Thursday, September 17, 2009

Costa Rican Independence Day

There was a big festival at our school for Independence Day last week. There were a bunch of local dancers and bands. There was also a carnival and comida tipica for sale. It was a little hectic, but the kids had a lot of fun.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Car Inspection

In Costa Rica you are required by law to get your car inspected every year. The inspection is called the RTV, and it costs about 10,000 colones. If you pass the test, you get a little sticker that goes on your windshield. If the cops pull you over with an expired RTV, you're screwed.
So this month our car's inspection needed to be completed and we did not want to mess around and wait too long. We asked our Tico friend Duglas (who is also a mechanic) to fix up our car for us and take it in for the RTV. The inspection is pretty rigorous, it helps to know about cars so that you can fix any problems that the inspectors find.
Duglas did a few things to fix up our car. He installed a new windshield wiper fluid reservoir, fixed a light, and even took off our "mataburro." The mataburro is more commonly known as a brush guard in English, but apparently in Latin America they are used for killing donkeys according to the name. The reason why he took it off was because the inspectors are very particular about the license plate being very visible, and the mataburro concealed it slightly. Then drove 45 minutes to Nicoya, which is the closest town where you can do the inspection.
I was not present to see any of this, but Duglas later recounted how the inspection went. There were several problems, such as the mirror being loose, the muffler sounding strange, and the most concerning, our vehicle ID number on the chassis had been welded over. Fortunately they eventually let these mistakes go, including the chassis number, because the chassis had also been welded in another spot. They said that this proved that there had really been chassis problems in the past (which is concerning as well), and the number was not missing because it was a stolen car.
So, finally came the emissions test. Duglas' wife Katia is our school secretary, and she had assured me ahead of time that if the car did not pass the emissions test, Duglas knew a trick. Well the car did not pass, so Duglas used his trick.
He told the inspection people that he would go work on the car a little and come back again. Here is the genius part: He took the car and emptied the gas tank. After this he added alcohol to the gas tank (which burns very clean, like ethanol). Next, he used some kind of product that he described as "little balls that you use to make your clothes smell good." I believe he said that he put the balls in the muffler of the car, and then he went back for a re-inspection.
This time the car passed! We would have never been able to pass the inspection on our own, so we were so grateful to Duglas. Our car is totally legal to drive around, and we don't have to worry when we drive by the cops. We also know a great trick for if we ever have problems passing a smog check when we move back to the states.