We got to the Immigration Office with two hours to spare so we decided to drive up the road to the bank and to jog our memory of where the driver's licence office was. We drove about 3 km and found both side by side. That was easy. After stopping at the bank, we walked down to see if there was a long line-up at the driver's licence office. Three years ago, we waited in line for over two hours. We walked up to the security guard sitting in the doorway and told him we wanted to renew our licences. He said we have to drive to a place called Direccion Education Vial. It was about 5 km across town. "Of course, it is" we both thought. Nearly an hour had already elapsed and we didn't want to take any chances trying to find this place and then miss our appointment at the Immigration Office. We headed back, thinking if we were there early, then maybe they'd see us earlier.
When we arrived at the Immigration Office, we walked over to the outdoor area where people stood in line waiting to get in the door. Well, it was 10:10 am and our appointment was at 11 am so we were there in good time and surely we simply had to wait to be called. Nope. We were told to stand at the back of the very long queue. Pardon? But we have an appointment. Apparently, that makes no difference. So why bother giving us a time? Costa Rica, baby!
This appointment was for Kevin only. Although we figured we'd have to do this all over again for me next week (because our applications were done a week apart), we brought all my documents as well and hoped that maybe they would see the logic in doing us both together. We stood in line outside in hot muggy temperatures for over an hour. When we got to the head of the line, we showed our paperwork and the letter we received to the security guard. He noticed that the letter was only for Kevin. I told him that I was expecting to receive a similar letter and would have to come back next week. Would it be possible to process our application together? He nodded and seemed to agree that it made sense. He took both Kevin and my paperwork and told us to go wait inside. We followed his orders, went inside into a large room full of chairs (about 60) where people were waiting. We found the last two available seats, sat down, enjoyed a modicum of air conditioning and waited yet another hour to be called. It was 12:10 pm when we heard Kevin's name. Then mine. We walked to cubicle #5. The man asked for our financial statement, we handed it to him, and I asked if he could sort my documents out at the same time. He smiled and said it would not be a problem. This exchange took less than 10 minutes. Then the man said to go back in the waiting room... it would take one hour for him to get our residency cards printed and hand delivered. We went back and waited. At 1:27 pm, our names were called again... then a whole bunch of other names... we were the first ones to get our cards out of dozens who were also waiting for theirs. The man handed us our renewed, valid cards... and that was it. We were done.
It was getting too late in the day to try and tackle the driver's licence, so we decided to drive back on Wednesday. We wanted to get out of San Jose before the roads got too congested with traffic and it was most likely going to start raining, so it was best to just head home.
Now that we had our cedulas all up to date, on Tuesday, Kevin and I went to San Marcos to renew our health cards. Again, the health clinic is one of those places that always has a line-up, so we were ready for a long wait. To our amazement, the place was empty. We walked right up to the window and the clerk renewed our cards within minutes. We were in and out of there in record time, which was awesome.
Two legal documents down, one more to go.
On Wednesday, we drove back to San Jose. Kevin had found the coordinates of the Direccion Education Vial on the GPS. We were set. We only had this one task left to do. This should be easy. We arrived at the building without any struggle. After asking a few people, we found the correct door for driver's licence renewal. There were a few people in line, but I think we were #4. Not bad. I went up first and answered all the questions. Then it was Kevin's turn. When he was done, I asked where we were supposed to pay. The clerk answered that we had to go back to La Uruca (the first office we had been to on Monday). You're kidding me, right? Surely, that can't be right. Surely! We walked out and asked a security guard who was standing nearby... he said we could pay at a little convenience store one block down the street. Okay, that's a little weird, but not that weird when you know how these things work in Costa Rica. We were so happy that we asked! We walked down and entered a tiny convenience store that was stocked floor to ceiling with stuff. We could barely move. We asked if this was where we could pay for our driver's licences and the man behind the counter said "yes". He was a kind and helpful man, from what we could see, but he was about as slow-moving as a sloth. It took him over 20 minutes to sort the receipts out, meanwhile, there's a long line of people waiting to pay for their groceries. It was hot and even muggier than it had been on Monday. But we waited patiently and finally paid. We thanked the man and walked back up to the driver's licence office. We waited in line, again. We made our way to the counter and showed our receipts to the clerk. We felt quite pleased with ourselves for not falling for the old "you've got to go across town" prank. She congratulated us for paying, then said that we now have to go to La Uruca to finalize the process. So much for feeling clever.
We hopped in the SUV and drove across town. Our GPS decided to take us through the centre of the city where we experienced Little Multi-Cultural Town. We had never been in the heart of San Jose before, but now we can say we have. One block looked like Little India... the next one Little China, etc. There was only one very narrow car lane in the middle of wide pedestrian sidewalks... the only way out was forward... it was interesting to say the least. We're actually glad we got to see it. Something new.
But I digress... after an hour of driving through the city, we finally arrived at La Uruca's driver's licence office. I said a little prayer and hoped there would not be a long line-up. We walked up to the doors and showed our paperwork to the security guard and he told us to sit beside the only man in the large cavernous room. Wow... what a lucky break! It took only a few minutes to be called up. After a brief application process: we handed the woman the piece of paper that the clerk at the Direccion Education Vial gave us, our medical report, answered a few questions, and showed the receipts that proved we paid, we had our pictures taken and then we were handed our licences. Done, done, done! These licences are valid for the next six years so we won't need to do this again for awhile. Yay!
Although a bit stressful, it was a very productive week. It feels good that nothing is hanging over our heads. We're all up to date - legal - and we don't have to think about any of this for a nice, long while.
And to top off such a good week, Kevin and I celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary today. We went out for a nice dinner and reminisced. Our wedding day was a great day, but nothing compares to the life we've built together. The theme of our special day was "Lucky In Love" and seven years later, it's still so appropriate.