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Saturday, July 3, 2010

"Cat Bites Pit Bull" and Other Tales from Auburn, CA

July 3, 2010 
         Well, we’re beginning to wonder how anyone ever acquires legal residency in Costa Rica. I’m reminded of Lucy and the football: every time Charlie Brown runs to kick the ball down the field, Lucy pulls it away so he kicks open space and falls on his butt. 

In my last post, you’ll recall, our attorney Monika asked us to scan the passport pages where Costa Rican authorities had stamped our exit date. Only one problem - no stamp! Not only no Costa Rican stamp on our most recent departure, but also no exit stamps from Costa Rica for any of our three trips there. Only once, back in 2007 did the United States Immigration clerk at the Houston airport stamp our passports upon our arrival from Costa Rica. When we returned from Costa Rica a few weeks ago, the Los Angeles Immigration officials once again did not stamp our passports. Go figure.
          But since Monika seemed to think that we should have been stamped somewhere, and indeed we had been stamped by Australian officials going to and returning from that country in 2005, I called the U.S. Department of State and spoke to the fellow in charge of immigration services at Los Angeles International Airport. He explained that they no longer routinely stamp returning passports of U.S. citizens due to complaints by frequent travelers that their passport books were filling up too quickly. So we are once again in limbo, waiting to hear from Monika how we can prove to the Costa Rican Immigration Department that we are here, not there!
         But indeed, here we are. And although the Costa Rican residency challenges are a bother, we are enjoying our temporary residency here in Auburn, California. The two cats in our care are a study in contrasts: Socks is verbal, friendly, often joins us in bed at night and hangs around during the day sleeping under a bush in the front yard or on the living room floor, sprawled on her back for some belly rubs. Socks also requires daily grooming with, of all things, a horse currycomb!
         Abby, on the other hand, is the “phantom cat.” The first few days we saw no sign of her and began to worry that she had freaked out at the strangers in the house with all our bags and boxes and new noises, and simply run away, never to be seen again. But slowly, we began to catch a glimpse of her scurrying down the hall to the litter box and venturing to the bowls of food and water. Last night, for just a brief moment, she even jumped up on the bed with us, her little collar bell jingling softly near the foot of the bed. Hopefully, by the time we leave here at the end of the month, she will have relaxed into a friendlier mode.
         Socks proved her mettle last night, however, when a smallish brown Pit Bull came trotting into our backyard, much to our surprise and alarm, although we quickly realized he was not at all aggressive. Apparently lost, he had wandered through the gate we’d left open in hopes of luring Abby inside. But when Socks caught sight of this alien creature in her space, she turned into a hissing dragon, all claws and fearsome anger. Attacking his backend, she chased the poor animal out the gate before I could grab Socks and take her inside the house. Last I saw, the chastised Pit Bull was ambling off into the open field nearby, looking back over his shoulder at the house with the attack cat.
         Abby and Socks have every right to be tense, however, as we have inevitably disrupted their routine. With every trip to our jam-packed barn, we return to Ruth’s garage with more boxes to sort through for more giveaways, perhaps to sell or to take back to Costa Rica with us. It’s a messy process. There are things we missed in Costa Rica or found to be expensive to buy there. A toaster, for instance, is pretty pricey in Atenas, running $35 to $40 or so. We do have a good toaster here, stored away. But with its bulk, it will take up a full corner of a suitcase, which will cost us $20 or so to take onboard the airlines. And flying from Portland to Chicago on one airline and then Chicago to San Jose, CR, on another, the cost of taking that suitcase full of toasters and some of the other seemingly trivial items, will likely run the same $40! Perhaps it makes more sense to buy one down there. Decisions, decisions. As mundane as that may seem, we face such choices with every box. No wonder the cats are spooked by these bustling strangers.
         But most early mornings we manage to get out for a walk. We’ve been exploring a beautiful local park nearby, Auburn Regional Park. This is a well-maintained oasis here in California where, thanks to the state’s budget woes, most state-run parks are closed down and quickly falling into disrepair. The large creek-fed lake that occupies the center of Auburn Regional is circled by an asphalt walking path which meanders under large oak trees with benches, BBQ pits and picnic areas along the way. Mallard ducks with their shiny teal green heads share the lake with dozens of wild geese, primarily Canadian and Snow geese, whose loud honks greet any dog so brave as to enter the water near them. Even pint-sized fishermen (see photo below) try their luck here in catching bass or bluegill. The park offers sports fields for all, from basketball to tennis, soccer to slow-pitch baseball and even a highly rated “disc golf course,” which is a fancy term for Frisbee. Located only a few blocks from our house-sitting base, Layne and I find the park to be ideal for exercise, people- and bird-watching.
          Although we are enjoying life here, we still like to keep in touch with events in Costa Rica, and we do this through several of the English-language newspapers available online. is a weekly publication and a relative newcomer to the field, having been founded only three years ago, but they are growing and have some worthwhile reporting, particularly on eco-tourism, medical tourism and information for expats. is another English-language source for news, but features an abundance of prominent advertising on each page, a little garish for my taste. The oldest Gringo-focused news publication is the venerable Unfortunately, to get complete reporting, one must subscribe. provides perhaps the best news coverage free of charge. Some of the many blogs written by expats in Costa Rica also offer a personal perspective on happenings in their part of the country.
         But there’s nothing like being in Paradise in person. So we are definitely counting down the days until our northern sojourn is over and we can return to the vida muy tranquilo that we have in Costa Rica.
         Happy Fourth of July to all who value freedom! 


  1. Continued good luck with your residency saga!

    When getting ready to move I recommend Mike Rappaport as your relocation broker. His info:
    506-8878-0042 Cell
    Skype: michael.rappaport

    Great guy, lives in Cartago.

    See if you can take Taca from Chicago, they'll let you take two checked bags, 20 Kg each for free.

    Couldn't you use your exit tax receipts to prove you left CR?

    - Casey

  2. Just discovered your blog - I will add it to my list!

    I have also heard good things about Mike. Ginnee of has used him several times. The last time so Phil could bring his backhoe over!!!

    For the same money (or even slightly more), I would bring the toaster that you know is good. I have found electronics here not reliable, even good brands. I think the manufacturers ship the seconds to developing countries. Seriously, that's how bad it is. My sons are bringing me back a good blender and I bought an Oster here...

    Pura vida!