts on Chapter 1, Chapters 2 & 3, Chapters 4 & 5, Chapters 6 & 7, Chapters 8 & 9, and Chapters 10 & 11.

Well, it's a good thing Lou Ann has grown up so much, because she was there for Taylor when she was so overwhelmed by the problems of the world in general and Turtle in particular, and needed a bit of a kick in the butt to make some decisions before the state showed up to take Turtle away.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the symbolism of the bird getting into the house? I found that part pretty weird, to be honest. I mean, clearly Taylor didn't feel able to deal with Turtle and the police, but I suspect there was more to the whole bird-chasing bit than just a device to show Taylor's denial. And then the waving dead crow at the end. You-all have come up with plenty of great observations on other chapters (and the other book) - anybody have a theory about the birds?

The night-blooming flowers are, I guess, a little easier to figure. Rare, unexpected but dependable, blooming from an inauspicious potted plant...and only noticed when the blind woman "sees" them. Here's what one looks like (not at all what I was picturing when I read about them):

Night Blooming Cereus
(From the Wiki, of course. Click the photo for more information.)

So they set out for Oklahoma. Taylor doesn't want to think too much about it, but she obviously knows the risks of what they're doing. The next chapter is titled "Guardian Saints." It's good to know they have some, given the risks.

Chapters 14 & 15 for next week.

Oddly Pleasing

Oy, with the silly quizzes already. But really, I must share this news with you. Among Monty Python characters, it would seem that I am...

The Norwegian Blue

The Norwegian Blue parrot is rather dead, but charming.
You scored 42 Stubborn, 23 Crazy, 32 Aggressive, and 33 Evil!

Take The Monty Python Character Test at HelloQuizzy

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Celebrating home Internet access (how else?) with another silly quiz

(Among supervillains) You are Mystique

Poison Ivy
The Joker
Green Goblin
Mr. Freeze
Dark Phoenix
Lex Luthor
Dr. Doom
Sometimes motherly, sometimes a beautiful companion, but most of the time a deceiving vixen.

Click here to take the "Which Super Villain am I?" quiz...

*Sigh* Does this Internet café make my prose look bloated?

So, true to their word, the cable guys showed up "between 8:00 and 3:00" - ie, at 2:00.

It was actually a fairly productive morning, since in addition to waiting for their call I did the minimal cleaning that, to be honest, I almost enjoy since it´s so easy to keep up with in a 400 square-foot home, as well as some organizing that (once I clear off my bed, which is totally covered with stuff but looks worse than it is) will pretty much have doubled the usable space in my room, since I got two suitcases and a garbage bag of stuff off the floor. I also have two boxes of books to give away or trade in, and the shelves in my room look quite a bit better, if still overloaded and overcrowded.

The power went out twice, so I alternated between wishing they would hurry up and get there and wishing they would come but not just yet, and fortunately it came back before they called, so all was well. In that sense anyway.

And they came. They saw. They discussed the best way to route the cable. They called to chat with their buddies on their cell phones. And they installed.

Then they tweaked. And fiddled. And swapped out a splitter. And double-checked the connection to the street. Finally they called somebody and discovered that cable service is out in this town and two others.

So, yeah. I see how it´s going to be.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Weekend plans


The Internet company called - after I called to nag them, of course - to say that they'll come out and install my cable connection tomorrow.

Tomorrow. Saturday. So I don't have to coordinate with work or school or anything :)

Of course, the scheduled time of the installation is "between 8:00 and 3:00". But still. I'll take it!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not at all what you're looking for in a coffee creamer

So yesterday I went to put creamer in my coffee. It's a large container, and was almost used up, so I knocked what I could out of the little spout and then unscrewed the top so I could pour the rest in.

What possessed me to look into the creamer before doing that? I don't know. I guess I wanted to see how much was left. And sitting in the bottom, knee-deep in creamer and with the flyaway powder lodged in every crack and crevice, was a large, friendly cockroach, waving its little antennae at me.

How long had it been living on (and pooping in) my creamer? I do not know. But I'm pretty sure I need a new creamer-storage system.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Because Erin Said So

And because Dad is visually oriented

(The reason I haven't been posting pictures is because I don't yet have Internet access at home. Remember when Alex's computer crashed and burned, earlier this year? Well, that was from using a memory stick at an Internet cafe. So I'm not doing that. Plus my camera batteries had been discharged for a while. But that's easily addressed. Anyway, I can plug the camera card reader into the computer here at work, so here you go.)

The Human Factor

You know what I like about the rainy season? The mornings. Boy, are they gorgeous. Sun just pouring down, birds singing, trees...well, they're pretty quiet actually. Big blue sky with the only clouds gathering picturesquely around the Irazu volcano, because it's pretty that way.

Seriously. That's a typical rainy season morning. Now, if we were to talk about rainy season afternoons that'd be a different story. Road to flooded to see the surface, anyone? But the mornings are beautiful.

And I get to experience a lot of them now, what with the commute.

And the commute has changed for the better in the past couple of days. Starting this week, they've turned the traffic lights right off at some of the stickiest intersections and stationed a bunch of traffic cops there instead. At the biggest roundabout too.

It's making a big difference. Except for that one time when there was a bus accident in the middle of the intersection, the cops keep the traffic flowing at its optimum rate, and a couple of my daily traffic jams are like 75% better now.

I'm thinking, if they keep it up, it's win/win/win:

  • Drivers are happier, so morale increases nationwide. Well, okay. Among commuters in the San Jose metropolitan area. But that's a significant percentage of the national population.
  • Less fuel is burned idling in traffic
  • Less exhaust is generated by idling traffic
  • And did I mention drivers are happier?
I approve.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The things you learn

On a 45-minute commute without a car radio.

Today I learned that I am the kind of girl for whom words like "trepanny" and "gormlessness" roll around in her head aimlessly when the scenery grows familiar and there's no music playing.

Which is funny, really, since one presumes--one hopes--that gormlessness would not in fact be involved in any given instance of trepanation (turns out trepanny the wrong word anyway).

Also? My bad. The PPP has a light at the top and a security camera at the bottom. Not the other way around.

Monday, June 16, 2008

My new favorite thing

So every day on my way to work I pass this thing. It´s the best part of my commute. Well, the mountain views are nice too. But I digress.

When I get off the highway and I´m just minutes from the office, past (most of) the danger of traffic jams, I pass the Purple Pillar of Pointlessness.

It´s a pillar, about four stories high, maybe ten feet wide and let´s say 25 feet front to back. It is featureless, and has an attractive stucco-like finish. It does have a security camera mounted near the top and a light at street level, but both of those functions could have been fulfilled by a standard lamp post or something.

As far as I can tell, the sole purpose of this pillar is to bring a really significant amount of purple into my day.

And I approve.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Bean Trees: Chapters 10 & 11

We're reading The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

Click for the posts on Chapter 1, Chapters 2 & 3, Chapters 4 & 5, Chapters 6 & 7 and Chapters 8 & 9.

It´s good to see Lou Ann showing some confidence and leadership, isn´t it? And Taylor appreciating it. Recognizing that it means something when Lou Ann sticks to her guns about what the bird says.

Lou Ann reminds me of people I´ve met or known at different times.

All of us go through our lives in the context of...well, our lives. We take our knowledge and past experiences and go from there. Once in a while I meet someone who is present in the same time and place that I am, but is clearly experiencing an entirely different world than I do. In the cases I´m thinking of specifically, a much smaller world.

That naiveté that Lou Ann displays. The fear of an undefined "something" happening to her or her loved ones (or, in Lou Ann´s case, any number of very clearly defined menacing "somethings") . This kind of outlook comes, I think, from growing up in a fairly insular home or community, where most people look at the world the same way and, perhaps more to the point, where they don´t look too far beyond their own lives.

I´m not doing a very good job of explaining it, but anyway. Lou Ann makes me think of someone I met casually some months ago, and to whom my predominant reaction was, "her world is so small."

Taylor is nearly as naive about some things, but her upbringing and, therefore, her outlook is different. She knows there´s more out there. She´s pragmatic and willing to learn new things. She´s confident.

She´s the one that clears the air with Edna when Lou Ann practically stops talking to her for fear of referencing her blindness.

Next two chapters for next week...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Celebrating! Modestly, to be sure. But still.

Aww, you guys are so nice, about the Superman thing.

So the tire doesn´t make noise anymore. The emergency brake light does still come on when I start driving, but I do feel like I got my $10 worth out of the initial visit to the mechanic. I´ll take it back next week to get him to check the fuel pump/lines/filter because it tends to hesitate a bit after going up a big hill. But for now at least I don´t feel like I´m grinding bits off the car as I drive.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Special Bonus Post That Took An Inordinately Long Time to Create Because of Blogger´s Wonky Formatting So Please Enjoy It.

You are Superman

You are mild-mannered, good, strong and you love to help others.

Wonder Woman
The Flash
Green Lantern
Iron Man

Click here to take the Superhero Personality Test

This counts as a real post, right? It took longer to write than all those quick "the car´s still broken" posts anyway.

Two Names You Go By
1. Jen
2. Jennifer

Two things you are wearing right now
1. My trusty Croc knock-offs that I´ve worn right through to street level
2. My blue (the girls call it purple) Patagonia windbreaker

Two of your favorite things
1. Douglas Adams novels
2. Home made chocolate chip cookies. No nuts.

Two things you want very badly at the moment
1. For the Purple Hatchback of Loveliness to turn out to be the exact right car for me.
2. For the girls to come through this as well as it looks like they are so far.

Two favorite pets you have or had
1. Smutley, the dog of my youth (She came with the name. We added an "e" so it at least wouldn´t be an adverb.)
2. Ellie, the dog of my recent past.

Two people you hope will fill this out
1. You there, in the chair
2. You over there, with the shirt

Two things you did last night
1. Make grilled cheese for the girls and a quesadilla for myself
2. Swear at the washing machine that seems to have decided that the spin cycle is so last year.

Two things you ate last night
1. Quesadilla
2. Mint-filled chocolate candies

Two people you last talked to
1. The kid at the register at this Internet cafe
2. The person outside the other Internet cafe, who said it was closed. (And a third one for bonus points: The clerk at my usual Internet cafe, who apologized but turned me away because they´re updating their software or something.)

Two things you are doing tomorrow
1. Coming back to the Internet cafe to write another Costa Rica Real Estate Investment blog post (and a post for this blog of course)
2. Celebrating because my car is finally fixed. Because it will be by then. Right? Right??

Two of farthest trips taken in the last 5 years
1. Greece and Turkey
2. North Carolina

Two favorite holidays
1. Christmas
2. Christmas (the other ones are fine, but really it´s all about Christmas)

Two favorite beverages
1. Coffee
2. Beer

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tomorrow, I promise

I'll have a real post tomorrow. Well, maybe. I'll have time to write a real post tomorrow, at any rate. Whether I'll have anything to say remains to be seen. As opposed to grabbing two minutes before work or at lunch as I've done this week.

I also have an appointment for tomorrow to sign for the new Internet service. I don't think they're installing it tomorrow, but they're supposed to install within a week of the contract, so it's still good news.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Quickie post for Wednesay

Got a lead on another store to try for the Swiffer. Heh. It's turning into a quest :)

Also, I picked up the wiring for the car radio last night. The guy forgot to leave it with the car when he switched the fancy radio with MP3 player for a standard one - again, with my blessing and in the name of bringing the price down.

Looking at the radio while sitting in traffic this morning, I noticed it was sitting in there upside down. Well, the face plate was upside down. The cassette part is right side up. Hmmm. A quirky car.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Oh I know, I know

But I really wanted a Swiffer. I was going to re-use the cloths though. Or make my own from the microfiber stuff that Angela mentioned. Anyway.

The squealing brake/tire thing is getting a bit better and, having talked to a couple of people about it, I don't think it's doing itself any damage in the meantime. I'll definitely have it looked at/adjusted because it is still making some noise and the emergency brake light comes on under certain circumstances that it shouldn't, so the brake clearly needs to be adjusted, but it's doing its job (braking, that is) and at least it's not as embarrassing to drive around town in the meantime.

And I am not putting the "Car Trouble" label on this post. You can't make me. It's not the car's fault that they de-adjusted the brake when they changed the rims.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What?? No Swiffer??

My housewarming present to myself was going to be a Swiffer dust mop (or whatever they're calling them). I was sure I'd seen them here but alas they were not to be found at the fancy gringo grocery store (caters to fancy gringos, doesn't actually sell them) nor yet at the chain that was bought out by Wal-Mart last year and now carries a whole line of Equate products along with the usual stuff.

Oh well. Guess it's the old-school broom for me. I did find a purple one at least :)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Bean Trees: Chapters 8 & 9

We're reading The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

Click for the posts on Chapter 1, Chapters 2 & 3, Chapters 4 & 5 and Chapters 6 & 7.

So many damaged people.

Taylor´s statement here rang true for me. In a way at least:

I thought I´d had a pretty hard life. But I keep finding out that life can be hard in ways I never knew about.

It´s not the actual sentiment, but the spirit of it that struck a chord with me. I don´t feel that I have, or have had, a particularly hard life. And I do know quite a bit about the other ways that life can be hard. But I still know exactly what she means.

I´m obviously in the midst of a challenging time here, and yet there are so many other people facing things that are so much more difficult or devastating. At the very least, things they didn´t consciously choose for themselves the way I did in my situation.

I don´t know if it´s one of those "learn a new word" situations, or if there really are more people around me than usual dealing with difficult times. Either way, I´d just as soon do without the frequent "things could be worse" reminders. As, I suspect, could the folks whose lives are providing them for my consideration.

Another quote that stuck out to me:

"...You think you´re the foreigner here, and I´m the American, and I just look the other way while the President or somebody sends down this and that, shiploads of telephones to torture people with. But nobody asked my permision, okay? Sometimes I feel like I´m a foreigner too. I come from a place that´s so different from here you would think you´d stepped right off the map into some other country where they use dirt for decoration and the national passtime is having babies. People don´t look the same, talk the same, nothing. Half the time I have no idea what´s going on around me here."

Well, again, it´s the feeling more than the words I´m identifying with here. Or maybe in this case it´s more the issue than the sentiment even.

I am, in fact, a foreigner here, and frequently forget that fact. Or, if I don´t actually forget, I go about my business and it´s not always on my mind. I don´t feel like a Costa Rican, certainly. But I yam what I yam and it´s normal to me.

It´s when I go back to the US that I feel the difference more, at least at first. I feel comfortable there in a way that I don´t here, and yet the differences are so obvious when I´m there for a visit, I am aware of having spent most of my adult life away from it, and I feel my (invisible) foreignness at those times.

And then of course there´s what she´s actually saying, about being a citizen of a country that commits acts she wasn´t aware of at the time, and which she finds horrifying when she does find out. I think most of us can identify with that.

It´s like Estevan says a while later:

"What would you do, Taylor?"

"I don´t know. I hate to say it, but I really don´t know. I can´t even begin to think about a world where peole have to make choices like that."

"You live in that world," he said quietly, and I knew this, but I didn´t want to.

I know this, more directly than a lot of people, having traveled in Central America while the conflicts were still fresh - or ongoing - in Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador. I was never in any danger myself from the wars, but I have seen these things up close.

An actual unexploded bomb on the ground in El Salvador, with a serial number and "Made in USA" stenciled on the side.

The tiny caves people dug into the hillsides near there, to hide in when those bombs fell - the old and infirm, anyone who couldn´t run fast enough, sometimes stayed in the caves, dirt holes maybe the size (and height) of your sofa, for days at a time.

People with missing limbs. Buildings in ruins. The sites of massacres.

I´ve translated, both in writing and in person, the accounts of people who have survived these things.

And, like Taylor, I still "can´t even begin to think about a world where people have to make choices like that."

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Getting to know you...

I got the car without incident yesterday, and discovered a horrible grating sound in the left rear tire today.

After stressing about it for a little while, I remembered that one of the ways they brought the price of the car down was to replace the luxury hubcaps (about which I could care less) with standard ones, and that was done immediately before they turned it over to me.

When I drove it home (and to the store) last night, it was pitch dark and pouring rain, and I was concentrating hard on muscling around the corners without power steering and on making sure the alarm system didn´t take me for a hijacker and shut the car off in the middle of the road, so I didn´t notice the sound.

Today it was very noticeable, but not until late afternoon, when pretty much any place that might look at it for me was closing down for the rest of the weekend.

So oh well. It´s clearly from the change they made yesterday, and I just hope it´s merely embarrassingly noisy and not also doing any damage because I won´t be able to get anyone to look at it on Sunday, I´m sure. And Monday I´ll be driving it to work.

Anyway. I´ve made friends with the alarm now, at least as far as I need to in order to stop and start the car without (usually) setting it off repeatedly. Well, maybe once or twice. Opening the back while the car was stopped was another story, but I´m sure we´ll all get along just fine after a few more days.

Friday, June 06, 2008

In which at least a few of you raise your eyebrows at me

Because I´m getting the car my mechanic said not to.

No, not because it´s purple. Not that that hurts.

See, here´s the thing. The time I spent really looking at used cars on my own was very discouraging. As a girl (read, "presumed ignorant"), and a foreigner (read, "presumed rich"), and being in a hurry (which, at least, they can´t tell by looking at me, thank goodness for small favors), I am not in a position to get a good deal.

In fact, I´m a pretty likely candidate to get what I call the "blue-eye price," right off the bat. And I don´t know enough about cars to tell for myself when that´s happening. And I don´t really have the time or flexibility to take a series of vehicles to a trusted mechanic for evaluation.

As I said yesterday, I was realizing that this really is a culture where things get done on the basis of who you know. That can be good or bad, depending, but there´s no denying that that´s how it works. Now, it´s a small enough country that you usually do know somebody who has what you need, or anyway somebody who knows somebody.

So how does all of that relate to me buying the car my mechanic said not to?

Well, the looking I had done had resulted in two cars that I felt were realistic options for me, in that they were within my budget, I felt okay about the source of each, and they appeared to be decent vehicles. These were the Geo I got all excited about at first, and the Mirage I decided to settle for after getting the Geo checked out.

I went and saw the Mirage yesterday before work, drove it a bit, talked with the mechanic about it (the one who´s selling it on behalf of his client, and who my friends trust as an honest guy.) It´s a perfectly good car, and meets my needs, but right from the beginning I was disappointed in it and felt like I was buying it only because I had no other choice. I told the mechanic I´d get the money out of the bank and go out to pick it up today or tomorrow, depending when the family that was selling it was available for the transaction.

Then last night the owners of the Geo called me back. (I had let them know I was going to continue looking around after talking to the mechanic, so they could advertise it elsewhere or whatever.)

They had taken care of two small mechanical issues and one cosmetic one, and had reduced the price by about $400, to the exact amount I was about to pay for the Mirage. I told them I´d let them know in the morning, and commenced to thinking about it.

Both cars are 95s. Both are two-door automatics. Both have a good reputation for fuel economy. They have almost exactly the same mileage (about 105k). Both are selling for the exact same price.

The mechanic who´s selling the Mirage says it´s in perfect working order, that there´s an issue with the AC that he can either fix provisionally for free, or totally replace for $200.

The mechanic who looked at the Geo said it was perfectly fine mechanically as well. His quarrel was with the price, which he felt was high (and which has subsequently come down), a cosmetic issue that´s not readily visible, a couple of warning lights on the dash that he couldn´t verify the source of - the Check Engine and Air Bag lights were both on, and those are the two issues are the ones the owners resolved with their own mechanic this week.

The one remaining disadvantage of the Geo is that my mechanic says parts aren´t as readily available as for a lot of other makes. You see a lot of Hondas, Hyundais, Toyotas and Nissans here. There are Mitsubishis as well, but probably no more than there are Suzukis, (which is what you find if you lift up the Geo´s skirt, so to speak), so it´s not like it´s some no-name vehicle nobody´s ever heard of, and the parts issue may not be all that different from the Mirage - I don´t know.

The one remaining disadvantage of the Mirage is that it´s almost the exact same size as the Elantra I´ve been driving up till now. And that car just barely fits into the garage at the apartment. I close the gate, with no room to walk between it and the car, and the other end is hanging right up over the downstairs neighbor´s front steps. The Geo is considerably shorter, since it´s a hatchback.

So I decided that the important part of what the mechanic said was that the Geo was in perfectly good shape, mechanically. I may end up spending more for parts over the course of its lifetime, but it has one of the best reputations for fuel economy going, and its size should further contribute to its economy (relative to the Mirage). So I should save some on gas and possibly spend more on parts, eventually. But I´ve still burned less fuel, so I´ve decided that´s an acceptable tradeoff, should it work out that way.

And I know that if I bought the Mirage it would be because I saw it as my only option, and I would always pine for my pretty little purple hatchback. So raise your eyebrows if you will, but I have decided not risk disappointment with the road not taken.

Now if you´ll excuse me, I had hoped to sit here at the Internet cafe until the owner of the Geo called to tell me they were ready for me, but my cell phone is spending more time without service than with, so I guess I´ll have to move on.

But first, I tell you this because I know you care: I´m sitting here with 1.9 million colones in cash on me, and the largest bill they have here is a 10,000. It´s a little lumpy, but the flat cloth purse I bought 20 years ago in Kenya, and which has done this duty before, keeps it all nice and neat, tucked into my jeans under my extra-long Frogs t-shirt.

Still and all, I´d rather have a purple hatchback.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It would probably be very optimistic of me to title this "My Last 'Car Trouble' Post" - so I won't.

But I'd like to think so.

I visited a bunch of used car lots yesterday, and that just made me want to take a shower. And I spent a long time looking at used cars on the Internet, and half of them were crashed and/or recent imports that will owe another couple thousand dollars in taxes before being able to be registered in the country.

I finally acknowledged that Costa Rica is a place where you get things done based on who you know. You get a much smaller selection that way, but there's at least a flying shot at peace of mind. So the one car available to me through somebody who knows somebody who I the one I'm going to buy.

It's a Mitsubishi Mirage and I'm picking it up tomorrow. It's not purple, but it's going to be mine. And then I'll turn my attention to other things, of which, if I recall correctly, there are still one or two pending. Like buying mattresses for the bunk beds (Julia's currently sleeping with me and Robin on an air mattress). Like arranging for Internet service and maybe even a phone line. Like remembering that I'm meant to be making a quilt.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not how I wanted to spend my day

Running around town with Julia (who, it turns out, has been sick, but is getting better, but who I kept home from school today) looking for a used car.

It´s probably not the mechanic I should be disgruntled at, for saying "don´t buy that car" - so I´m not. But I am disgruntled. Just, I suppose, not at him.

*Heads off, grumbling, for the online listings because stopping by used car lots and talking to used car salesmen did not prove fruitful.*

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Scenes from a commute

Monday, June 02, 2008

Purple Progress

Well, the more professional of the various mechanics I know was the easiest to get hold of today, and he agreed to check the Geo out tomorrow afternoon (which is the soonest I can do it). The current owner is also free at that time and not before. It´s like fate!!


I´m hoping to have the money issues worked out by Friday, and the owner of the car said that would be fine as well, so hopefully by the end of the week I will be the very happy owner of a new purple car. Where, of course, "New" = "Nice way of putting it".

Oh. Wow. I just realized that, while people will definitely stop hailing me as a taxi, they will also now assume that I´m a hard-core Saprissa fan. I guess I can live with that.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Bean Trees: Chapters 6 & 7

We're reading The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver.

Click for the posts on Chapter 1, Chapters 2 & 3, and Chapters 4 & 5.

The thing that struck me most in reading the latest chapters was how much information Kingsolver manages to convey to the reader through the dialogue and experiences of the characters, without the characters themselves necessarily understanding the full extent of the situation.

Taylor is a lot more sophisticated than Lou Ann in many ways, but even she doesn´t really seem to understand what´s going on with the refugees that pass through Mattie and Father William´s care.

But the comments here and there, the barely-glimpsed newscast, and the actions of Estevan and Esperanza themselves speak volumes about what they and others have been through, and the risks that Mattie and Father William are taking in their efforts to help them.

Of course, the pruny old lady at the dinner party is in a whole different category of "doesn´t get it" - Taylor and Lou Ann are limited by the extent of their knowledge, but respond to what they learn about new people and situations. Virgie Mae, on the other hand, embodies closed-minded, willful ignorance.

I do love the various characters. Every one of them is the kind of person we´ve all known at one time or another. Even--perhaps especially--Virgie Mae, and Estevan´s reaction to her.

The one quarrel I have with these chapters is that I´m used to seeing the name written Esteban and it´s grating to read it spelled with a "v". The "b" and "v" sounds are so interchangeable in Spanish that a lot of people use them relatively interchangeably in spelling as well. It´s one time when I, as an English speaker, have an advantage because I consider them two very different sounds, and can often tell which is called for, especially when a word is similar to English. For instance, votar (to vote) and botar (to throw away) are pronounced pretty similarly, but it´s obvious to me which one takes the "v".

Anyway. Next two chapters for next week!

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