Good news! We’ve received our “folio numbers” – which will enable us to NOT have to leave the country every 3 months! Woot! There’s just a teeny tiny little thing – Greg’s last name is still spelled wrong, but our attorney assures us this is “no problema”, was just a typo by someone and will be fixed at some point (when?).
We did have to go back to San Jose the other day, to finish up a few items for our residency application. The “folio number” is only a receipt number/certificate stating we have begun the residency process, we will not get our cedula (which is our actual temporary residency) for hmmm, maybe another 9 – 12 months, not really exactly sure “when”, remember that thing called “tico time”?… We had two things on our agenda in San Jose – get our fingerprints taken at the police station, and open a bank account. Well, we only got 1 of the 2 things done, which I think is pretty good for Costa Rica (see how much I’ve changed already?).
We had an 8:00 am appointment with our attorney, and hired our driver/friend, Wilson, to take us there. We got there at 8:00, but no attorney. Instead a guy on a scooter drove up to the front door, came inside, and next thing we knew he was looming over us saying “Come with me now – I will take you to get the fingerprints. Come, NOW – taxi is waiting!”… Um, ok… Can you say blind trust? But, Greg & I dutifully popped out of our chairs and followed him outside to the waiting taxi, with our fingers crossed that: 1) this guy really did work for our attorney, and 2) we weren’t somehow being kidnapped. The scooter guy and the taxi driver conversed in mad Spanish the whole commute, but finally I had enough, tapped the scooter guy on the shoulder and spoke to him in Spanish. His response was “oh you speak Spanish??” (which, ok, I loved). He apologized and introduced himself as Raul, we all shook hands, and he talked to us for a bit in English. Now, at least I felt a bit better.
After taking turn after turn in heavy traffic, we finally made it and were dropped off in front of police headquarters. But instead of going to the front entrance, Raul took us around to the side, where there was a man standing under an alcove next to a little ledge which contained a camera and small printer. Raul shook hands and they slapped each other on the back, then he explained to us that we needed to have our pictures taken. This all kinda felt “under the table”… but ah well, we dutifully handed over our $4 each. He snapped and printed and handed Raul our pictures. Then we went to the main entrance where Raul showed several police officers our passports and new pictures, and they looked in our backpacks and wanded us. Finally – we were in!
We then went inside the front gates (but still outside) and saw a LONG row of chairs against the wall, which were luckily vacant (the pic taken below was when we left). Raul explained that usually these chairs were packed and overflowing with people – but due to 3 major things happening in San Jose today, we were lucky. Which begged the question, why were WE here in San Jose today? Ah, well… We sat down, and were handed applications to fill out in Spanish. Raul said he’d help us with any Spanish we needed. The hardest questions were – what is your current address and do you have any scars or tattoos. See, there ARE no addresses here, at least not like what we’re used to in the states. Our address reads: area, city, name of road, and then “3rd house on the right”. Very vague. However, being the super (over-)prepared person I am, I had brought along our long address in Spanish, so just copied this down on the application, no problem. Then Raul helped me with my tattoos – location on body and description of each.
Then we were called inside, and walked into what felt like 1950. They all had computers, but everything else looked ancient and run down. Greg was called into a different room to sit down with a guy, while I was called up front to a woman’s desk. I said good morning in Spanish, and she responded, but that was the extent of her small talk (and smile) – she started typing and continued typing for 20 minutes. Finally she looked at me and pointed to the skin on her arm “tattoos???”. I nodded “Si, tres” (yes, 3). She got up and left. Returned with Raul. Much discussion ensued between her and Raul about my tattoos. Locations. Descriptions. Detailed descriptions. Good grief, what was the deal? I could make out some of the Spanish, and it just seemed like they were talking about WHAT my tattoo’s were, over and over again (how hard can a flower, music note, and butterfly be? Were they going to deny me residency because of my tattoos?). Finally the unsmiling lady seemed to be satisfied. Then she caught Raul as he was turning to leave and started asking about my address… “were there any large landmarks by where I lived?” (no). “Are you sure?” Finally I said there IS a small church (pretty far from us, but the closest “landmark” I could think of). “How many meters?”… So, much more discussion followed about my address. Finally, after feeling thoroughly interrogated, I was released to get my fingerprints done. Then back outside where there was a large sink, some kind of special soap and a trickle of water, and nothing to dry your hands with. Luckily Raul turned out to be pretty great, and pulled out of his back pocket a crisp, clean, white handkerchief (just like my Dad used to have!) to dry my hands with. I looked at Greg as we walked out and said “so what did you do when they questioned you about your tattoos and address?” Greg: “Huh? What are you talking about? My guy had no questions whatsoever”. Oh, sigh…
We got back to our attorney’s office, and found out we would NOT be opening a bank account today. It was a little frustrating, our attorney seemed to be very short with us, like he didn’t have time for our questions. All of a sudden we needed a utility bill from our landlord (with our long address on it). Of course we had been previously told by our attorney that he would “take care of this for us” (like they have “pseudo” utility bills for this purpose??), but I guess that changed today or they didn’t feel like assisting us. Frustrating, but really not that frustrating, as we always try to have the attitude here that not everything goes like you expect it. And because of that, we’re happy to get at least 1 of the 2 things done we had planned to do!
We left exhausted and hopped back in Wilson’s van, who was there waiting for us (have I mentioned that Wilson is top notch?). Greg promptly rummaged in the cooler of cold drinks that Wilson has for us, and through soda’s and water bottles came up with a can of Imperial! Wilson passed back a koozie, and Greg & I sat back and relaxed.
Wilson then took us to this FABULOUS place for lunch (you knew something about food was coming, didn’t you?). He called ahead and had chicken fajita’s cooking for us. We sat down to an amazing view, with a huge pitcher of passion fruit juice (OMG good!), and then they served us this TO DIE FOR soup (chicken based broth, rice, huge meatballs, corn on the cobb, potatoes, and other vegetables). Then came the chicken fajita’s (family style) with rice and flattened/fried/salted plantains with this yummy hot bean/cheese dip. One word – YUM.
Wilson then invited us to his home for coffee (not far from restaurant). We had a lovely time with Elsy, his wife (whom we had met once before, and also speaks excellent English) and their little 5 ½ year old boy Leo (spoke a little bit of English) and their new co-worker they hired for their business Jose (who spoke PERFECT English, with an AMERICAN accent!). The coffee was strong and delicious, and the company was even better.
We ended the day by stopping at a Factory in Sarchi. Sarchi is known for their artists who make furniture, other wooden objects, and also paint beautifully (they are also in the Guinness Book of World Records for making the largest oxcart!). Wilson, of course, had a friend who worked there, so took us out back the shop to the factory which had an OLD wooden workshop powered by a water wheel! Amazing stuff peeps!
Was a great day my friends! Peace out, JenJen