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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Paperwork and Plates of Shrimp!

         My apologies, dear readers, for the long delay in my reporting but visiting with my mom means a full schedule. Our week-long road trip is over and we have returned to San Angelo for the rest of my visit. The residency tasks in Austin and Houston went surprisingly well. The Texas Secretary of State’s office took my documents, printed out the certification page and a receipt for the fee and I was out of there in fifteen minutes! That left plenty of time for a drive around town to see the State Capitol and my old alma mater, the University of Texas, before we headed to Houston for the next stop on my residency process, the Costa Rican Consulate. That visit also went smoothly, other than my forgetting to make copies: the original and one copy for the Consulate, a copy for our attorney in Costa Rica and one for our own files.
         When I returned with my Xeroxed documents, however, another woman was in conversation with the receptionist regarding the necessary paperwork. She was obviously distressed and frustrated, having traveled from Costa Rica to Dallas, then to Boston, back to Dallas and was now in Houston, only to learn that she did not, in fact, have the correct documents. The receptionist was explaining to her that the clearance letter she had presented was insufficient for residency purposes because it was only from local authorities, not state level. In addition, it lacked a photo of her plus fingerprints. I listened to this information with great interest, as it had been our plan to obtain a police clearance letter from our local magistrate, the county sheriff. When my turn came, I questioned the Tica receptionist and learned that we must obtain a statewide clearance from an agency such as the California Department of Public Safety.
         When the receptionist left the room for a few minutes, I asked the woman ahead of me about her situation. It seems she had gone to Costa Rica four years ago to build a home and subsequently had a bad experience with the builder. Then, as the economy tanked and she couldn’t sell the house, she continued to live there as a “perpetual tourist,” only now deciding to seek residency. Based on some rather sketchy advice from a friend’s attorney in CR, she had traveled in person to obtain her various documents but with no car and limited information, she was stressed out and not feeling very happy about her quest for “Pura Vida.”
         In other residency news, Layne successfully paid his June bill for Caja, the national health insurance of Costa Rica, through the Banco Nacional website. Previously, we had been stymied in this effort and were concerned that perhaps our attorney Monika would have to pay it for us. Plus, questions remain as to whether Layne needed to join before getting residency, but he has the membership so it must be paid. It turned out that we were simply attempting to pay it too soon. Once the invoice appeared on the website, the payment process was easy. So we continue to move forward on pensionado residency and are optimistic that when we return in late August, we will be able to stay on past the 90-day limit.
         With my residency tasks out of the way, Mother and I headed for Galveston and a beachside vacation. My mom lived much of her younger life near the Gulf Coast. In fact, I was born in Alvin, a small town about 30 miles inland from the city and in my early childhood we often went to the beach for holidays. Mother has many fond memories of Galveston Island, and was curious to see what damage might still be evident from the disastrous Hurricane Ike of 2008. And she especially was looking forward to some good old Fried Shrimp, succulent and crispy, served with tartar and cocktail sauces.
         After checking into our beachfront hotel, we decided to take a Harbour Boat Tour, which offered a narration of the Port of Galveston’s colorful history as well as the prospect of seeing dolphins. With only four passengers onboard on this late afternoon excursion, Captain Blaine gave us personal attention and we saw several families of dolphins gamboling in the harbor waters. Quite a thrill! In response to my query, First Mate Chet recommended a popular and affordable place for seafood, Shrimp ‘n Stuff, a casual eatery that’s been around since 1976. So that evening found us pigging out on excellent fried shrimp and catfish, hush puppies and spicy potatoes. As I placed our order, I noticed a sign offering Soft Shell Crab, which I love, so I added one of those as well and it did not disappoint, its crunchy shell and tender flesh melting in my mouth.
         Still, Mother’s memories were focused on a landmark restaurant there called Gaido’s, well known for its excellent seafood as well as for the giant crab mounted on the roof. The sign below this enormous creature claims it was “Caught in Galveston Bay.” You know, they grow ’em big in Texas.
         So on our second day, we headed to Gaido’s for an elegant seafood lunch. We decided to share the crab cake that I was craving along with a seafood platter, which would offer all the tastes Mother especially wanted - shrimp, scallops and mahi-mahi. In placing the order, I asked our waitress for blackened mahi-mahi and fried shellfish. Unfortunately, it all arrived blackened! Mother was uncomfortable sending it back, and since it was quite delicious we just enjoyed the meal as it was. When Byron, the manager, visited our table late in the meal, I mentioned the mix-up and he apologized, explaining that the fry station and the blackened station in the kitchen were far apart, which is why they do not mix preparations. But he said, next time let him know and he would make it so.
          That evening, knowing Mother was disappointed, I called Casey Gaido’s, the more modest sister restaurant next door, explained what had happened at lunch and asked if we could get some fried shrimp to go. When I arrived to pick up our order, the very gracious manager Kevin gave it to us at no charge, along with two salads. As expected, it was scrumptious and satisfied Mother’s hunger for fried shrimp, at least for a couple of weeks!
         The rest of our week’s travels included a visit to the Johnson Space Center where we toured the huge facility and saw Mission Control Center, then on to Alvin where Mother paid a visit to an old friend that she’s known since high school. After that it was back on the road for the drive home, stopping off in historic Fredericksburg for lunch and a quick stop by Enchanted Rock, a fabulous pink granite batholith some 425 feet high. Time was too short for a hike up but I do hope to return next year to explore this amazing rock formation.
         All in all, it was a fun week of travel adventures with my mom and we both will remember it for years. 


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  2. Your blog brought back some nice memories of a trip that I made to Houston and Galveston some years back. Like you, I visited the Johnson Space Center and had a nice lunch in Galveston. I remember a bunch of house built on stilts near the shore. Glad to hear that your quest for the “Pura Vida” is progressing well! See you soon!-Janine

  3. You aren't required to pay the caja for the period of time you are outside the National borders of Costa Rica.

    You have to file (more) paperwork with the caja prior to your trip.

  4. I am taking the time to read your blog. It is too bad you haven't bothered to read mine (or, many others that are out there). As I posted about two years ago, and the information is still there, it was NOT necessary to go in person to the Secretary of State, or to the State of California for documents. All of ours were obtained online, and mailed to the Costa Rican Embassy for authentication. The Texas Department of Public Safety has the information regarding how to get the fingerprints and photos, and declaration of a clean record (Criminal History).

  5. I think sometimes its cheaper and faster to do it all in person. Of course geography plays a role.

    I obtained my birth certificate and police clearance letter in Baltimore on one day. State certifications in Annapolis and embassy certifications in Washington D.C. on another day. All of those places happen to be be within 50 miles of each other.

  6. Penny, looks like you had a nice visit with your mom, nice you could combine your residency errands that way. We were lucky that we could do everything locally for myself and my son, but my wife is foreign-born and it was a real nightmare to get all her documents and get them authenticated, since there is no CR embassy in her native country. There is no way that could have been done by mail!

    By the way, I have heard two versions of the "rule" about whether you must still leave CR every 90 days or less after you have filed your residency application and obtained the receipt from the CR Consulate. I think technically you still do, but on the other hand Migración won't bother you if they happened to check. We never paid attention to it and no one mentioned as we crossed the border now and then, but now we have all our resolutions so it's moot anyway.

    Good luck and thanks for posting your experiences!