Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 3, 2006
Car trouble? Just call Paco
Paying the obliging, expert repairmen in Guatemala doesn't break the bank
A Missionary's Musings
By FR. JACQUES JOHNSON
It's the rainy season. People call it winter. Mornings are nice and sunny, but towards the end of the afternoon the dark clouds are gathering ominously. The thunder starts thumping hard and the rain starts coming down by the barrel.
You go to bed at 10 or so and your bed shakes. It feels like an earthquake is coming on. But it's the crash of the thunder reverberating across the sky and down too close to home.
Slipping and sliding
It's a long way back after dark from visiting a village an hour or more from home. There is little traffic, but blinding rain covers your windshield with visibility a bit like a snowstorm in the Prairies. You're out there, all by yourself, trying to stay on a slippery road with little visibility. It's bad. But I'll take this rather than the dry blinding snowstorms we get on the Prairies.
It's not so dry here, especially in my room. When it rains, the water comes in from the ceiling somehow and about half the floor of the bedroom, as well as the washroom, are wet.
Somehow the place where my bed and desk sit is always dry. I didn't bother to dry it out; it would just get wet again in minutes. When I awake in the early morning the floor has dried just as if the water evaporated.
However, there has been water in the bathroom, not from the rain, but from mishaps in the pipe system. Some of it comes from the sink and another source of unwelcome water comes from the toilet system.
After many months of this, I approached Bene, the local man who cuts the lawn, keeps the church clean and from time to time washes the odd floor in the rectory complex.
I asked him if he could do something about the water finding its way on the floor of my bathroom.
"Sure," he said and was gone. That was too quick to be true, I thought. But surprise, within a half hour he came in with a man named Marco who professed to be a master builder or foreman who could fix anything.
"Go for it," I told him.
He tested everything and reported that I needed a new sink. So we went out to visit a couple of shops and came back with a brand new sink with tubes and stuff for a total of 250 quetzals - quick, my $3 calculator from Walmart - $41.
The man worked for a good two hours and then announced that it was installed and working like a charm. It seemed to work all right. I thanked him and bracing myself, I asked for his bill. He said he'd charge me 10 quetzals. Quick. The calculator: $1.60!
Such a tip
I knew he was a family man who spent most of the morning working for us. I had to do better than that I thought. I looked into my wallet and found a bill for 50 quetzals - $8.33. I didn't even want to conjure what a plumber costs per hour in Canada.
The man took the bill for 50 quetzals and was stunned. He stood there for a long time, looking at that bill, rolling it in his hand, a blank look in his face.
"What did I do?" I wondered.
After his long meditation over the money, he asked me to put in a word to the boss, Father Sergio, to make sure that he - and nobody else - gets whatever job might be available in the plumbing area. I concluded that the man was satisfied with his pay.
Speaking of repairs, I had an unfortunate encounter with the corner of the new hall in El Amay, over an hour drive from here. I was driving up toward the church, following an uncertain trail, nearing the corner of the town hall when all of a sudden on my left side I saw a deep barranco or cliff dangerously close to where I was.
So I veered to the right and damaged the right side of my truck. Deep scratches etched pretty well all along the right side. Sad, but better than being150 feet below, I thought.
Back home I met with 22-year-old Paco (short for Franciscano) who trained in vehicle repairs and who had helped me once back in the country when I couldn't start the pickup. I had forgotten about the dome light being on and I was away from the vehicle for two days.
Paco took a look at the damage and gave me an estimate: 650 quetzals or, according to my little calculator, $108. It took him most of the week and sometimes he had two friends working with him. A great job!
Should you have any problem with your vehicles, just bring them over and Paco will give you the deal of your life.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.