Friday, May 27, 2011

Nuevas llantas/new tires= grand theft auto

This blog post now seems very dated and foolish: I started this last night as it was raining and I was sitting in my cozy little den. I'll leave this part, however, and add something at the end.

[This part was written on the night of May 26, after I'd returned from Guatemala City with new tires] Those traffic safety fans, and those concerned with my safety and well being will be pleased to know that I finally decided to buy a brand new set of tires for the bendito (literally means "blessed" but colloquially signifies "f***ng") picop.  Everything was fine and dandy (as fine and dandy as can be expected of a 16-year old truck with over 100,000 miles on it) for the first two months, and then the tires started to go, one after the other. Up in El Quiché, there really is no such thing as a new tire -- "new" as we would understand it in the states. "New" as in "fresh from the factory, never put on anyone else's car before."  The first flat occurred one of the first days we were at the radio station, when one of the young compañeros asked to borrow the truck to drive into the center of Santa Cruz for an errand. He came back, told me the tire was flat, and then went off to fix it. Since then, it seems that I have a flat every other week.
The next-to-the-last straw was when I returned from a trip abroad to find that the tire I had just purchased two days before my departure was not only flat but completely un-redeemable.  The last straw was last week, just before I left to attend my daughter's graduation. I had a flat on Monday in Santa Cruz, when I was trying to leave the radio station to head to Antigua, and then Wednesday morning as I was driving into Guatemala City from Antigua, and we had just hit the city limits of Guatemala City on the  Calzada Roosevelt (one of the ugliest stretches of urban landscape one can imagine), a tire blew out. We pulled over (no easy feat on a road with no shoulder, no parking lane, and a bunch of maniacal drivers hell-bent on destruction) and luckily someone at the business where we had pulled over was able to help us remove the blown out tire and put on the spare. Especially lucky as we not only had to get to the university and teach our classes but I had to go straight from the uni to the airport so I could make it back to NYC. 
So I vowed to get new tires when I returned. I called the brother of a friend the day after my return, and he said he knew someone, and would call, but by Thursday hadn't done anything and so I called Marcos, who runs one of the taxi services here (I've only used his car service once but have called him regarding parking at the airport, and figured he might know about tires) and went to the place he recommended.
However, the job I felt last night was short lived. It was pouring rain when we came back from an event at FLACSO, and I didn't think much about leaving the car on the street. Parking has been an issue at my place in Antigua; ostensibly, I had rights to park my car in the driveway. However, the other tenants who have their Land Rover there --the people who live in the big house behind our three little apartments -- have decided that they are going to go by their understanding of their agreement with the landlord, which is that they have exclusive rights to the parking spot. Since about early April, they have just parked their car right in the middle of the drive way so that there is no room for another vehicle. I gave up talking to them about it, and I gave up talking to the landlady. I had been told that I could park my car; when the other tenants said that they had paid extra for exclusive rights for parking, I had called my landlady and she fluffed around and said, "Well, but we didn't think your car was going to be so big, there really isn't space." I chose not to get into an argument with her.  I could have pointed out (a) she had never asked me what kind of car I was getting, and she had no reason to assume it was going to be a small car; had she asked me I would have told her that I was probably going to get a pick up; (b) there is room for a Land Rover and a pick up as long as the first car in pulls down to the end of the space; and (c) the issue with the other tenants was not the size of my car but their understanding that the space was exclusively theirs, period.
So I've left my car on the street for the 1-3 nights a week I am in Antigua. This week was unusual in that I was here for 4 nights, and maybe someone really had a chance to scope out my car. I will never know.
The landlady had made some sympathetic noises at one point in this saga of the parking space, and suggested that I should come talk to her and see what we could work out. I guess I backed off from meeting, because what I would have said was, "It's your responsibility to find me a parking space since you told me I'd be able to park my car when I said I'd take the apartment." 
But I came home last night, parked my car on the street, behind another car that was apparently parked for the night, a small, new, red compact vehicle (didn't look at the make; it was still there this morning). I started to blog about my new tires, and then read and went to sleep. I got up this morning, and started to figure out the logistics of packing up, for two purposes. First, to take what I brought from the states back to Chinique, and also getting ready to vacate this apartment next week. 
At around 6:45 (I'd been up since about 5:30), having breakfasted and yoga-ed, I decided to go out and take a walk up the Cerro de la Cruz, which overlooks the north end of Antigua. I slipped Q30 into my pocket since I thought I'd pick up my laundry on the way. I haven't used a commercial laundry before, but I wanted to clean the towels and sheets; one of my complaints about my current living situation is that there is no direct sunlight on the small patio where there is an outdoor sink and clothesline, and so it takes a very long time for anything to dry.  My neighbor told me the laundry wasn't very expensive so I took the sheets and towels over there. I think Q30 is a lot for two towels and one set of thin sheets (about $3.75) but I was already there so I left the stuff. 
So, I got ready to leave the house and walked out the driveway door. To get to the Cerro de la Cruz I turn to the right when leaving, and I nearly always park on the left hand side (there's not much space to the right, as there is another driveway nearby and not much space between the two). But I glanced over to the left and stopped short: the street looked awfully empty, and I could only see the small red compact that had been in front of my car last night. 
No corinto pick up. Just cobblestones and a small red car.
I went back inside, got out the certified copy of my registration, and went around the corner where there are transit police in the morning directing traffic for a colegio that is on 4ta Avenida. I asked them how to report the theft; they radioed the Policia Municipal Civil (civil municipal police) and within a few minutes there were three police vehicles with flashing lights (thankfully no sirens). Meanwhile I had called the embassy; well, first, I called Roselyn, my fellow Fulbright scholar, and told her; she suggested calling the embassy but I didn't have the little card they had given us, so she called me back with the number and I filed a report at the Embassy.
Not that I think they will do anything for me, but as a matter of protocol.
The police, pleasant if not especially efficient, came to the street in front of my residence and took information: I noticed that the officer was using a random page from a datebook. It wasn't today's date that he was using, and I'm not even sure the agenda was from 2011; I didn't look at the cover. In Cuba people used old datebooks as notebooks, since people didn't often have  a lot of paper. I've noticed here in Guatemala some of the women using old datebooks, or not so old ones, as notebooks.
Among the information they requested were the names of my parents; I'm not sure what they need those for. When the officer asked for my mother's name I said that she had been dead for over 30 years; he said, "It's just one of the things we have to put down."
So, after they had written down what they needed and called in the information to whatever central office they needed to contact, they told me that I had to go to the Ministerio Público and  ratify my complaint; I thought I would go immediately but they told me after 12.
So, a sad lesson learned. I didn't have theft insurance. I hadn't followed up with my landlady about finding another parking space. I just put the car on the street.
And I was so proud of the new tires. 
So, now a series of expensive headaches. I can't even figure out how I will get my suitcase, camera and backpack (where I keep my computer), up to Chinque. I can't trust all of that stuff on a bus. My best hope is to find my landlord in Chinique, who travels to Guatemala a couple of times a week, to see if he can pick me up. Anything else would be too expensive. And then I have to find another vehicle, which means going through all the headache of registering it in Guatemala once I've actually found and purchased it, figuring out how to get the money, and so forth. There go my savings.
So, in order to put my petty little woes in perspective, it's good to read the newspaper. "Aumenta violencia contra las mujeres" reads one headline: violence against women on the uptick. Woman and her daughter are shot in a market.  So, I have something about which to be thankful.

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