When we moved here, I inquired whether or not it would be OK to bring our Ford Galaxy minivan. I was told that the streets were bad, and when I came to look for housing, I saw this was true. However, the opinions among Expats varied. Most agreed that when you don't try to drive up Ararat, you should be fine with a minivan.
There is hardly a thing that I regret more than that I didn't leave the stupid car in Germany with my parents, and stuffed a sturdy 4x4 into our 40 foot container.
The car came out of the container dead. It actually had to be towed out. The battery had not survived the long sea trip - but here's the thing: it was the third battery for this car already. That should have given it away but I am not a mechanic.
For the next year, I had flat tires about twice a month.
See, the car is not made for roughing it. It's a nice car (strong, handles easily, packs a lot of stuff). I love that car. But it's, um, like a work horse that is used to a stable. Here, you need a work horse that is used to sleeping outside. A work horse that actively detests stables.
We bought the car second-hand in 2004 and it came with aluminum rims and tubeless tires. The moment you hit a pothole (and you will in Yerevan, there's no way avoiding it), the aluminum bends a bit, and the air goes out of the tire. Bang the rim with a hammer, refill the tire, pay the guy 1,000 drams and, off you go. Wash, rinse and repeat in two weeks.
I got really tired of it. I inquired about steel rims. Man, those are expensive here! Doug hummed and hawed, and I stalled. And had more flat tires. But since I'm the one doing all the driving, as Doug has a driver and is in the office all day anyway, I made a lonely decision and went ahead to the tire shop.
I said to them, I want steel rims, and new tires, as big as you can fit them into those spaces there. (You know, those spaces the tires go in. I know my car vocabulary, but in German and not in English.) So, they put these giant tires in. Giant. Truck size. They scrape a bit when you go around very narrow curves but ever since I got them (in April or so), I haven't had a flat tire yet. $800 well spent, is how I see it. I can go over potholes without thinking twice which is a very nice feeling. Inasmuch as you can fall in love with an object, I really love those tires.
Of course, the tires don't help with all the rattling parts in the back, and the front, and underneath but never mind that for the moment.
So, the battery problem.
As soon as it gets cold, the battery dies. This was true already in Romania, two years ago. Back then, I thought it was, you know, the battery. We figured out that if we started the car every day (I don't use the car every day), there was not a problem. But after a while, this didn't work anymore and a day or two before we moved away from Romania, and I had this long three-day drive with three kids to Germany planned, the car died again. So, I got a new battery. Drove the car to Germany, put it into the container, shipped it to Armenia. The car arrives two months later, the battery is dead. So, new battery, yet again. Winter comes around, the temps drop, the battery dies. BUT. It also does that when it's not driven a lot in the summer. After a long summer vacation, the battery is flat.
How many times did we do jump starts last winter? Hard to remember. The drivers from the office dread coming to our house in the winter because it means I plead with them, blink my teary-blind eyes, and say pretty please, can you give me a jump start? It takes a lot of time to charge the battery, for some reason, so they have to hang around for half an hour or so.
But we go on. We go through the winter, the car dies in regular intervals, it gets jump-started once a week or so, life goes on. Do you have a relative you don't like but who keeps coming anyhow, and you have to let him in because he's family, and then he hangs around while you really, really want him to leave? It's like that.
Already in spring, I wanted a new car. Ship the Ford to Germany, leave it at my parents' house, I said. It would save us tons of rental money to have a car in Germany. I wouldn't cringe anytime another rattling sound joins the myriad of existing rattling sounds. The vehicle sounds like a Caribbean steel drum band by now. But the expense!, Doug says.
So, we check, we find a car for a price that Doug agrees to (he's a Scot, he hates spending money). Problems arise that we won't discuss now (import taxes, etc.), and the deals falls through. Meanwhile, I've set my heart on a Toyota Land Cruiser. That's what I want. I don't care about the money, I care about our safety and about getting around (and about my convenience). Imagine we need to get out in a hurry. Imagine we want to look at a monastery in the mountains. Imagine we go on a hash that is somewhere in the countryside. I'd like to have a car I don't have to worry about all the time.
Granted, a LC is really expensive. We'd need the large version, what with our plethora of kids. (Yes, btw, still planning that fourth one. No news yet.) Very expensive. But, I say, we'd have that car for the rest of our lives! The LC has been around for so long, it literally can be repaired everywhere. I have good arguments but my husband looks at the price tag and says, no.
Oh, well. He's right about the price. It's way expensive.
Yesterday morning, the car didn't start. We had guests that night. I needed to go shopping. Well, I scraped stuff together and got out with a decent meal. But today, I really need to go shopping. I also have an appointment for a service check at the garage that is literally around the corner from us, less than a kilometer. So, jump start.
Only this time, this did not work. The drivers had to come and connect two batteries to make the car start. Well, I got it to the service shop and now I hope they can find the problem. (Yah, right.) I read myself through the forum on the Ford Galaxy and discovered that it could be the compressor for the A/C... (which isn't working, neither is the heating but nobody could fix this here in Yerevan). If this is true, then we are out of, oh, $2,000. For the parts. Which we have to bring in from Germany.
Do you think I'm being unreasonable in wanting a new car?