Wednesday, 29 August 2007

As promised in the last entry, here are some pictures of my car. We are back to Fire Engine Red. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Wednesday, 29 August 2007 00:55:37 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  | 
 Friday, 24 August 2007

Let me tell you how not to buy a car in Curacao.

As mentioned previously I believe, you can’t do nothing without a car on this island. (Note to all Bavarians: Bayrische Doppelverneinung funktioniert auch im Englischen, wenn auch nicht ganz grammatikalisch richtig).

You will need a car whether you like it or not. The roads are in a reasonably good condition compared to what I have seen in the Dominican Republic for example. They like their speed bumps (or drempels as our Dutch friends like to call them) here and you might encounter (or more likely run over) the occasional stray dog, herds of goats or iguanas, but that’s it. Ah yes also, for some reason people can’t drive in rain, even though that clearly does not stop them. Let me tell you, if and when it rains here, it is raining hard and there is lots of water on the road. The concept of aquaplaning has not sunk in here yet and the fact that the tires on most cars are not up for it either does not help in any way. Anybody up for some real skidding?

Anyway, you should also note that cars here are not the beloved treasures or status symbols that they might be to people in Germany or England. They are real utilities and in everyday use. In fact, it’s a bit more like France here. A car without a proper dent is not really a car anyway.

We have talked about accidents in this space before (I passed a sign the other day which announced that there have been 13 traffic deaths in 2007 so far; quite respectable for an island of about 150,000 people) and there are certainly a lot of “restored” vehicles out there. Thus, you have to be careful when looking for suitable mode of transportation.

I’ve had my fair share of trouble with my last car, so I did not want a car older than say 8 years or one with a lot of mileage either.

Cars here are mostly Japanese or Korean, with a few US manufacturers thrown in. You do see the occasional BMW, Mercedes, Volkswagen and rarely an Audi, but that’s it as far as European cars are concerned. At least the islanders know to keep their fingers off any French voitures…

Most of the cars are automatic and you really need air condition. Because there actually is a lot of sun, a black car is not too clever either.

I arrived on July 11 and more or less immediately went to a car fair on July 14. Keeping the entire just mentioned in mind I actually found a car I liked on that day. The car was ANG 12,800 or about GBP 3,600 or EUR 5,300 in real money. Now I did not bring that sort of money with me to the island in cash and they wanted either cash or a check.

However, they also offered financing (at 9% interest) with the same bank that I am banking with anyway, so why not do that? Problem solved. Most local people seem to do the same thing.

Okay, so on the 14th of July I sit in a little marquee in a big car park, fill in a ton of paperwork, provide copies of my contract, of my passport and also of my driving licence and generally sweat a lot. 

The paperwork is then supposedly passed to the bank on Monday, although I’m not entirely sure if that really happened. In any case, the bank then takes almost 2 weeks and a bit of chasing up to get to the point that they contact my employer. The employer is kind enough to confirm that I actually do exist and that yes, they pay me a somewhat large salary (as stated in my contract, which the bank already has) compared to most people on the island. Very well. I don’t know this for sure but I presume the thought process at the bank then goes something like this. Right, we have got all the paperwork, we have verified it, so let’s do nothing for another week.

Once that week is up, they come up with this: As my contract is for one year only they are willing to finance the car over one year. So far so good, but wait, there is another condition. I also need to find a local person with a salary comparable to mine that is willing to vouch for me, i.e. someone who is willing to pay for me should I default on my loan. Rrrrrrrrrright. Now, I don’t know about you, but the only people I would approach for a favor like that are my parents or maybe the 2 loan sharks that call themselves my brothers. Last time I checked they were neither in Curacao nor local people. I don’t feel I can ask anybody else, so let’s forget about it. Great! Took the bank just 3 weeks to figure that out. Now we’re back to the drawing board.

The place that is selling the car knows someone at another bank, so the suggestion is why don’t we try that one? What else can I do, so let’s fill in more paperwork and copy some more contracts, payslips, bank statements and god knows what else.

These guys actually take a week, but at least they say yes. So, I just have to go there one day and sign my life away. So, I get there and wait for the representative for half an hour. Now for my favorite part: When it’s finally my turn they have to somewhat sheepishly admit that the director is in the process of authorizing the loan on his PC but has left to go somewhere and they can’t find him. As long as the file is open on his PC, nothing can be done. Now let’s think about this for a minute. We are talking a loan for ANG 12,800 here which the director himself has to approve. ANG 12,800. The owner of the hotel that I work for is in the process of trying to find a buyer for the hotel. Here we are talking a loan of something like ANG 120,000,000. Who is approving that loan then? The Governor of the island? Good old Queen Beatrix? Maybe God himself?

Anyway, two and a half hours later I have signed everything they want me to sign, I have a new bank account (probably have bought an encyclopedia of some sort) and have missed most of the working day.

We are now on day 33 of trying to get a car. The next day the car sales people actually get the check from the bank and we are ready to tackle the next problem: Tax and Insurance. But this is too boring in detail. So, in summary, the insurance will get it wrong once (my name is actually not Marriott) and have to start over (add 2 days), but once that is sorted it takes only another day for the license plates and on Thursday 23 August I get my car. So it took only 40 days in the end….

It’s a red Chevrolet Cavalier Coupe and its all mine. Well, actually I guess it belongs to bank, but whatever.

Thank you to all the people at Economic Car Center and everybody who drove me around for 6 weeks or lent me their cars.

So, what is the lesson in all this?

You don’t need me to tell you this but some bank will screw you over, either here or anywhere.

I do have the money in the UK but did not want to take out the money via cash machines or wire it as Barclays charges you an arm and a leg for that. With the limits in place I would have needed something like 10 Cash machine transactions where you get charged by Barclays and the local ATM supplier every single time.

Obviously I should have done that anyway or brought more money to start with. The credit alone will cost me something like GBP400 over the course of the loan and I could have at least saved a bit of money towards a hair transplant (which is now more necessary than ever) paying the car up front.

Unfortunately, it’s raining today, so I won’t take pictures of the car now, but watch this space for an update on the car soon.

Take care

 

Friday, 24 August 2007 21:46:32 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [1]  | 
 Sunday, 12 August 2007

Before I get into my reporting today, let me try and answer a question I have been getting a lot. Where the hell is Curacao? Somewhere in the Caribbean, isn’t it? But where exactly?

Well, Google to the rescue and here we go http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=Curacao&ie=UTF8&t=h&om=0&ll=12.118352,-68.966331&spn=0.002392,0.005375&z=18&iwloc=addr

 

What you can see is the hotel where I work, most easily identified by the pool and beach. I actually tried to find my butt parked there on the beach for all of you to see (it’s a nice butt you know), but I have zoomed in as much as it would go and it won’t do it. If you then zoom out it will give you an idea where the island lies in relation to the rest of the Caribbean, South America and the US. Pretty cool, ey?

 

Okay, but back to the reporting. I thought about writing about Month End, but I think it’s not applicable to most of the audience and boring anyway, so let’s forget about that.

There is also only very little I can write about the social part this week with the exception maybe that I am officially too old for listening to Techno and House (even in a rather inebriated state) amidst hundreds of sweating and jumping locals and Dutch. The beach doesn’t help there either for some reason.

 

I then actually wanted to write about apartment hunting with its ups and downs and the progress of getting a car with only its downs. However, when I was out apartment hunting this week something else happened. Those of you, who haven’t yet watched enough Jamba ringtones commercials on MTV to be rendered brain-dead, might remember that I wrote about not having yet seen an accident in my last entry. Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.

 

In the 2 hours we were out and about looking at apartments I saw a little boy getting run over and we passed another collision involving 2 cars.

In addition, last Sunday I have passed the scene of a heads-on collision.

I believe all of the involved will live to tell the tale, but the boy surely will not play Softball for Curacao this year. The ladies in the car that got hit in the side have suffered a broken collarbone, concussions, whiplash and various abrasions and I doubt it has done many good things for their blood pressure either.

Now these 2 accidents happened around lunch time so I guess we can only blame the general carelessness here when it comes to driving. The heads-on collision on Sunday (which looked by far the worst and I where don’t actually know what happened to those involved) I would bet my afore-mentioned butt on that alcohol was involved. Everybody has a drink (or 7 or 8) here, especially at the beach on a Sunday and then gets in the car to go home, so I guess it’s just something that you have to deal with.

The one thing I do like about this here is that they have not yet completely lost the plot when it comes to the laws governing this. So, if you do have an accident here while driving intoxicated, you can’t sue the guy who sold you the drinks, like the way it is now in many other parts of the world. Here it’s just: Better luck next time.

 

I don’t really know how this fits into this, but it’s far too cool not to tell you. The guy that drove me around to look at apartments (and who will most likely become my landlord) is some sort of local celebrity here. I haven’t quite figured out what it is he exactly does, other than driving around in one of his 8 cars and showing people apartments or houses, but he seems to own lots of houses, he owns part of the mobile phone company, is a famous DJ and among other things owns a radio station.

Needless to say that his own radio station is playing in the car.

Now get this: When we stop at the scene of the accident with the little boy, he gets out of the car, checks out what happened and then makes a phone call. We are still in the car and the radio is on. 10 seconds later the radio station plays some sort of “Breaking News” music and then you hear the words of the guy 10 feet next to you over the radio. You see him say the words but hear them over the radio. How weird is that? Traffic and news reporting on a whole new level.

He does the same thing at the other accident. Welcome to Curacao.

Anyway, it looks like I might have found an apartment which might be finished this year. The first time we looked at it, he said it would be ready on August 10. As we went back on Wednesday I could not see any considerable change over the last 2 weeks other than a few palm trees planted in the yard, but he insists it’ll now be ready on August 20. We’ll see. I think it’s impossible, even with Polish workers.

 

The car story is so sad I won’t even bother you with it. Still no car…

 

I’m also not in the mood to tell you about the rest of my week right now and in any case I stayed in Friday and Saturday, so nothing special there.

Maybe things will pick up a little today. I can’t sit around all day again.

 

Hopefully more soon, until then, take care

Sunday, 12 August 2007 17:58:52 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #    Disclaimer  |  Comments [0]  |