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SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

4 May

chapter 34 continued

I walked in the door of the cop shop and announced the purpose for my presence before they had a chance to draw their guns.  You think I’m exaggerating but I’m not.  I guess not too many gringos barge into their office because when I saw one cop flip the holster strap off the hammer of his pistol I knew I better appear to be friendly.  

I handed the one who appeared to be the “desk sergeant” the order to release my license and he said that if they had my license they would only release it if I gave them a copy of my passport.  Remember, I had just given the lady at the court, which by now was an hour behind me, the only copy I had with me?! 

I did have my actual passport with me but they didn’t have a copy machine. 

Esparza is hardly more than a wide spot in the road so it’s not like you just go to your local copy place in that town.  But there was one friendly cop there who asked if he could get in my car and direct me to a store that had a copy machine. 

I snatched that order to release out of the hands of that other cop immediately because that was the only security blanket I had and no way was I leaving there without it and said “wait a minute, before we go any farther, lets see if you actually have my license”.   They pulled open a drawer and there must have been 300 licenses in there!  They actually had them cataloged and grouped by date of confiscation.  The “desk sergeant” started showing me licenses from stacks that were dated long before my incident and I saw lots of gringo licenses and of course tons of tico licenses.  Finally, one of the other cops realized that this idiot wasn’t looking at the correct stacks and told him to go to the group that was only three days old and there I was, right on top!


SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

3 May

Esparza just happens to be a town that I know the location of because it’s exactly half way between Sta. Cruz and San Jose and the busses stop there for a fifteen minute potty break.  I asked the ladies in the court house where the police station was in Esparza.  They had no idea. 

No problem.   I have an ace up my sleeve for that one.  The ace is a gringo named Bob from New York that has a little restaurant/gift shop about ten minutes before Esparza and he makes a good old fashioned American hamburger and a not bad milk shake.  If I happen to be driving to San Jose I try to plan my trips both ways so I can get my good old fashioned hamburger fix because Costa Ricans have not figured out how to make a hamburger (or a real milk shake).  You’d think it would be pretty simple, considering that a hamburger is a pretty simple thing.  I have no idea what their problem is but they have no idea what a hamburger is supposed to be like even though practically every menu here has one on it.

Anyway, I had a burger and a shake, got good directions from Bob and went to what I thought would be the final step.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

2 May

chapter 34 continued

After about fifteen minutes some lady employee of the court calls me over and hands me an official looking paper.  I have no idea what, in her rapid fire Spanish, she’s trying to say.  Another person comes over and in Spanish that is much clearer explains that this paper is an order to release my license to me.  I don’t need to stand before a judge!!  Thank you Cesar!  It appears that the U.S. Embassy is given some respect.

In the last phone call I had with him on Friday after I had found COSEVI and paid I asked him to call the court to inform them that I was on the way there and to confirm to me that they were aware I was coming and the reason why I was coming.  When he got back to me he reminded me again that I would need to plead my case to the judge but confirmed that they were expecting me.

Ok, now I’ve got the official order to release my license to me in my hand, signed by a judge I never had to see, so I ask the lady to give me my license.  No.  It’s not there. 

I must go to the police station in a town called Esparza.  Except she kept pronouncing it Sparta.  I know where Esparza is but I’ve never heard of Sparta.  I ask her to show me this town on a map.  That’s when another lady in the office took pity on me and pronounced it correctly and pointed to it on a map they happened to have hanging on the wall.

With that problem solved, as incredulous as it seems that my license wasn’t at the court as Cesar was told by the court that it would be, the next challenge was to find the police station where the people at the court said it would be.  

Incidentally, Cesar really did save the day for me, so to speak.  Even though he never got accurate information from any of the bureaucracy’s, he was diligent in getting what he was led to believe was accurate and got that information to me quickly.  And he was also obviously influential with the court.  I’ve emailed him a “thank you”.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

30 Apr

chapter 34 continued

COSEVI is thirty minutes from downtown S.J. in a town called Uruca but the highway I need to be on Friday to return home goes by Uruca.   I ask Cesar to confirm with the court in San Ramon that if I pay the ticket Friday morning at COSEVI that when I get to the court I will be able to appear before a judge.  When he gets back to me he assures me that I will be able to see a judge and that I should plead my case and request immediate return of my license and reminds me that the court is closed from 12 to 1pm for lunch and then closed from 2:30pm until Monday. 

I have a narrow window of opportunity because knowing that COSEVI exists and finding COSEVI in that conglomeration of convoluted streets in what is known as “the central valley” that contains a whole bunch of cities with 2.8 million people and no street addresses are two different challenges.

But I found it in time to make it to San Ramon at 1pm.  Why so late you might ask?  I left the hotel at 9am.  By the time I finally found COVSEVI (remember, there are no addresses in C.R. therefore maps are basically useless), waited in the lines (yes, more than one) and finally got the ticket paid (about $50) and then drove to court it was 1pm.

What would you expect to experience in court with not real strong Spanish?   Cesar recommended that I have a bilingual person with me.  Skip that.  First of all the tica wasn’t with me for the trip back home and second, she wasn’t bi-lingual anyway.  I’m in my car on my way home with no bilingual person with me and I know it’s pointless to try to find a stranger, who would be in court for their own stress producing problem, to help me.  First, of course, are the lines.  There’s the one to get into the building since a whole pile of people are waiting for the 1pm opening and where one at a time each person goes through a thorough security search.  Then there’s the one when you finally find the correct counter and take a number and wait your turn.   Finally my number is called, someone takes all my paper work and the only copy of my passport that I have with me and tells me to go sit back down.  I figure then is a good time to go over in my mind the presentation/plea that I will make to the judge in hopes of having him/her release my license to me.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

29 Apr

chapter 34 continued

I arrived in S.J. early Wednesday afternoon, got checked into my hotel, had lunch and then headed to a BN branch near the hotel thinking that enough time had passed that my ticket would be in the system.  Nope.  After waiting a half hour in line at the bank the teller informs me that it takes 22 to 24 days for a ticket to be entered into the system.

Ok, enough of this shit… I’m a U.S. citizen and the U.S. Embassy is in S.J.   I decide it’s time to quit playing the Costa Rican bureaucratic ineffectiveness game.  I call the Embassy and get Cesar in U.S. Citizen’s Services on the line.  He speaks good English, listens carefully and understands that I:

1. Am willing to pay the ticket

2. Need to visit the court on Friday

3. Am leaving for California in a week and a half and would like to have my license with me.

He puts me on hold while he calls BN then comes back on the line and tells me they told him I could go into a BN branch after 12 noon on Thursday and the ticket would be in the system so I could pay it.  I wait until 2pm Thursday just to give them plenty of time.  Nope.  Same story.  So once again I’m on the phone to Cesar.  This time when he gets back to me he say’s the bank suggested that I go to the government agency called COSEVI (don’t ask me what those initials stand for).  Apparently they get the ticket first and then ultimately get it into the banks system but Cesar assures me they say I can pay the ticket there. 

Well, it’s too late to go there Thursday because since it’s a government agency they close at 3:30. 

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

28 Apr

chapter 34 continued

Hmmmm… now it has become interesting as well as comical.  I ask the cop that speaks a little English what I’m supposed to do.  He says I have to go to Banco National and pay the ticket.  Banco National is the only bank authorized by the government to collect fines.  Then I have to go to the court house in a town called San Ramon, which is an hour and a half out of San Jose, to face the judge as he determines whether my infraction is worth twelve or eighteen months of suspension.   This all occurred on Wednesday morning. 

I will be returning to P. Junquillal on Friday.  Coincidentally I must pass through San Ramon both when going to S.J. and when returning home.

So with that we wrap up the conversation and I continue on my way to San Jose with the ticket.  By the way, before I could really get underway again I had to calm the cute little tica down that I had in the car with me.  She was sure they were going to take me to jail and of course she doesn’t know how to drive and here we are many miles/kilometers away from any civilization or a pay phone.  I was appreciative or her perceived dilemma.  But I finally got her calmed down after a couple of miles and it was obvious they weren’t going to haul me in.  When I get to San Ramon I search out the court house so I’ll know where it is when I go there on Friday.  The cop has assured me that I will be able to see a judge then and since I have no idea how long that process will take I want to know where the court is so I don’t waste time on Friday trying to find it.

SO YOU WANT to LIVE in COSTA RICA the Adventures, Trials and Tribulations of Settling in Paradise by Gary Davis – plumitapacifica.com

27 Apr

By now my Spanish is good enough that I’m not afraid to argue so I asked him “what’s the problem?”  To make a long story short, we “debated” whether or not I had exceeded the speed limit and had made a dangerous pass.  Finally realizing that it was not an argument that I could win I said “this is bullshit” (in English).   He said “que es bullshit”.  At which point I thought better of translating and just said “give me the ticket”.  You see, at that point he had not made any marks in his ticket book because the game is that you’re supposed to ask how much is the fine for your particular infraction and then offer to pay “the fine” on the spot.  You haven’t actually offered him a bribe.  You’ve just asked a fair question.  But you’ve given him the opportunity to accept the money (as though he would turn it in to the proper authority), thus saving yourself the trouble of jumping through the hoops you need to jump though to pay a ticket in this country.  And therefore since the cop hasn’t made a mark in his ticket book he can pocket the money and you both go away happy. 

 “Give me the ticket” might have worked like it did before if it weren’t for the fact that just at that moment another cop pulled up on a motorcycle.  Now they’re talking in rapid fire Spanish that I can’t follow but the bottom line is that the guy is forced to write the ticket because he can’t proceed with a bribe (oops, did I just use that nasty word?) with another cop witnessing.  He writes the ticket but refuses to give me my license.  I say “what the fuck is this?”  It turns out the other cop speaks enough English to explain to me that this guy has decided to suspend my license and that it will remain suspended for from twelve to eighteen months (he must have promised his wife dinner that night and now he sees that slipping away and is pissed).  And it is my California driver’s license.