Monday, December 10, 2007

Yet another car, another cat and another dwelling

Uff, it was a busy weekend. Too busy to hang around in a hammock....

During the last week the old car I bought developed a problem and was stopping at changing gears, or just out of the blue and after some frustrating - and even scary - experiences I decided to return it to the friend I bought it from, and she agreed to take it back and suggested refunding all my money, but I insisted she keeps some of them as a payment for my using it for almost a month.

Then I went to a car rental agency, rented a car and went searching for another car to purchase.

First, however, I promised to spend part of the weekend in question with a visiting friend and was showing her all the local beaches from Aquadillla to Anasco, when near the Table Rock beach in Aguada I spotted a large white villa overlooking the beach, that bore a discrete sign of two apartments for rent. The owner was inside so we went exploring.

There was a nice, cool, and very white (white ceramic floors, white walls, white trims, white kitchen cabinets, etc.) two bedroom apartment with an ocean view both from the living/dining room - with a white walled patio - and from the second bedroom/study, while master bedroom overlooked a large tropical garden. This apartment has a private entry gate (white, as you probably guessed it), car parking for more than one car and a private part of a garden. And a washer and dryer is in a nook outside the apartment - just the way I like doing laundry in the tropics - al aire fresco.

I liked this apartment from the start, since - contrary to my experiences in Puerto Rico so far - there was nothing shabby about the place, and the price - for a quiet beachfront location - was far from astronomical. However one advantage of the place - it was unfurnished and thus I could do it exactly the way I liked it - turned out to be a short term disadvantage: it was unfurnished and I have no furniture here, and - with the necessity to buy a car asap - I felt like I could not start furniture hunting - even for a minimalist living - before Christmas, while my current place was rented till December 20, and I wanted to move by then.

I informed the new landlord about the dillemma and we found a solution: they had also a fully furnished and air-conditioned studio on the other side of the villa - yet also with a view of the sea and the beach, and I could rent it now and when I had time to go shopping for furniture I could switch to the two bedroom apartment - unless, of course, somebody else claimed it first. So I decided to take the offer and risk at worst renting the studio till the end of the winter season - or to look elsewhere again, if somebody claimed the larger apartment. So we quickly penned a pre-rental agreement, I paid a security deposit and we continued the tour of beaches.

My friend tried surfing in Rincon with a guide (she is my daughter's age), while I had fun snorkeling - there are coral reefs here and great visibility. We played too long and when we were done, all car dealerships were closed. We went home, where we found that our neighbors were hosting a parranda - a Puerto Rican - more temperamentful - equivalent of Christmas caroling with all kinds of Caribbean music, all kind of instruments, song, dance, food, drink - a loud and rowdy, deliciously fun party to which we were instantly invited.

So we went car hunting on Sunday morning. My visiting friend proved invaluable here, since I know next to nothing about cars, while she could even spot if a part of the car was repainted after an accident and such some - boring yet important - practical things. So after visiting about a dozen of car dealerships on highway 2 between Rincon and Aguada, and her turning up her nose at everything she saw, we narrowed it first to two possibilities and finally settled on a nice looking 2002 Mazda Protege.

I offered to pay with American Express, which has no spending limit, but they did not accept Amex - nor any other credit card - so I - a bit in a culture shock, since I am oerhaps too used to pay by credit or debit cards for everything - finally agreed to give them two checks: one for $1000 to be cashed right away and one for the remainder to be cashed 10 days later, to give me time to sell some shares from my brokerage account ( which I would have done to pay an Amex bill within a month anyway - I do not carry any debt) to my checking account.

I could have gotten financing for the car from the dealer, but learned that it would cost me 18% in annual interest (yes, yes, financing in Puerto Rico is definitively not cheap - and neither are cars) and the average return I get on my stock portfolio ( save for the international part of it, due to dollar being practically in free fall since the beginning of Bushe's and Cheney's Iraq misadventure) is less than 18% a year, thus a no brainer was to sell some stock instead of financing the car - and negotiating a lower car price for a cash deal as an additional sweetener.
(My daughter, however, an MPA and CPA that she is, became so horrified by my check postdating routine that she immediately tranferred the amount in question from her savings to my checking. We have our differences: I keep everything in stock while she keeps about $20000 - $25000 in cash as a buffer. Perhaps wise - and sometimes very convenient I have to admit.)

So, after a purchase agreement was finished and I got my temporary vehicle licence ( the permanent one is supposed to arrive within 30 days), I got my new car to take with me.
I wondered a bit about insurance, but was informed that a basic insurance is included in a sticker that every Puerto Rican car must have on their front windshield - if a police spots an expiring sticker, the car is towed away and the owner/driver fined. I only had to purchase a full coverage insurance separately.

Now, armed with two cars, my friend and I went to the car rental agency to return the rental. And there she spotted a tiny, abandoned kitten, no more than three months old: white and grey, with blue eyes, skinny, hungry for both food and affection. My friend said "hey, kitty, kitty" but the kitten took one glance at her and then one glance at me and...without a slightest hesitation jumped into my arms. Thus I became a "foster mother" of yet another kitty and had to stop at a store, purchase kitten food, litter, box, carrier etc. etc.

Before the nightfall the kitty ate an inordinate amount of food, made a lot of use of her new litter box, groomed herself meticulously and fell asleep on a pillow next to mine.

The local vet is closed today, so tomorrow we go to have her checked out, treated if need be and given all the protective shots a kitty requires.


Kathryn/ said...

Hi, Minerva, Returning the visit. I lived on Ramey, near Aguadilla as a teen a zillion years ago. So you've now got me being nostalgic back. :)
Interesting blog. Stay safe.

Minerva said...

Hi, Kathryn. Thanks for visiting. And what a coincidence with nostalgia :-D !!!