Poas Volcano, one of the few volcanoes in the world with which you can get up close and personal.
They probably do not imagine their Haunted Hyundai breaking down on Easter Sunday, when the entire country of Costa Rica, it seems, is at the beach, including each and every mechanic in the small town of Poas.
It started off a surprisingly wonderful day, considering I am not Catholic and don't celebrate Easter (let's face it -- chocolate is an everyday occurrence at our house). We were taking esposo's mother home to Poas where she lives, and afterwards were to meet our friends at Hotel Orquideas Inn for lunch. The drive up was fine, but when we tried to start the car to go home, nada. Nil. Zip. Would not turn over.
We tried a push start (having owned an MG for many years, I could do that with my eyes closed, though closing one's eyes while driving is never recommended), but that did nothing. So as the car sat at the bottom of a hill, esposo tried calling everyone in town. He called the gas station, where he was referred to a mechanic who may or may not have been at the beach (he was). He called his friends, and pretty much everyone knew the same mechanic, who, strangely enough, happened to have his shop on esposo's mother's street (it's a very, very small town). Said mechanic's doors were closed and his house locked up -- perhaps he was taking the sun at the beach? My MIL thought she might know someone who knew someone else who knew a mechanic, and eventually we were put in touch with someone who would be back on Monday and could look at the car then. The problem being, we live a good hour's drive from Poas (or several hours by bus, I would soon find out).
In the meantime, several of esposo's friends showed up, ostensibly to lend a helping hand, though not a one of them knew what the hell they were doing or what the problem could possibly be. Imperials in hand, they looked under the hood, poked around, jiggled wires, and eventually came to the conclusion that we needed a mechanic. I could not resist a photo op such as this one, as men poking around under the hood trying to look knowledgable don't come along all that often. (Well, maybe they do, but not around me.)
The Boyz Under the Hood: From left, Carlos, esposo, Diego, and some guy I don't know. Diego arrived appreciably under the influence and crashed his own vehicle later that day. I can only shake my head.
We eventually managed to push the Haunted Hyundai into esposo's uncle's driveway, and took a bus down the hill to lunch.
The next day, the mechanic said he'd be able to fix the car that day, so we took off on a bus to Poas. (It turned out to be a burned out computer chip -- who knew this ancient beast of old even had a computer?) Taking a bus with a toddler requires a lot of planning. We took the Puriscal bus out of town to downtown San Jose, where we walked about four city blocks to the Alajuela bus station, and grabbed a second bus to downtown Alajuela. From there, we would take another bus to Poas, but by this time our son was hungry and so was I, and we'd heard about a Mexican place that was supposed to be good, so we set off looking for it. (It's called Jalapeno's and is located near the Alajuela post office, in case you're wondering. And it was good. You just can't find good Mexican food here in general.) During lunch, esposo decides to call his mother to find out about the car (why she has been coordinating with the mechanic, I still don't know, but anyway...). It turns out he took off because he was waiting to hear from us and we hadn't called to let him know we wanted the part, or something like that. The end result of which was he couldn't fix the car that day. This is now 2+ hours after we set out from home. So we get back on two more buses and go home.
The next day (Tuesday) arrives, and we finally are in touch with the mechanic, he needs us to buy the new computer part in Alajuela, and bring it up. Fine. So we get back on the buses, get the part in Alajuela, and take the Poas bus just as it starts to rain. When we get to esposo's mom's house, he calls the mechanic (whose phone hasn't been working all day), and finds out that, again, he was waiting for us but hadn't heard from us (could he pick up a phone and call, perhaps in doing so see that his own phone didn't work?), so he left to go do something else. I am fairly livid at this point. I tell esposo I am not leaving Poas without my car, even if it means sleeping at MIL's house. Esposo eventually gets in touch with mechanic, we eventually get the computer installed in the car, it eventually runs again and we eventually go home. With car.
Two things I learned though all of this are: 1) Patience is not only a virtue, in Costa Rica, it is a necessity. During Holy Week, especially, things just ain't gonna get done any time soon, so you might as well relax. 2) Window shopping is fun, and something you don't really get to do when driving a car. We went to Jalapeno's, bought son a pair of those ugly shoes all the kids are wearing for $5, and a bag of plastic dinosaurs for $2. I doubt I would have done this if just passing by these places in a car. Maybe have stopped for lunch, but that's about it.
And, to top it off, while the computer part was sort-of expensive ($50), the labor was $10. TEN DOLLARS! I ask you, where in the Gringo-world are you going to find a mechanic who will do anything for $10? Not likely.