14 July, 2008

What do you mean I can’t drive my car today?

Recently the government here in Costa Rica put into effect a driving restriction that is intended to reduce traffic and “save gas”.

The restriction is based on the last digit of your license plate number, and the plates work a little differently here.  Instead of each person that buys a new or used car being issued a new set of plates, there is one set of plates issued for a new car and that set of plates stays with the car throughout it’s car life.  So the plates I have on my 1996 Toyota Corolla are the same ones that all of the previous owners have had as well.

So here is how the restriction breaks down.  Cars with plate numbers ending in:

  • 1 & 2 Can’t drive on Mondays in the restricted zone
  • 3 & 4 Can’t drive on Tuesdays in the restricted zone
  • 5 & 6 Can’t drive on Wednesdays in the restricted zone
  • 7 & 8 Can’t drive on Thursdays in the restricted zone
  • 9 & 0 Can’t drive on Fridays in the restricted zone

Many people live and work outside of the restricted zone, so for them this new policy is nothing more than a minor inconvenience.  We, however, live well within the borders of this zone.  This means that for us, on Mondays since our plates end in 2, it would be against the law for us to so much as move our car out of the garage.

So this morning we walked out of our house to head to Language School, leaving a perfectly good car behind in the garage.  We located a taxi nearby and paid him around $3.00 to shuttle us over the school about 5 minutes away.


Although I am not fond of the inconvenience this poses to us on Mondays, nor am I fond of the idea that someone is telling me I can’t use the vehicle that I own when and where I want (it is my right after all isn’t it? – oh, wait, wrong country :-) ), the amount of cars and backups in the traffic circles is significantly less and this is a very good thing.

A friend of mine at the Language School who also has a car was going to ask me about setting up a car pool where he picked us up on our no-drive day, and we would pick them up on their no-drive day.  This was a wonderful idea, but unfortunately he and I both have plates that end in “2” and therefore share Mondays as our no-drive day.

In reality, this will only affect us in a big way for the next four weeks as we finish Language School.  After that there will be fewer reasons to venture out on Mondays during the restricted driving hours of 6 AM to 7 PM.  Good times!

08 July, 2008

The Water is All Tapped Out

Utilities going out for hours at a time are a common occurrence here in Central America.

If the power goes out once a week for several hours, we simply accept it as a normal part of life.  We have a gas stove, so even without power we are able to cook, and Keeley has plenty of candles to light the house.

About once a month the water stops working as well.  Usually the government controlled water company notifies everyone in advance of the outage and we prepare by filling up an extra jug or two.  But sometimes accidents happen….

This past Thursday there was a landslide that caused major damage to a very large main pipe that feeds water to a large part of San Jose.  The water stayed off until Sunday evening with only short times of limited flow mixed in a couple of times.

Our supply of emergency water jugs, used mostly for filling up the toilet tanks in order to flush them, were depleted by Saturday evening.  What we had thought was an exaggerated amount of jugs started to appear insufficient.


The McGyver in me started thinking about how to collect the copious amounts of water that fall from the sky just about every afternoon.  I have included a picture of my rain collector that we used to gather some to-be-boiled drinking water.

Here are some things we take for granted:

  • Turning the faucet handle and having water come out
  • Flushing the toilet anytime we want
  • Washing clothes at the touch of a button
  • Taking hot (or cold) showers
  • Having enough drinkable water to make some delicious Costa Rican coffee in the morning

Although inconvenient, we survived the Great Water Outage of 2008.  Sure made us think about how much we appreciate water and how hard it must be to not have it on a consistent basis.

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