Well, Toto, we’re not in Costa Rica anymore! In fact, we’re huddled indoors in Portland, Oregon, in a cold rainstorm following a hurried drive across Mount Hood to miss the foot of snow in the forecast. After the balmy weather we’ve become accustomed to in beautiful Atenas, Alajuela Province, Costa Rica, the return to the United States has been a rough adjustment. Who would have thought, here in mid-May, that we’d need muck boots and down coats?
Tomorrow, leaving Layne behind here in the frigid Northwest, I will fly to warmer climes in Texas. The mid-80’s forecast combined with typical Texas humidity should feel more like Costa Rican weather. From San Angelo in the west, my mom and I will drive to Austin in Central Texas for still more residency work. In the Capital city, I will take my birth certificate to the Secretary of State for certification in my home state. Next, we’ll drive on to Houston to deliver my now-certified birth certificate to the Costa Rican consulate there, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma as well as Texas. With $40 and a self-addressed, stamped envelope, I should obtain my authenticated document by mail within a few days. If all goes well at the consulate, Mother and I will continue on to Galveston for a short vacation at the beach.
All of this comes on the heels of other residency adventures last week when Layne and I headed for the local Sheriff’s Department for what we thought would be a simple task: to obtain a “clearance letter” stating that we have a clean police record. Foolishly, we assumed it would be a matter of looking us up online and printing out a computerized report. But, no. If it’s not the bizarre and convoluted requirements of the Costa Rican Immigration Department we’re dealing with, it’s American bureaucratic idiocy we face. In this case, we arrived at the Sheriff’s office only to learn that we needed an appointment and that they were booking dates two weeks out. Not only that, but since the person who would be signing our letter was not a public official, such as the Sheriff himself, but only a “sheriff’s technician,” the signature must be notarized to meet Costa Rican immigration requirements. Therefore we must bring along to our appointment a Notary Public because the Sheriff’s office doesn’t have one on staff. Go figure. Undaunted, we made our appointment for after we return from this trip to Oregon and Texas and we even found a “mobile Notary” online who agreed to meet us there for a reasonable fee.
Reasonable fee in that case but still the various fees are quickly adding up as we found on our next task, the trip to get our marriage certificate authenticated. The following day we headed up the High Sierras into Nevada where Layne and I were married. At the County Recorder’s office in Minden, we easily obtained a dated and embossed copy of our marriage certificate. Ka-ching, another $15. But the fee at the Secretary of State’s office was where we really faced sticker shock: either pay $95 for 24-hour expedited service or wait five weeks or more for the authenticated document. And if you actually need to obtain the document in one hour, get ready to pay $1000! And you thought slot machines were the only form of legalized highway robbery in Nevada.
We are determined to get these documents pulled together, certified and authenticated and mailed off to our attorney Monika Valerio de Ford in Costa Rica by mid-June but it has been, and continues to be, a challenge with obstacles at every turn. Yet these confusions pale in comparison to the still-unsettled state of the new residency law in Costa Rica. Earlier this year, our attorney understood the new law to require applicants to join the Caja, the national medical insurance group, as part of the application process. But in a phone conversation with Monika a few days ago, we learned that the latest interpretation of the new regulations indicate that membership in Caja must wait until after residency is achieved. That information, however, was only in a La Nacion newspaper report so next week Monika plans to check with the officials at Caja and with Immigration to see if she can get a definitive answer. In the interim, Layne’s status is unclear since he joined Caja before we left Costa Rica! And to further complicate things, we find that Banco Nacional’s online payment system is not set up for payments by non-residents into Caja and yet Layne’s June payment will soon be due. Wurra, wurra.
Still, when we look outside at the weather and we calculate the added expenses we face here in the States, our little chalet in Costa Rica looks very good indeed and we can hardly wait to return. Visits with family and friends are the delightful rewards for enduring the trials and tribulations of these frozen northlands!