Living here in this country as a gringo has an incredible amount of situations that require ingenuity, patience and a few other skills to maneuver your way through without completely losing your well intentioned grace. As a gringo, one is immediately targeted for an innumerable number of things, including and not limited to, being taken for a loop – financially and otherwise. Here the ‘loop’ may be the act of standing in line for hours to find you were directed into the wrong line, or sent in the ‘wrong’ direction to find something, or even masterfully directed to seek someone that is well known to deplete your wallet. It is easy to be duped and played as the gringo fool. However, there is a very valuable tool that is available, and it is to establish a link with a local who’s got ‘connections’.
We were very fortunate when we arrived in this country to be greeted at our first night’s rest after arrival by a local man that has become a very important link, and a very dear friend. The first most valuable aspect of this relationship is that he is a local, and the second most important is that he speaks both English and Spanish fluently. He is our ‘go to guy’ for most things that are large and foreign, for example getting around in the big city, which is a must do occasionally as this is where all events requiring official documents must take place, i.e. the embassy (passport stuff), buying a vehicle, getting a driver’s license, etc. If you don’t know your way around this huge sprawling can of worms you can be there wandering lost for days! And, if you stop to ask for directions…well, you can bet that you will be given as many different answers as people that you ask. Everyone wants to help, and for them it is more important to appear as though they are helping than to actually be of help. And there is the communications department that always steps in to help to mess things up, so having someone fluent in both languages avoids many stressful events from occuring.
Anyway, we bought a truck and it was leaking oil from the inside hub and needed to be checked out, so Billy said to us, ‘I have a friend…’ that turned out to be our #2 ‘go to guy’ here, and also a very good friend, our mechanic. He is the universal link of all links, hands down. He knows everybody for everything, and he will drop what he is doing to take you there, or call for you, or arrange what needs arranging; not to mention that he is the best mechanic in town, without a doubt. It has become almost hilarious when you ask him about this or that, as he ALWAYS says, ‘I have a friend…’ and within minutes the remedy is in front of you. Everyone loves Manuel and will help him with anything anytime, and he is always willing and eager to help us, which is totally a blessing.
Yesterday was a very good example…the truck wanted to veer to the left, consistently. We had already rotated the tires and had it checked at an alignment shop (while traveling recently) and apparently nothing could be noted as being ‘wrong’, but the truck continued to veer to the left. We took it to Manuel, who ‘has a friend’ that can look at it, so he and Mate took off in the truck to this friend’s ‘shop’. Let me point out that mechanic shops here are nothing at all like what they are in the States. Yes, there are some like that here, all neat with all of the workers in uniforms and all of the tools in order, etc., and very pricey with no guarantees. The trustworthy shops are usually in someone’s garage or back yard, but this has nothing to do with skills, it is simply the way of life here, so it’s important not to be deterred by what it ‘looks like’. And what they look like, OMG, you wouldn’t believe (yes, pictures yet to come for sure!) So anyway this ‘friend’ was ‘across the tracks’, so to speak, in a land where gringos do not go, and he had all of the tools he needed (much like using the stars for navigation) to check the alignment. He accurately noted that the tires were out of alignment, the left being the worst, and proceeded to align them. Friend number two took care of switching the tires on the rims so that they were balanced. After a few trips around town and visiting the friends needed to fix the problem, we were ready to travel safely down the road again.
There is a yearly inspection that must be done on all cars in this country, you pay a fee and run your vehicle through a very rigorous and meticulous inspection that checks EVERYTHING on the vehicle to make sure that all is in proper and legal order. If you are a gringo, they double check and will send you out to fix the most ridiculous things, for a fee of course, just to yank your chain. To avoid this, we take the truck to Manuel and he makes sure that everything is perfect, and then he takes the truck through the check. Well for our first check he was all ready to go and was looking at the registration and ownership papers and noticed that we were missing a very important document…now what? Well, he said ‘No problem, just a minute, I’ll call my friend…’ In less than an hour, in the pouring rain, his friend drove up on his moto with the missing document, for a nominal fee. Of course if we had tried to obtain the document, we would have had to take a number and sit for hours for our turn, and then most likely be sent around town a couple of times to get the proper this’s and that’s before we would have the document. But Manuel’s friend was in and out with the document in short order, and the truck went through the inspection without a hitch! Yeah, that’s what I am talking about!
Okay so I brought this blackberry phone here with me, but it won’t work unless you get it unlocked, which is illegal. Manuel had a friend…who unlocked it, and completely set it up to work (unfortunately the phone still does not work, even though, because the touchpad freezes – another time for that one, same friend most likely). Point is the connection here.
And so we have been spreading the word about looking for our new place to live, we talk to one friend about it and what we are looking for and he says, ‘Wait a minute, let me call my friend, he knows this woman who…’ and then we are off on a roll of ‘friends with friends’. Next thing you know we are talking with another friend that just so happens to be in that loop and knows someone else…well, I do believe that eventually through this system of connections we will get hooked up with the situation that is right for us and good for all. A community of connections with a good flow to it…uh huh, sounds good.
It is such a blessing to have at least a couple of ‘friends’ with friends here! Getting around road checks and ordinary obstacles that become monsters for us gringos is muy importante. There is an underground community here that totally depends on its links and connects for operation, very much a ‘scratch each other’s backs’ operation and everyone survives and actually thrives. There is harmony and understanding within this community, and a trust that goes way beyond gringo understanding, and a very important point here is that it is a system that is NOT entirely based on making money! (Just enough.) I am an idealist, and to me this is the way it should be, not the cut throat money hungry and gouging operations that are common ground in mainstream western civilization, ho hum. Of course there is a general lack of trust in gringos for these people (hmm, imagine that – I wonder why? Not), and thus the run around given in the system, but when you have friends like Manuel and Billy, as dependable as the sun rising and setting daily, you can relax and enjoy life a lot more. We have gained their trust and they have welcomed us into their world, we are honored and VERY thankful for this.
Wouldn’t it be something if the rest of the world could work together like this? Yes, I am a Dreamer, but I also believe in miracles. Integrity and ethics…key words for potential here. If everyone were to operate in a similar way, scratching each other’s backs instead of everything always in competition while backed by lies and good stories – for money – instead of appreciating each other’s skills and supporting one another, wow – things would definitely be different. Yes, it is evolving…ever so slowly…
Be the change…-Gandhi
There is no try, do or do not. – Yoda