THE DREADED ANNUAL TRIP TO RITEVE

So, today you have an appointment to do something painful, and because the dentist isn’t available to do a root canal, you are taking your car to Riteve for its annual inspection.

Costa Rica RITEVE

Riteve stands for Revision Tecnico Vehicular. Cars are required to undergo inspection once a year, and taxis twice a year. It can be a nerve-wracking and frustrating process—first of all, because you don’t know what they are going to find, and secondly, because they are giving you hurried instructions in Spanish, which you may or may not understand. Riteve has a website that you can switch to English by clicking on the little US flag in the upper right hand corner of the home page. The instructional videos, however, are not translated, but a lot can be figured out by watching them.

To make an appointment go to the website www.rtv.co.cr/en/ or call 905-788-0000. There are 13 inspection stations in the country plus 4 mobile stations, so you will likely choose the one nearest you. How do you know when to get the inspection done? Check the last digit of your license plate. So if it is 3, then you have to get your appointment sometime during the month of March, a 6 means June, and so on.

Riteve

You can take anyone you like with you to the inspection, keeping in mind that any small children should be in appropriate car seats. If you are new to the country and do not speak Spanish, you might want to pay a local that you trust to accompany you. Some take their mechanic.

When you arrive, park your vehicle and go in the office. They will ask to see identification (cedula or passport), driver’s license, and car title, and you will pay for the inspection. The current rates are posted there, but the price is running around $22 for a car.

From there you will pull your vehicle into one of 6 lines and enter the inspection stations. There you will move forward through about 6 inspections stations, each with it’s own objective. The first stop is a basic exterior and interior inspection where they will check your headlights, turn signals, brake lights, windshield wipers, horn, tire tread and seat belts.

Costa Rica Riteve

Further stops are over sensors and rollers in the floor and check alignment, emissions, brakes, suspension, and the underside of your vehicle. Technicians at each stop give instructions to turn the wheel, apply the brakes, turn on and off lights, and pull forward.


Sometimes they are a little bit hard to understand—especially the guy in the pit talking over a crackly microphone, which is why you might want to take a local with you. I do every year, I take my secretary with me then treat her to lunch. It is well worth it!! And I understand Spanish, not great but I get by.

After leaving the inspection line, you park and go into a small room where they will give you a printout of your inspection results. The column on far right indicates if a problem is minor, major, or dangerous. There is a box at the bottom left of the page that says if you passed or not. If you did, in the lower right hand corner is a sticker that you tear off and put on the inside of your windshield high up on the passenger’s side.

If you didn’t pass, you have 30 days to make the repair, make a new appointment, and return to the same station for re-inspection. The cost will be 50% of the original cost.

Nearly 50% of vehicles in Costa Rica fail Riteve inspections. Gas emissions and brake failures continue to be the main causes.
Two years ago I purchased a brand new car, I mean the damn thing was just months old when I had to do inspection. I FAILED!!! When I pushed to find out why the technician said I had too much oil in the engine. What does this have to do with Safety?? So, I took it to a local mechanic just down the road, he literally removed 2 cups of oil from the engine. 2 CUPS!! I went back to the Riteve station and had to go thru the whole process again. The ass, yes I called him an ass, saw me coming thru again and made some comment I did not understand. Luckily the 2 cups I had removed was enough to pass the test. I think this photo below is of the guy that failed me.

costa Rica Riteve

Riteve officials report that at least one driver daily tries to cheat. They have a useless hand brake, so they push the pedal while pulling the “brake” so the brake light shows. They gouge out tire tread to make it seem deeper. They have lights held in by tape. They disconnect a motor injector to alter the emissions. They borrow tires to pass the test and then remount their bald ones afterwards. In Costa Rica, everything that is makeshift is called a “MacGyver.” Jennifer Hidalgo, press officer at Riteve, says inspectors are trained to detect the alterations. “What people don’t understand is that their “macgyver” will not work anymore with us and will end up costing them more.”

There are mechanics that have set up shop near the Riteve inspections stations to help you with the quick fix and save you a second trip for re-inspection. Be sure to communicate thoroughly about what is needed and the cost.

Any inspection causes anxiety, and Riteve is no exception. Add to that the frustration that they failed you on something small that you could have fixed right there, like too dark a tint on the window. They don’t tell you anything as you are going along. They don’t encourage interaction, although some technicians are friendlier than others but most act like they want to be someplace else.

HAVE YOU TRIED THESE COSTA RICAN FRUITS?

We all love the deliciously ripe, sweet mangoes, pineapples, papayas and bananas that we eat daily in Costa Rica. Have you noticed how much better fruit tastes here? It is because we are eating fruits picked at the peak of ripeness, not picked green for exportation.

But maybe there are a few fruits that you have seen in the markets or on menus that are unfamiliar to you. Should you try them? Mostly definitely! Let me introduce you to 4 of my favorite Costa Rican fruits: Cas, guanabana, guaba, and mamon chino.

Cas is a sour guava. It is a small, round fruit about the size of a golf ball and is yellow when ripe. To make a drink with it, wash the outside, remove the stem area, cut it in half and remove any little white worms but not the seeds. Blend with water and strain out the pulp. Add sugar to taste. Fresco de cas is a refreshingly tart drink rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C.

Cas a tangy Costa Rican fruit         Costa Rican Fruits, Cas

Guanabana (soursop) is by far one of the ugliest fruits you will ever see. It is the size of a football (or sometimes bigger), brownish-green in color with brown prickles all over. But don’t be put off by its exterior! Inside is the juiciest, sweetest white flesh. Don’t bother with utensils to process this fruit—tear it open and peel the skin off with your bare hands, and dig the shiny black seeds out with your fingers. It’s absolutely therapeutic—and very messy! You can eat it raw or blend it with water and sugar to make a drink. Dr. Axe says the guanabana has “super healing properties as a high-oxidant food,…may help reduce eye disease…and could potentially kill pancreatic cancer cells.”

Guanabana              Cus Guanabana

Guaba (not guava) is actually a legume and not a fruit, but it is the sweetest bean you will ever eat. It is a long green pod that grows on a tree that you can pry open with your hands. Inside you will discover a row of seeds (beans) nestled in a bed of white cotton—nature’s own cotton candy! Pull that white fluff out and savor it—but spit out the seeds. Because of its slight vanilla flavor, guaba is call the “ice cream bean.” The indigenous people say the guaba has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and other healing properties. It is mostly just fun.GuabaGuaba opened up

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, I introduce to you the mamon chino (rambutan). This hairy, bright red fruit is native to Southeast Asia and related to the lychee. Though it looks like a sea urchin, its spikes are not sharp at all. Just slice the shell with a knife—or pry it open with your fingers—and you will find a tasty little white grape inside. Pop it in your mouth and chew or suck on it until you are down to the seed, which you spit aside. They are very addictive! I don’t know if it is the punk-rock exterior or that sweet interior, but you cannot eat just one. Buy them by the kilo, eat the whole bag, and you will have met your Vitamin C requirement for a couple of days—plus a little copper, which is good for your hair, interestingly enough.

mamon chino

mamon chinos

 

So, the next time you are in the farmer’s market, don’t be afraid to try one of these unfamiliar Costa Rican fruits. Ask the person selling the produce how you peel, eat and process it in order to avoid the mishaps that come with experimentation. More often than not, they will give you a sample to try. Enjoy, and good health to you!

ALVARADO VS ALVARADO, COSTA RICA’S PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

On February 4, Costa Rica held its presidential election. Thirteen candidates hoped to charm an electorate. Voter turnout was at about normal levels, although 34% of voters stayed home. Political analysts consider the election “atypical,” saying that Costa Ricans felt they could not fully back any of the candidates and, instead, simply chose the lesser of the evils. Previously powerful parties fell as rookie parties rose.

Costa Rica's Presidential Candidates in a debateWhen the voting was over and the ballots were counted, 2 candidates surnamed Alvarado had the most number of votes: Fabricio Alvarado, 43, of the National Restoration Party had 24.8%, and Carlos Alvarado,38, of the PAC (in Spanish – Citizens Action Party) had 21.6%. In third place was Antonio Alvarez Desanti of the Liberation Party, who conceded. Neither of the leading candidates garnered 40% of the votes, as mandated by law to win the election, so a runoff election will be held 2 months later on April 1, 2018.

This election was not about the economy, although some think it should have been. The central government’s debt has grown to almost 50% of the GDP. Many feel that if the problem of government spending is not tackled immediately, economic growth will fall and unemployment will climb from an already high percentage rate.

Instead, the presidential election turned out to be about cultural and religious issues. The front-runner, Fabricio Alvarado, is a former journalist, evangelical preacher and congressman whose campaign platform is “pro-life” and “pro-family.” He was a dark horse candidate up until January 9, 2018. On that date, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Costa Rica to modify its laws to give same-sex couples the same rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, effectively legalizing same-sex marriage. A poll revealed that two-thirds of Costa Ricans oppose the Court’s ruling. The ruling and the popular opinion were “like a godsend” for evangelical candidate Fabricio Alvarado, accordingly to political analysts. Two days after the court decision he went from 3% to 17% support in the polls, replacing the right-wing populist candidate Juan Diego Castro.  Castro had led in the polls for many months after promising to withdraw Costa Rica from the Inter-American Human Rights System.

Enter PAC’s Carlos Alvarado. As the only candidate that welcomed the opinion of the Court, young progressive voters rallied to support him. PAC is the political party that backed current President Luis Guillermo Solis, although Costa Rican law required him to renounce the party once in office (neither can he express his voting preference). But scandals have rocked his administration and weakened the party’s incumbent lead.

The support of the two winning parties was very much drawn along socio-economic lines. Generally speaking, Fabricio Alvarado won in the outlying, more rural districts, while Carlos Alvarado led in the more urban and metropolitan districts. Put another way, the Liberation Party is more blue-collar, and the PAC white-collar.

“The Costa Rican elites have excluded a part of the population, and we now see that evangelical churches have been fruitful, working for more than 30 years with abandoned communities that have educational and labor instability or violent situations,” according to Laura Fuentes, an expert in the sociology of religion and researcher at the National University. “The churches are there all the time, working with their members, and are often connected to an international network that has economic resources. The churches don’t just visit their communities during a campaign. They live there.”

Fabricio Alvarado preaches “prosperity theology” which teaches that success (read: financial) comes with being a good Christian. To me, that is just wrong using religion as a means of political gain.

So, now the two dueling Alvarados have 2 months to tweak and strengthen their platforms. Some analysts fear the campaign ahead will polarize even further around religious matters and leave out pressing “earthly” topics such as the fiscal reform.

THE FLIP SIDE OF “PURA VIDA’

As a visitor or resident of Costa Rica, you often hear a local (Tico) greet you with “Pura Vida”. They use it to say hello, goodbye, or to let you know everything is cool, OK. It is their way of letting you know they don’t stress the small stuff.

Costa Rica Pura Vida

It is said that the term actually came from a 1956 Mexican movie titled Pura Vida! The main character is an optimistic sort despite negative circumstances who repeats the words “pura vida” throughout the movie. The phrase caught on it Costa Rica because it perfectly expresses the Tico’s optimism and easy-goingness. They are a non-stressed, less litigious people.

You will enjoy that attitude the minute you land and all through your visit. Costa Ricans are endlessly patient with us as we struggle with their language or we need to stop at yet another souvenir store. They will never rush you from your table at a restaurant. You could literally walk up to a house, knock on the door, and ask for a cup of coffee and the lady of the house would be happy to serve you. It is a beautiful quality.

an image of Pura Vida

Until you want to get something done quickly or efficiently. Then it is at odds. In the U.S., the cornerstones of customer service are speed and efficiency. They are not in Costa Rica. They want to serve you, but efficiency, while it feels great to gringos, feels cold to Ticos. One time when I was in the States I renewed my driver’s license (at the local revenue office) and my passport (at the post office) in a ½ hour. It was a satisfying experience for all involved. Generally speaking, Ticos would not have enjoyed it.

What they like is for everyone to get along, and for the transaction to be friendly and personal, even if that means going about it really slowly. They are always in easy-going mode and expect you to be. Getting mad or demanding is a sure-fire way to slow things down—maybe not that time but certainly the next. And Ticos often will go the extra mile for you, but not if you demand it.

Image of the words Pura Vida

You can’t expect “easy-going” whenever you want it and efficiency when you demand it. Costa Ricans do not have a double standard and you shouldn’t either. This is not a made-to-order country where everyone is exactly what you want or need all the time.

At a bank I have been in a line with 25 other persons, and watched 4 of the 6 tellers going on lunch break, slowing the progression of the line to that of a glacier—about 4” every thousand years. You look around for support in your outrage, and you realized you are alone. You are the only one who cares. Unless, of course, there are other gringos in the line.

people standing in line

One time I went to immigration to pick up my residency which was supposed to be ready. After waiting a couple of hours in line, some pronunciation of my name was called. I was informed that they could not give me my residency unless I had my passport along in which a stamp would prove my entrance into the country a few months before. They had a record of my departure, but not of my arrival. I said, “You need proof of my return to Costa Rica?? Tah dah! Here I am! Right in front of you.” They said they had no record of HOW I returned to the country—air, land or sea. I pointed out that they had a record of my mate returning to the country by plane on the date in question. I asked them if they thought my mate had flown home, but I had taken the bus down through Mexico and Central America, swimming across the San Juan River between Nicaragua and Costa Rica, and then hitch-hiking the rest of the way home. The man just stared at me. And I was getting angry, which was close to stopping the process all together. More than that, I was using sarcasm, which is lost on almost all Ticos, rendering it completely ineffective. So a few days later I meekly stood before them with my passport and its telltale stamps, and I was handed my renewed residency.

Here’s the rules: 1. No sarcasm; 2. Never get angry or demanding; 3. Don’t be in a hurry–no one else is.

If you can remember those 3 rules most of the time, you will love living in Costa Rica most of the time. Pura Vida!