Well…it’s been a crazy, funny, difficult week. One must always look at life with a sense of humor. Hubby and I recently did our 6 month border run. Visas are only good for 90 days while on “tourist” status, so we did our second 90 day’ish (went a bit early) run. I absolutely dread them although this time it was much easier than the first. Technically, I didn’t have to exit until March (as I went to Florida the end of November) but having hubby on a different schedule than me would’ve been insane. I dread them because I HAVE to do them. As I get older, not being “allowed” to have an option is more and more irritating for me. One day it seems the border run is a long way off, the next day it’s time to go. Funny thing about the passing of time as we age….it DOES fly.
We take a shuttle service that stops in 4 local areas and then travel the almost 2 hours to the Nicaraguan border. Upon arrival, we walk up to a counter to get our voucher for paying our exit tax. The exit tax ($7) for Costa Rica is included in the price of the shuttle. After receiving our receipt, we then walk to the “exiting Costa Rica” section of a different building (about 50 yards away) and then walk about 100 yards to the Nicaragua border. At the border, we are greeted with Nicaraguan military (Costa Rica doesn’t have one), and 2 different sentry booths with representatives that check passports and sometimes belongings as well. We then walk about 200 yards to the Nicaraguan Border Control. Upon entering, there is another “ticket booth” collecting $1 each and we then stand in line at their immigration area. Here, the officials inquire as to how long we plan to stay, where we are staying, etc and then collect $12 per person to walk through. After getting the passport stamp, we walk through to the back of the building where they scan purses/bags through a small x-ray machine before we exit the building. Ten feet from the exit door is the entrance door to leave Nicaragua where we pay another $1 per person before approaching the counter for the exit stamp. We pay another $2 each for that stamp. This part of the trip is the part that makes me nervous. I believe “technically” the rule is/was one had to stay at least 3 days to get the stamp (and remember, I just told them 20 minutes beforehand I was coming for 3-4 days). However, the Nicaraguan officials know now that these shuttles are just bringing people to renew their tourist visas. We then walk the 300 yards back to the Costa Rica immigration building to enter the backside of that building to reenter the country. Here is where we are required to show proof of exit OUT of Costa Rica within 90 days. Most utilize a booth (resembling a booth at a carnival) outside of the building for TicaBus. TicaBus sells tickets to those who forgot to get proof of exit. The TicaBus tickets are good for a year, and the date can be changed for up to a year from the date of purchase. In August, I thought this would be the way to go, as I could keep “postponing” our travel date and use that one ticket for a number of border runs. NOPE. Wrong. When TicaBus extends the ticket, they do so in their system without “issuing”another ticket. Darn. I had to buy new one-way tickets. I bought tickets through a website called bestonwardticket.com. They provide an “official looking” itinerary and flight voucher for about $30 each. My husband calls me and says “Why do we have tickets to Miami?” Really? I WISH I could get to Florida for $30….
I am continuing to learn more about the banks and banking processes here (takes forever). My favorite bank that we have (the one that was a nightmare to set up) has an ATM that takes cash deposits!!!! OMG…the things that make me happy now. This will relieve at least 30 minutes of the weekly “I have to make a deposit” chores. It’s the other bank that takes at least an hour for a deposit though. I may have to online transfer from this bank to the other at times in order to maintain some sort of sanity. Avoiding sitting in or standing outside of Banco de Costa Rica for an hour or longer……..PRICELESS. We also finally have in hand our PayPal debit card. We had this “muled” down by one of our U.S.A customers because mailing it to us here is exorbitant. With the new debit card, the trips to the bank are MUCH more far and few between. The need to transfer money has lessened and this debit card is the greatest “gift” I have received in ages.
Now….THE CAR. Yes… I am a broken record. Just one year ago, I got my “dream car”. My beautiful brilliant blue 2017 BMW loaded and FAST. Now…the 3 of us SHARE a 1992 Mitsubishi Montero. We have experienced 7 flats since acquiring this car in September along with a new radiator in October. Correction on the flat tires. Please make that now 8. Yep…This time, a new tire had to be ordered. Let’s also correct the radiator replacement number to make that now 2. Yes…this dream car is about to get a 2nd radiator. How about that warranty from the new one in October? Oh…they have now told us it was only for 30 days. Really. We paid $500 for a $250 radiator that is now defunct….most likely from (hubby was a car mechanic when younger) poor installation. Pura Vida baby.
We drove around to used parts places looking for a replacement. Hubby not interested in paying $500 again and we found (through a friend) another one for 1/2 the price. New. (live and learn) We ordered it yesterday and were told it would be here today. Sidenote: when you “order” something here, many times you have to pay for it first. If you are not in their facility, you have to bank transfer that day. Anyway, just found out we may not get it until tomorrow…..that is Tico time.
Hubby says he’s going to sell this car once repaired. The car has been more like a scene in a comedy. Not only the repair issues…but the car itself. Radio? Nope. Headlights? Well….they were misaligned for a long time and everyone, I mean EVERYONE we passed flashed us. Took a while to figure out is was the placement of the lights. Now the lights are realigned and level; however, they don’t always dim or brighten. Pull the handle to use your high beams?…nothing. Click the handle back and forth numerous times? Nothing. Drive another 15 minutes..and all of a sudden, the lights dim or brighten on their own. Electric windows? If you want to control your window completely, the Driver’s seat is WHERE you need to be. Behind the driver? You cannot do anything with your window from there. Behind the passenger? You CAN control your window…SOMETIMES. IF you poke REAL hard at an exact 90 degree angle…over and over banging your index finger up and down, it will eventually move. (Please also note to move this window from the Driver’s seat, you must push the button in the OPPOSITE direction of which way you want the window to move.) Passenger window? Doesn’t go all of the way up unless you push against it and push up (unless controlling from the driver’s seat). Sunroof? Don’t try it. It leaks like a sieve during the rains. Putting the car in reverse? Well…that’s the fun part. The number of times we’ve been in a precarious position (backing out into the main road, backing out of a parking place, backing up to the beach) and the car won’t go into reverse is ridiculous. Actually, the car WILL go into reverse. Eventually. The problem is that you never know exactly when. Sometimes we sit a few seconds. Sometimes for a number of minutes. We. just. sit. there. waiting. After one of my trips to the bank, I sat with my car tailend hanging out into Main Street for 20 minutes and NOTHING. I had thought that I WAS in reverse, because I immediately backed up (parked on an incline). As soon as I hit level ground, the car began to roll forward again. The motorcycle next to me precluded me from maneuvering forward again in order to try something else. So I sat – Me and the dog. Twenty minutes later, a friend of mine was walking by and helped me squeeze forward without hitting the bike. No, this vehicle is NOT the ultimate driving machine.
Costa Rica has been a great place to “stop and smell the roses”. Of course there are many reasons. Possibly because the stress of corporate America is gone and we don’t pollute our heads with news, reality TV, corporate memos and the like. The sunrise daily is beautiful. The sunsets are always AMAZING. The ocean is beautiful, powerful and mesmerizing. The stars? OMG…we live outside of town and on a hill. I often feel like I could touch the stars. There are SO MANY stars…truly awesome. But do you know what else I have noticed? They must have stopped making a majority swimsuits with full backsides. Lord have Mercy..the THONGS. Yep…everywhere. I never thought of myself as prude or modest when young, but the NUMBER of young women who walk through town in flip flops and thongs is jaw dropping. I have definitely worn skimpy suits (back when I didn’t need a suit of armor) that were anything but conservative, but I did NOT walk through any town wearing only my butt cheeks and flip flops. I was always much more self-conscious. Hooray to those who don’t have the critical demons in their heads. However; the thongs are NOT as jaw dropping as the number of older men parading in what my British hubby calls a “budgie smuggler”. Cracks me up. The speedo/banana hammock/nut hut/budgie smuggler is WAY over worn in these parts. We even witnessed a guy wearing his daily with his butt crack showing. I mean really? Daily you don’t know your butt crack shows? My apologies if you love them or your hubby/partner wears one…but if he’s not Chris Hemsworth…please wear something else.
Many of my habits/rituals are very different here vs the U.S.A…some of these include:
Morning prep is shorts, shirt, eyeshadow ponytail and flip flops
Drink a lot of coffee vs tea (Costa Rican coffee is DELICIOUS)
NEVER wear heels, NEVER use a hair straightener, NEVER wear a jacket or slacks
If I “sleep in”, it’s 6am. If I stay “up late”, it’s past 9:30pm
Family of only 1 car vs. 4 or 5 cars
Don’t watch “regular” TV any more. If I watch something I like, it’s already aired or old
I have no idea what is playing on any radio or what music is popular
Making up the bed is pulling the sheet up
We only run A/C in our bedrooms and when sleeping
I never use the dishwasher
There is little junk food in my house…and I don’t stock as much food as I did in the States
I eat a lot of pineapple, watermelon, tomatoes
I NEVER use a microwave
I can’t call an 800 number.
Let me elaborate on the last one. This one is frustrating. We keep our “USA” phones on airplane mode. I pay about $65/month to keep my USA phone number to have when I go back, to keep track of different people, to WhatsApp family and friends. I also have a Costa Rica phone which costs me (on average) $3.50/month. With this phone, we take all business calls, local calls, etc. BUT…if I have to call the U.S.A, I have to use my U.S.A. phone. This costs an additional $10 per day which isn’t bad. BUT, I cannot call 800 numbers. So, when I want or need to call an insurance company, bank, service provider of some sort…they give an 800 or 888 number..which I can’t call. VERY frustrating. If more companies offered “live chat” on their websites, life would be easier.
It’s funny how I keep a running list of things, thoughts and events to write about in my blog. The list gets longer as bigger events happen in the moment. Still loving life here. It is SUCH a change of pace. The hardest part is family overseas and knowing the difficulty of access. Technology helps ( I can’t imagine doing this 30 years ago) but does not replace having them close by. I still get emotional regularly but also love being here. We meet people from all over the world and even then, as far away as from where they come, it seems like the world is really a small place.