What Color is Your Car in Costa Rica?
by guest blogger Carole Connolly-Shaw
Business was dead. Picturesque Capitola, a seaside village in California, my home town for twenty years, was abuzz with summer tourists. My sea foam green XJ8 Jaguar was parked outside begging to be taken for a ride along the coast. Maybe I could make Happy Hour at the Crow’s Nest. A crisp glass of Storr’s Chardonnay and some fried calamari sounded perfect after a slow, boring day at the real estate office. I envisioned myself sliding onto the lush leather ivory-colored seat, waving to friends strolling through the village. They would know me by the car. I bought it for the color which became my signature.
When Don and I moved to Costa Rica, we came with very little. Having both spent a lot of time here over many years, we chose to not ship a car, pay high duty, only to have it get beaten up by the rough roads. Living in Atenas, close to San Jose, we have gotten spoiled with paved roads, as opposed to the dirt ones, we are used to in Guanacaste. The unpredictable pot-holes add excitement and tend to be hard on cars. Bottom line: we were looking for a beater!
Our new chariot appeared on Craigslist at 8:00 AM on a Tuesday. By 9:00 we were handing cash to the owner and arranging to sign papers in Pablo, the gringo attorney’s office the next day. Such a deal! The car had been maintained by the trusted “mechanic to the gringos”, had been driven lightly by a single lady who used it as an around-town car, and moved to Ecuador. It ran well, was good on gas, but it needed a new paint job.
We asked around and found a local, inexpensive car painter and now the question: “What color should we paint the car?” It was turquoise, although the paperwork called it green. It was no seafoam, plus it was exactly the same shape and color as Victor, the gardener’s car. Side by side, they looked like two turquoise shoe-boxes. Ours is a Hyundai; his is a Honda. Honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference. Although I am a shoe-person, I am not a car person – the only thing I care about is the color. Well, I might know the difference if it was a Mercedes 500SL convertible. In this case, I was worried that if the car pulled into the driveway, I might run up to it with open arms to welcome hubby home form a hard day, and it would be Victor. Embarrassing.
So, I said: “Red! Let’s paint it red.” It never occurred to me that we would look like a taxi (The official taxi color in Costa Rica). We picked out a cheerful Chili-Pepper Red, a good Costa Rica signature, I thought. We left the car off at Chincho’s garage, took the bus home and waited a week for the job to be completed. It still had not occurred to us that we had a problem.
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I was organizing the paperwork, placing the official car papers in a manila folder and I happened to notice my name was misspelled. If the name on the official paperwork does not match what is on your passport, it could mean big trouble. Foreign names are often misspelled as they are well, foreign. We rushed back to Pablo’s office, thinking it would be easy correction; just reprint the page with the correct spelling, staple it to the pile and call in good.
NOT in Costa Rica. It would require an entire re-draw and re-certification, which takes more time and money. I whispered to Don: “I just noticed it says the car is green. Should we tell him we painted it red?”
The room went silent. “Red? You painted the car red? You have changed the characteristics of the car! We need new papers, and you have to go to RITEVE to get it certified. After you get it certified, come back here for new papers.”
We had heard of RITEVE, the vehicle inspection requirement, which we thought was similar to the SMOG test requirement in California. We were wrong.
To be continued – “Our trip to RITEVE”