Last week we slammed up against the culture and it left us a little bruised and worn out. And all over our driver's licenses. So let us commence with "Getting our Driver's License, Part I".
Last Monday it dawned on us, our tourist visas were set to expiring on Christmas day and we needed to get our Costa Rican driver's licenses before that happened.
See, when you enter Costa Rica, you get a 90 day tourist visa. The rule is you can drive on that tourist visa with a valid license from your home country. We weren't too concerned about getting our Costa Rican ones quickly because we knew we had time and our bigger concern was getting our residency paper work situated so we didn't have to leave the country in 90 days. (Ha!)
Tuesday, Elliot was on day 6 of a bad cough, so Noah took him to the doctor's office an hour away. And while they were gone, I started to feel gross. At first I thought maybe I was dehydrated, I was cold and then burning up, and well, turns out I had mastitis (a nursing mama problem). I was frantic to get an appointment for the next day, and muddled my way through calling the doctor's office. They couldn't find me in the system, although I am definitely in the system from all my doctor's appointments when I was pregnant with Quinn. I think I ended up spelling my name, over the phone and in Spanish, about 6 times and I am sure they still got it wrong. I then totally missed the time of the appointment because the receptionist was insistent about giving it to me in military time! Grrr. Don't do stuff like that to a non native speaker, just saying. I thought I had heard the number seemed to be something in the high teens and after Googling that, figured it had to be after 4 o'clock. None of that has anything to do with getting our license, except that it's one more thing that was hard culturally, and it meant we would be down in the city that Wednesday.
Ok, so now, back to the driver's license bit. Figuring we had to spend some time down in the capital again, we might as well work through the driver's license, because remember, after Christmas day, we can't drive legally. And while we weren't completely sure of everything we needed, after a couple of internet searcches we had the basic idea.
So off we went, kids in tow. First stop, after we actually find the government office that issues drivers' licenses, the CONSEVI (there aren't addresses in Costa Rica, remember?) was to find the doctor's office. We parked on the steepest incline imaginable and Noah got out to talk with the doctor. He told us that the law had changed and we couldn't get our licenses because we didn't have residency. Well, after pressing a bit, we went ahead and got our exams, hoping he was wrong and that something would happen in our favor.
Next stop was to go to the bank. In Costa Rica, people don't use checks. Instead, you go to the bank and transfer money from one account to another. There usually is a line, especially this time of year, because everyone needs to pay their car insurance to the government. Noah stood in line for about a half hour and when he got to the front, they told him we weren't in the system so we couldn't pay. Hummmm, that's intresting.
Now it was time for lunch because we had been at this for about an hour and a half at this point. After lunch we went back to the CONSEVI and prayed that God would open the door to get this all taken care of. We hauled all the kids out and bypassed a long line because we had the kids with us. We told the attendant we needed to get our driver's licenses to which he replied, "Can I see you cédulas?" (our residency cards, which we don't have yet). "Uhhh, nope, we don't have them yet, but we have the papers to show we are in the process of getting them."
"Not good enough. You need you cédulas. Or you need to leave the country and come back to get another tourist visa."
"But we have our papers saying we don't have to leave..."
"If you want to drive, you have to leave."
Of course this is all in Spanish, while the two big boys are bouncing off the walls. Uhhh, ok.
So, we walked out with no driver's licenses and no idea of what we were going to do except leave the country...4 days before Christmas.
The cheapest option was to take TicaBus (like greyhound) to either Nicaragua or Panama. But, and this was a huge but, it's something like a 10 hour trip, Elliot and I were both sick, and the boarders were suppose to be packed with people because it was 4 days before Christmas.
So, while it was the cheapest financially, it didn't seem like a good option for us. We began looking at plane tickets to anywhere, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Panama, Nicaragua, Florida, Texas, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, anywhere. Nothing was less than $400 a ticket. We finally found some to Miami, and were given housing in Miami. It looked like we were heading to Florida when we got a call from friends of ours...