I was sewing a screen for the companionway this morning, having finally gotten frustrated enough with the mosquito net we'd been using to keep the cats inside (which has an annoying habit of falling on your head while you're pushing it out of the way to go in or out) to do something about replacing it, when the presser foot on my sewing machine slewed off to the side. The thumb screw that holds it to the presser mechanism was stripped. Unfortunately, that's one of the few parts for the machine that I don't have a spare for. Crap. I was really on a roll with the companionway screen, too.
Off to Ace hardware I went. Juan, their resident expert in threaded things, had about 20 parts that were almost right, but nothing that would actually work. One thing about La Paz that can make it hard to find your way around, is that only maybe 20% of the intersections are signed with street names. Of these, 10% are turned the wrong way. So you find your way around counting blocks from where you are. Well, I do, anyway. Thus, I always carry a map. Juan drew an x on the map directing me to Taller de Maquinas de Coser, three blocks over and four blocks down from the hardware store. He also wrote the name of the place down on a scrap of paper, so that I'd know it when I saw it.
Juan's map and keywords were good - I found a sign on the courtyard wall of a house just about where he said it would be with "Maquinas de Coser" on it. In I went. It was a little upholstery shop in the courtyard of a house. After I was able to explain what I was looking for, the guy who was working there said "uno momento" and disappeared into the house. About five minutes later, he came out, very apologetic that it wasn't slotted like my original part. It was, although sans slot, otherwise exactly the thing I needed. I thanked him profusely and asked how much. 10 pesos. Amazing.
It worked, and our screen is almost done. Now I know where to go for sewing machine parts. I am very glad this afternoon for two things: that we have a car and that we took the time to learn a decent amount of Spanish. Without the car, this would have taken at least three times as long, and cost at least 10 times as much as my 10 peso part. Not to mention hot - the sewing machine broke around noon, so I was doing this at the hottest part of the day. Without the Spanish, barely past basic though mine is, it would have been flat impossible. That's been well worth the work and classes we've put into it.
We are surviving the winter - hah!
2 months ago