I Finally Get a Cell Phone


Two days before Christmas I went into Port to pick up some supplies for Alan at the local Ferreteria, or hardware store. The items I needed were in the bodega, so I pulled around on a side street, parked the truck and went in to pick up the PVC pipe.

The kid working there was kind enough to cut it in half so I could transport it without bending it. We loaded the pipe, I got back into the truck and turned the key. There was a slight click and then the key spun free in the steering column. I felt a tight sick feeling in the pit of stomach. I might not be a mechanic, but I do know when I am genuinely screwed, and this would be one of those times. If I had had a cell phone I would have used it to call Alan, instead I went to the public phone and called. He never answers the phone, so, next, I walked over to the bus station and found a couple of taxistas loitering the morning away.

I got a price on a round trip to the farm and got in. He took off like he was driving the Dakar Road Race. After about two blocks of speeds that made dogs curl their tails under and slink into the bush, I reached over and clenched his arm telling him I wanted a roundtrip, but it could be tranquilo, please. He got the point and we went out and retrieved Alan and the tool box, banging our way over the potholes, twice, for more enjoyment.

It was just about noon when we got back to the truck. I had parked it outside the bodega on a side street which runs North and South, so we were well situated to catch all the afternoon sun. In temperatures reaching ninety Alan proceeded to try crossing wires to hot-wire us so we could get home. He could get the motor to turn over, but the motor wouldn’t start. Seems these newer (old actually- 1987) automatic transmission Jeeps were built to protect us from thieves, as well as ourselves. Somehow we needed to find the wires that bypassed the transmission and fuel pump. They were not under the hood. We spent about two hours in the blazing sun trying everything we could think of to get her started.

Leaving the car in Port was not an option. We figured she would be stripped to the bones by morning. A couple of people we know came by and offered help. Baco, who drives the local recycling truck and is nephew to our old friend John John came by and called his father in Manzanillo. Ruben was to go around to someone named Philip, who “knew that kinda business good.”

We never heard back, so after about a half hour I walked back to the public phone and stood in line behind two young lotharios who were apparently talking to some girl who had recently been in Port. They kissy-kissied and I listened to them, “Please, you got to pro-mise me. Pro-mise me. When are you comin’ back?” It was endless. While I was waiting I was lucky enough to see Chola, Tun’s ex-wife, and Johnnie, their daughter, strutting down the street in their finest clothes. Both of them had their hair in long extenders in wild shades of purple and blue. Johnnie had just graduated from high school and had a big sash across her chest announcing her as a graduate -2005. Chola couldn’t have been a prouder mother. I gave them both a hug and they went on down the street; they were their own parade. I had been at the phone booth for so long Alan finally locked the car up and came looking for me. When I finally got the phone and reached Ruben, he said, “I speak to the man, but he still here.” It looked like we weren’t getting any help there.

We went over to see Danny, who runs a little tire repair business in the center of Port. Danny said, “You know who know that business, is Danielo. But, he ex-PEN-sive Mon.” On our way back to the car we ran into Andy, who was on our work crew the first year we built our house. He said he was taking a couple to Limon and would ask the guy at the junk yard up Hone Creek way if he could tow us home. Waiting for anybody was no longer an option. It was now getting on past three and the next day was Christmas Eve. Nothing would be moving then. We walked up to Juni Stewart’s house and Juni showed us where Danielo lived. We never would have found him by ourselves. His little hidden house was shoved back in between two others, a tiny trail meandered back to his door.

We talked to him for a bit and in my best Spanish asked him if he knew how to cross wires to bypass the key. How do you say “hot-wire” in Spanish, anyway? Alambrar en caliente? Anyway, He said he knew that business. He would get his tools and be there soon. We went back to the car and about ten minutes later here he came with his tool box- a paper sack with a screw driver sticking out one end.
He lay on the floor of the Jeep, his butt just inside the sill, his feet out the door and his head jammed in between the pedals. With one arm he reached up into the steering column and messed around until he came out with a wad of wires. Once he had them out, he sat for a long time and thought, and thought, and thought. Eventually he took a whole mess of them and twisted them into one. Then he took a single black wire he had left and touched the group. we could hear the fuel pump start and the the car started. He shut it back off and headed home to get some connecters for the final installation.

While this was going on I saw Andy’s brother, Chumbo, across the street at the local liquor store drinking with his pals. Chumbo had been on our work crew too. I walked over and asked him if he had Andy’s number so I could call him to tell the guy at Hone Creek we wouldn’t need him. Chumbo handed me his cell phone and said with slurred speech, “You call.” I told him I couldn’t call because I didn’t know the number. “I tell you; You mark it.” I called Andy who informed me that the deal in Hone Creek was dead. “The guy not working; too close to Christmas,” He said.

Back to the car and our little miracle worker. Our next problem was the automatic gear shift which was locked in park position. Danielo pried the cover off the shifter off and with a huge screw driver began prying at things I thought he had no business prying at. I kept telling Alan to make him quit before he broke something. But, it turned out he knew that business too. He popped something off the shifter and we had a car that started and could be shifted into gear. We drove it that way for about two weeks during “The Christmas.”

We went to san Jose during all of this and looked for the key switch. No one had one, and everyone said the car is too old. We also tried to get my cell phone, but that is a whole chapter to itself. On the way home the wires under the dash caught on fire and we had to pull over and cool everything off, Alan separated the melting wires, disconnected the air-conditioner and we went on home without further incidence.

We went back to San Jose a couple of weeks later, and found a new mechanic who used to own a Jeep Comanche pick-up and loves them. Alan told him about our difficulties and he reached up into the steering column, probed around for a bit, and said, “You need one of these,” holding up a rod that connects from the key to the ignition that he had laying around on his shop floor. He repaired all the wires from the steering column to the motor, fixed the switch rod, and charged us about eighty dollars.

Cell Phones and How to Get Them


I have been driving myself nuts by trying to obtain a cell phone line here. It is really unbelievable how difficult they can make things. There have been lines two days deep of people waiting at the phone company for the 300,000 lines recently made available. You would think that they would be handing them out like candy so they could collect the revenue off the calls, but no. Here you have to prove financial responsibility, have two copies of a Cedula, or other paperwork showing that you are a real person, copies of the receipt showing you purchased the phone in Costa Rica (and paid those all important taxes) and have a copy of a recent phone and electric bill before they can connect you to a line. 

I got all that done and took it to San Jose before Christmas to get connected. Turns out that the woman who took my original application for service put a “C” before my residence visa instead of an “A” and hence they could not connect me. The only person who could make the change was “on vacation.” I will call today to see if she is “off vacation.” Maybe we will get one this week. But, I can tell you that my desire for a phone line dwindles pretty quickly with all the bullshit and the lines. I have lived fourteen years here without one and really don’t find it at the top of my list. But, when I have to make a phone call while we are in San Jose and have to wait behind someone making inane conversation for hours, the desire comes back. 

High winds


We had heavy rain the other day- about 3″ in twenty four hours. Heavy winds in the night. I think most of us in Talamanca were awake through the night worrying about what tall trees might be within striking range of our houses. Alan and I lay in bed listening to great crashes in the night and both our thoughts were on the big tree in front of our house. When we built we measured it off as best we could, using Meraiah’s aboriginal method, and we are pretty sure it’s far enough away not to fall on the house, but you never know.



We took a trip up to Bribri to talk to the I.C.E. boys about our transformer and our new neighbor, Roy’s, desire to hook up tas we purchased the tank back in 1995 for $1100.00. They were no help to us and informed us that the way it works here is that we buy the tank, and then it becomes theirs. “After all,” he explained, “we have maintained it for all these years.” Any new customer can then hook up off our transformer for free and “If there are problems with decreasing power, we will replace the tank,” They reassured me. It was not reassuring, and I told him that it was a bad system. He shrugged his shoulders in that way that only the Latins can do. It was highly unsatisfactory, but what the Hell are we supposed to do about it other than shoot the neighbor’s wire down. From there we went to Bordon to see the guy about our lumber that we ordered last spring.

We drove up to his house expecting to do the Latin visit that informs them that we are here and will be back to actually visit. We did not expect him to be home as it was a Saturday and people usually work on Saturdays, but he was right there and welcomed us with open arms. My Spanish is a little rusty and it took me awhile to realize that he was making a huge joke. He kept saying “you remember that $1000.00 you left with me? Well, I had a great time- the beach, the hotels,the restaurants. It was great. Have you come to give me some more money? I finally caught the bite and we had a good laugh. He showed us the Nispero he had cut for us and explained that it took a lot longer to get the permissions from the Parks Dept. than he thought so the cedar wasn’t ready yet, but, soon. We are waiting for lumber to come before we can start the “Passo Elevado” to the sea.

Hurricaine Beta


Hurricane Beta- WikiWe rolled into the farm yesterday about 4PM. We got a ride from a Tico taxi driver who happened to be the taxi in line at the airport the night we came in. On the ride to the hotel he offered his services to Puerto Viejo for a nominal sum. Alan and I did the math and with gas now running about $4.00 per gallon it was cheaper to take the taxi than do a round trip with our car. So he drove us down and regaled us stories of his illegal cross over into Texas in 1988 during some hurricane. He said he almost died trying to swim the Rio Grande with his clothes soaked and a hole that filled his bag of clothes with water. He said he would never go back.

The place looks really beautiful with all manner of maturing fruit trees starting to bear, Jose has planted a whole new row of pineapples so we should be getting lots of those this spring. The house has been well cared for. It took us about an hour to open up and have everything pretty much on line. The refrigerator made little knocking sounds all evening getting our ice supply on board for today.

As I told Alan you can’t ask for much more from people. When I opened the liquor cabinet a 3/4 full bottle of Bacardi that we left was still there as well as bottles of wine, Marsala, and varios others I use for cooking. I call that a miracle in the jungle. Jose and Rosa came over for a bit last evening and we got the run down on the goings on about the neighborhood. All is pretty much como siempre. No deaths of note.

Hurricane Beta is hitting Nicaragua and Honduras today according to the news. The weather here is sunny and bright. No signs of torrential rains here. My house cleaner, Dianna, was supposed to come today to clean, but has gone to Puerto Viejo instead to try to call her kids who live in Bluefields on the Nicaraguan coast. I hope she can get through to find out if everyone is okay.

Today Alan and Jose pulled the phone line to the entrance of the property. It went very smoothly, unlike our previous electrical line pull of a few years ago. I am now receiving and sending at 50,000bps. A far cry from a few years back. I remember my first internet connection here was all of 1600 bps. We’ve come a long way.