Moving in this Way

Everybody knows when there is honor among thieves, you don’t bring a gun to knife fight. Unfortunately in my recent cases: Vecino Perry vs. Ladrón Locales (Neighbor Perry vs. the Local Burglar) and Gringo Perry vs. Autos Quiros y Abogada Yadira Jimenez (a car dealer and their lawyer), honor was never part of the equation.

For two months I have been waiting for a fair resolution after the 4-Runner I bought from Autos Quiros in nearby Perez Zeledon, was taken by court order. Last month I accepted a replacement vehicle of lesser value and a promise from Autos Quiros and Abogada Jimenez to make up the difference, only to find out they had no intention to pay or produce the legal owner of the new car- a divorced woman who’s ex-husband sold the car without her permission and whose signature was necessary to transfer the title.

Last week, after a hasty departure to my gig at the Envision Festival, I came home to find my window screen broken and precious laptop computer stolen. With the house dark and curtains drawn, the thief had to know exactly where I had left it out to reach it through the steel window bars.

One of my favorite things about living in another country is learning the unique names and expressions for every day things. Here in Costa Rica, speed bumps are sometimes called Los Muertos or ‘The Dead’. In Venezuela and Ecuador I have heard them called Sleeping Cops, Dead Cops, or Cops lying down depending on the mood and context. My current favorite is ‘Donkey Kill’- a local name for the steel grill mounted on the front of your truck.

My mechanic, Heiner speaks almost perfect English. He trained in and practiced car repair in Ontario, Canada for a number of years and now runs his own shop in nearby Uvita. I see Heiner a lot. Too often really though I am grateful for how he treats me- as part of the family. After going over the options to deal with the latest car problem or repair he almost always ends with “We will move in this way”.

The last few months have been tough. Losing a long-time client to fraud, unending car troubles, being robbed by a neighbor. I wonder why things are moving in this way. Have I been too trusting or too careful? Am I too engaged or too distracted? At almost every turn I have had a hassle to deal with. It feels like death from a thousand cuts.

If I am going to survive this knife fight I need a gun.


Through Heiner and his partner Ronald, I met Abogado Fernando Sancho last week for the first time. We met in his office, a small concrete building 20 meters behind his home. It contained a large wooden desk, attending couch, laptop, printer, ceiling fan and bookshelf with legal volumes. A small second, single shelf with two ceramic figurines tried desperately to offer some hospitality. The room was dustless.

Semi-retired and in his late 50’s, Sancho is a serious man. He was the country’s lead prosecutor in fiscal policy and land reform cases and now lives and works in Bahia Ballena on the south pacific coast. Once a week he drives to the country’s capital to advise and participate in case law.

With Ronald’s help I explained my situation and the fact that I had been waiting over a month for my current lawyer to make any progress. Sancho listened intently and asked me a few questions in slow, careful Spanish. He explained that the first priority was to secure title for the car I now have. Only after that would he look into seeking restitution from the crooked auto vendor and lawyer. I agreed. 15 minutes later my new lawyer, Sancho had a phone number for the legal owner of the car and had convinced her to meet us the next day in San Isidro, about an hour’s drive away.

Inspired by Sancho, I approached each of my neighbor’s kids and then, met separately with their parents. I explained the importance of my computer and offered a reward of $100, no questions asked. The next day three of the kids came to me as a group with a plan. They thought they knew where the thief, whomever he may be, would have sold the computer and offered to try and buy it back. Most likely it was with a fence in nearby Coronado but the price would be $240. I agreed to the plan and 15 minutes later my computer was in hand. It takes 10 minutes to drive to Coronado, 20 there and back.

Sancho and I drove to San Isidro. We met with the owner of (my) car and her new husband who insisted on having copies of everything. An hour later the title transfer papers were submitted to the National Registry with no objections.

Abogado Sancho and I expect a new title for my car will be issued the end of next week. In the meantime I have offered my case of the stolen computer to our community Crime Awareness and Prevention group for review. I am moving in this way now and things are looking up.