In which dazed and confused we encounter Immigration…
December 19, 2015
Ariana and I have been in Costa Rica a week after arriving on Saturday, December 12 to begin the rest of our lives after retirement. We picked the shortest possible flight months ago which made our total flight time from Syracuse to CR only 7 1/2 hours with an hour layover.
We arrived in San Jose and went up the ramp to the baggage center, tired but happy to be in the sunshine and away from Ithaca NY where the winter was getting a slow start but “chill factor” was already in the language.
As we ascended the ramp there were no arrows directing us and several branching paths. We followed a small group ahead of us. Over their shoulder we saw a couple of women watching us as we approached their window. This turned to be a glass wall. They smiled at us and redirected the group with gestures down a ramp and into a large roped off area with many little booths. Ah yes – immigration, passports out.
I was nervous because I had been told that customs would check to make sure you had a way to leave the country – a round trip ticket or some other means like a bus ticket to Panama. I had left our airline itinerary at home. We started in the usual manner: Purpose of visit? Tourist. How long? Less than 90 days. Where will you be staying? San Isidro del General. The official lit up a huge smile and said “I was born there!” Probably because San Isidro was not a major tourist area he then started talking about the natural features. There were no more questions, just a conversation with many smiles, congratulations on such an excellent choice of a place to go. We talked for at least 15 minutes while other visitors were streaming through the booths around us. No rush, no pressure to move on just a relaxed conversation about his home town. He stamped our passports with an extra mashing down of a green “Republica de Costa Rica” stamp, granted us 90 days and never asked us for any proof of how were going to leave.
We made to baggage and decided to get sim cards for our phone. Minutes later we had new phone identities – eight digit expressions which met all our calls in CR were now local.
The next encounter was customs. This consisted of four guys in easy chairs engaged in casual conversation next to a massive luggage scanner. They only wanted the card we had filled out on the plane – things to declare etc. After that they completely ignored us as we laid our bags on the moving conveyer belt. There seemed to be no screen, alarm, xray or any type of detection equipment on the scanner – just a big belt that swallowed our luggage and spit it out the other side. In any case, they never looked at the scanner or our bags.
Out on the street we met with the driver from our hotel, The Melroast. Our luggage was loaded and we boarded the mini van for the mile ride to the hotel. This took 30 minutes because we had come during Christmas shopping season. In CR this runs roughly from late November to before Christmas. Think a month of black Fridays. I don’t think people order much on line here which makes for amazing traffic jams. In our short drive we encountered some very creative, but polite driving. Median strips were driven over, drivers pointed, signaled with arms out the window and generally never failed to let someone into the stream of traffic. No one honked. No one yelled.
It seems a bit cliche but I even saw a man emerge from nowhere and help a little old lady through the maze and across the street.
We smiled at each other. This was the morning and the evening of the first day and it was good.