21 July, 2007

Un-Pimp My Ride

This last Friday I decided to do some errands. I needed to refill a couple of medications (prescription drugs to you folks in the States). Here, I think just about everything is OTC.

I also needed to pay my first visit to Dr. Allen, a new arrival here in Corozal. He's a US doctor, here for two years (I'm guessing on some sort of mission or fellowship or something). He's established an office (more like a broom closet) in the Evergreen Pharmacy - our favorite pharmacy. Dianna and all the ladies think he's the best thing since sliced bread. I'm not sure if that speaks to his medical abilities or what. I needed to see Dr. Allen because a mosquito bite on my right ankle had become infected and my foot was beginning to puff up - not bad yet, but I didn't want to take any more chances than I needed to.

I also wanted to get a couple of new newspapers next door to Evergreen, and had some groceries on my list, so a stop at New World Market was in order as well.

On the way into town, I took the First Avenue way, as that goes alongside the bay. It just makes for a nice, refreshing ride to see all that Caribbean blue as you cruise. Along the way, near the Thunderbolt ferry landing, there's a whole flock of pelicans that hang out there that I had been meaning to shoot (with my camera).

Luck was with me. They were in, so I stopped along the quayside and took a snap of them. It's not a very good shot, but it'll have to do till I can get down there with the good camera and lenses and shoot more. In the distance you can see the Thunderbolt pier. There's also a pelican that usually roosts on a wooden pier stump. You can't see him in this shot - he's to the far left and on this morning, looked like an appendage of the stump, so I left him out.
The Fleet at Anchor
After that I zoomed on to the Evergreen Pharmacy. I got into town about ten-till-eight in the morning and Evergreen doesn't open till eight-thirty. The little store next door was open, so I went in, purchased a copy of the Independent Reformer (one of the anti-PUP papers) - it was the only new paper they had.

I went from the pharmacy over to Al's Restaurant and ordered a cup of coffee and a small bottle of water. I sat at one of the two sidewalk tables they have, and had a leisurely half hour of reading the paper and enjoying my coffee.

At about 8:35 AM, I paid up at Al's, mounted up and rode over to the pharmacy. Not opened. I went into the newsstand and asked the vendor if he knew if they usually showed up close to on time. He kind of shrugged his shoulders and said they usually showed up by nine or so.

I was just getting on the scooter again to head back to Al's when the news vendor hollered to me that they were just now arriving. I looked across the street, and sure enough, the three girls that work at the pharmacy were getting out of a car - a good sign.

After watching them open the roll-up metal shutter (hurricane and theft prevention), I got my replacement drugs with no problem and asked if Dr. Allen would be in. Catherine, the Pharmacist, said that he usually came in about nine. As I was finishing bagging up my drugs, in walked Dr. Allen.

Medical treatment in third world countries is not really a private affair. I sat on a chair in the store, he wrote in his book on the display counter, asked me questions about my visit, age, problems, etc., did some examination of my swollen ankle, then asked my to step into his office.

Now, you really have to see this to believe it. His office is just to the left of the pharmacy main door. It's about 3' x 6'. It has a very tiny table top that serves as a desk, with a folding wooden chair. There's a padded patient's chair right next to the desk and crammed in is a 3' examination table, oh, and a wall-mounted fan and fluorescent light hung from the ceiling. The walls of his office go up about eight feet.

He had me sit in the patient's chair and prop my foot up on the desk chair. He leaned over the examination table to look at my ankle. If it was any more cramped, we'd have had to have been very good friends.
the Evergreen Pharmacy
So, he poked and prodded, then had me come back out into the store area because there was more room. After he finally decided my ankle was infected and that I wasn't having an allergic reaction, he went back into the pharmacy to order some antibiotic medicine for me.

As he came out and was telling me how often to take the tablets, he said "Oh, here's my nurse." He proceeded to introduce us. I missed her name entirely as she kind of put me off when she said I should cut off my ankle bands (the red and green, port and starboard turks head knots I have on each ankle). I told her I'd had them for three or four years and they were staying. Probably not the best start for either of us. And besides, she drives a Hummer - first and only one I've actually seen down here. An unnecessary and ostentatious display of wealth and conspicuous consumption. So there.

Anyway, my business was done with Dr. Allen, so I packed and paid the doctor ($20BZ for his office call, and $23BZ for the antibiotic) and went out to the scooter. I fired it up and was just ready to head out into traffic to go to New World and back home, when it died.

I tried several times to re-start it to no avail. It cranked fine, but no fire. I called Canadian Bob and Brit Paul for any advice or tips. They both agreed it sounded like an electrical problem... I agreed. I thought it might be spark plug or wire.

Dr. Allen even came out a couple of times to see if he could help. He admitted what he knew about mechanical things was minuscule, but at least he made the offer.

I called Dianna to let her know I was going to be a while before I got home. She said Cody was at the house and might be able to help, and put him on the phone.

I explained to Cody, and asked him to come into town with his van, thinking that we'd be able to put it in the back and haul it home.

When Cody arrived, I realized we'd never get the scooter into his van - it has all the seats. What to do, what to do...

Cody suggested taking it to the lawn mower repair shop he takes his and Tony's mowers to. I was reluctant as Bob and Paul both swear the only scooter wrench worth anything is San Sing, A Chinese mechanic in Orange Walk, about an hour away from Corozal.

With no other options, I said ok. I'll push it over to the mower shop and leave it with them, and Cody will give me a ride home.

I left it at the mower shop with the assurance they would either call or it would be ready by two PM.

At 2:30 PM, I had Cody drive me back down there (having neglected to get their phone number, and of course, they're not in the phone book). It wasn't ready. The store owner told me his mechanic was at lunch... What? It was supposed to be ready. Oh, that's right. This is Belize. Chill, chill. So, I said I'd check back in the morning - this morning, Saturday.

This morning, bright and early, about 9 AM, I strolled into the store. I could tell just looking at it, that it wasn't done. No mechanic in yet either. The owner did show me an electrical part near the battery, that he said the mechanic had told him was the culprit. I looked at it and disconnected it from the scooter. I told him I would go to Orange Walk to see if San Sing had the part and would be back.

Driving the Rodeo, I decided I needed Paul or Bob to go with me, if possible, since they knew where San Sing was located. I managed to get Bob to agree to go. Paul was putting his boat into the water today (with a possible trip to the far side of the Cerros peninsula tomorrow, which Paul invited us to go on with him).

We did try calling San Sing before we trekked over to Orange Walk, but naturally, Digicell, the pre-paid cellular provider here in Belize, was not cooperating. Their network was on the fritz, so we couldn't connect to their network. It's Belize, Mon.

I stopped to let Dianna know we were going on a road trip. Bob and I made it to Orange Walk in about 45 minutes, and wouldn't you know it, San Sing was closed today. Guess what I'm doing Monday morning?

Anyway, it wasn't a total bust. Bob showed me a store called the Boundary Store, where they sell all manner of used stuff - household items, clothing, bits and bobs of just about everything. I bought a gray metal file box for our file folders.

After that, we stopped at the Orange Walk Market Place, and had 12 small picante chicken taco roll-ups and two glasses of mango juice. This was for $6BZ - that's $3US apiece for lunch!

So, we headed back to Corozal. Later in the afternoon, I got a call from the mower shop owner. He said the mechanic had taken a similar part from another scooter and mine started right up. I told him I would see San Sing first thing Monday and would be back down to his place right after that.

That's where things stand. I feel alot better about leaving it at the mower shop since they were actually able to trouble-shoot the problem. As the owner said, their biggest problem for everything is the unavailability of parts here in Corozal. I agree. Anyway, I'll have it solved Monday morning - if San Sing is open.

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