Saturday, April 25, 2009

A little story...

Background: Over two months ago, I decided it would be a good idea to buy myself a little more mobility and freedom down here than the bus system allows, so I started putting feelers out to find a used Japanese-made (Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki) Dual-sport motorcycle that could be an extra curricular project for myself and some of the students.

Here there are millions of Chinese knockoffs of Japanese bikes, which adhere strictly to stereotypical chinese manufacturing standards... and because they're shipped and assembled here en masse, you can get them pretty cheaply. True Japanese bikes are much less common, and so I knew they would be hard to find... but I held onto that ideal nonetheless. After looking for awhile, the only japanese bikes I found within budget were either too small, the wrong class, too expensive, or illegal (many bikes are stolen and resold, so there is no legal title with them.) For most we found, more than one of those factors applied . Some friends at the school who had been looking for me found some good deals/options on bikes that would have worked, but they were all chinese, so I was hesitant.

This past week, I finally, after 2 months of searching decided to go ahead and buy one... a 1997 Chinese copy of the Honda XL 125 that the friend of a friend was selling for 2.5 million Guarani (~490). The engine was smaller than I had hoped for, and it needed some minor replacements, and major cosmetic work, but the engine itself seemed to be unusually well maintained. I thought it was an ok compromise, as Honda replacement parts can be bought for this particular model. I could add to the value of this bike by working on it. I liked it. It somewhat followed the ethic from the beginning (giving second life to the old and broken of high quality is better than buying shiny and nice of low quality). It would have been a small sacrifice of ethic rather than a large one. I gave the go ahead to the friend to bring the bike from a neighboring town. He said he could do it today (Saturday). The owner teaches in the Chaco, so we couldn't do the paperwork for another month, but it was already street-legal under his-name, so I could go ahead and begin working on it.

Then yesterday a good friend who works here told me he had seen a nice looking bike for sale that we should look at. I didn't see any harm in looking, but I left my wallet and checkbook at home, as I wasn't expecting to buy. The second bike turned out to be a nearly new Chinese bike, 150cc, taller than the first bike, with a little more power, and in better condition. There were still things to fix, and all the legal paperwork was there. It was taller. They said it was a 2008 model. They said they would take 3 million Guarani for it (~$590). I thought about it, took it for a spin... and decided that for the difference in buck, there was intirely too much difference in bang to pass up. So we gave him a $100 retainer and said I would buy it. When we went inside to sign the contract, the salesman asked if he could wait a minute... went in a different room for a bit... and then returned saying that the owner of the bike wanted more than the agreed-on price, referring to the owner with many unflattering names. I was irritated at what I suspected might be alack of integrity on his part. We haggled for a bit, but agreed to give him ~$50 more. grr... Still irritated, and a little conflicted at having sacrificed a bit more of my ethic in buying a still-shiny chinese bike... I left until today... mildly relieved that my near-3-month search would finally be over. Last night I did some more research, and discovered that he was probably lying to me about the year. I decided to double check-first thing today when we went in to fill out all the paperwork... to make sure that the year was truly 2008. If he was lying about that, as well as having changed the price, I wouldn't buy. If he had been truthful about the year, I would go ahead with the purchase as promised. I was irritated. I was angry at humanity. I subconsciously blamed my sacrifice of ethics for being in this ridiculous situation, and doubted my courage to courteously dissolve it, were the situation as bad as I feared. I took these fears and burdens to the Lord... just letting it out... begging for guidance, wisdom, courage... clarity of sight... to know what to do. The conversation felt refreshing... after a time I went to sleep.

Today we went back. The paperwork wasn't there, so... we waited. I couldn't find the model year on the frame anywhere. Finally the owner came. The bike was a 2007. Still not a terrible deal, but not nearly the deal he tried to make it seem. Fortunately the owner of the bike was there this time, and turned out to be a very personable, seemingly honest working man. Elder explained the situation, the owner quickly agreed that 3 million G was fair. With all chips on the table, the saleseman out of the loop, and the owner seeming to be more trustworthy, I decided to go ahead with it. We got in Elder's car and headed for the Escribania to transfer papers and money. In the car on the way we were talking. Elder mentioned about the Honda I had in the states. The owner added that he had an older Yamaha that was very similar, but a bit bigger. Both Elder and I had an open morning so we agreed to wait and see the other moto, me allowing myself a glimmer of intrigue, but little that would really qualify as hope. Details getting to see the Yamaha were difficult, but 4 hours later, after standing around, sitting around, Drinking Terere, chatting about Lugo and Alfa Romeos, grabbing some lunch, and shopping for flashy lights for Elder's Kia, the owner's brother rolls up on this:

It's a 1995 Yamaha DT 180, which he sold to me for 3 million Guarani (<$600) Basically... the only version of it that came to the states was a 125 dirt-bike. This has the same soul and paint, but with a bigger engine, headlight, and a little more height. This one's got some cosmetic issues, and a few mechanical ones that need to be straightened out (but nothing that keeps it from being roadworthy as-is) Plenty of learning experiences for the boys and me... but after a little reconditioning, I have the value-added quality machine that is what I had given up on hoping for.

I do not praise God for the machine however... for giving a toy that I wanted. It is a meaningless thing. I praise him for intervening, for finding my hopes and gifting my heart in his already perfect provision for the future. I mean a motorcycle is just stuff... but what isn't... is the soul-twisting struggle that the whole ordeal ended up being... all the doubt and frustration and anger and waiting... and then the peace... and then... totally unexpected in the last moment... his provision.

I didn't find the bike. That's the coolest thing. I had already sacrificed my ethic when he rescued it from the dead... which means... in an odd and amazing way... that I actually needed God to sanctify the ethic that I had chosen to live by. Part of my choice was to trust Him with my life... and in so doing, even when I fell short, he honored my heart. I do not say all this to suggest that buying the chinese bike would have been wrong. It wouldn't have been sin, or anything like that, but spiritually, for me, it could have subverted my ethic for future decisions... or perhaps it would have ended up being a lesson strengthening it. Or, even, my ethic could be wrong and it would have broken it down. I can't prove it one way or another... but I believe it to be a good ethic... one I learned from my dad actually, and I will continue to live by it. Point of the story is not whether the ethic was wrong or right to begin with. Point is... that God is trustworthy... my and your wisdom can be pretty fickle, as can be our ability to follow that fickle wisdom. It isn't always... but we all will inevitably fall short somewhere... and when we do, He is able to make up the difference toward the ends we are trusting Him with. And for that... I praise Him.

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