The day started early but we didn’t have to wait long at the bus stop across from the cemetery. I don’t know…bad omen? It was a Ciudad Neilly bus so we had to change buses to get to the border. Why would we return to the scene of Marce’s now famous face plant at the Jerusalem Mall? To cross the border into Panama of course, which if everything goes smoothly, would leave us poised to cross back a few hours later and have Costa Rica Immigration stamp our passports for another ninety days. It’s the only way to extend our tourist visas.
The Jerusalem Mall, by the way, is a mall in the sense that venders borrowed the adjacent vender’s wall, as erecting three walls is cheaper than four, and more and more venders were added until before long, without rhyme or reason, you’ve got a mall…sort of.
We weren’t really sure of the procedure for checking out, checking in, then checking out, and checking in from the Panama side, even though we asked several people what to expect. We’ve found that in Costa Rica it’s really difficult to get a definitive clear answer to any question. I wonder if it has something to do with having no addresses?
So, as I was saying, we had to fill out Costa Rican exit forms, which it turns out are surprisingly small but with a font size apparently used in microfiche. Seriously? This stuff is tiny.
We tried to be inconspicuous knowing that we’d be coming back through here in a couple of hours so when the guy behind the bullet proof glass said first you have to pay the exit tax, well, we didn’t want to say where the hell is that, we just inconspicuously backed up and promptly went the wrong way. In true Escape Velocity tradition we threw ourselves on the kindness of strangers and a guy who was waiting in the queue, as it turns out, for the auto-teller machine and not an exit tax machine at all, said oh you pay that in the van. In the van? Oh, I’d noticed two girls out front of Immigration playing what I thought was chess in an old clapped out van with its side doors open, but at closer inspection it turned out to be two girls in a clapped out old van with the side doors open collecting $8 US exit tax for the authorities at Costa Rican Immigration.
Back at the guy behind the bullet proof glass who kept calling Marce Maria, necessitating a noodge from yours truly so she’d answer the man, we handed over our passports, exit forms and tax receipts. Kachunk, kachunk, we were officially out.
Now for the tricky stuff. A few hot dusty blocks in the general direction of Panama you’ll find Panamanian Immigration with pretty much the same bored guy behind the same bullet proof glass except now we have to prove that we are worthy of a temporary visa to Panama and more importantly can support ourselves while there and have an airline ticket to fly out. Marce hacked an old e-ticket, changed the origin and dates and presto changeo, a ticket out of here. But would they verify? It was looking good until a gust of wind blew our paperwork through the slot in the window onto his lap. He looked up and said is this your proof of funds? Why, yes officer it is. And is that in colones or dollars? Dollars, officer, it is in dollars. Then he told me to take off my hat and sunglasses. Oh no, there goes my carefully planned disguise! I’m a different man without a hat and cheaters. Remember we’ve got to come right back through here today and it wouldn’t be good for him to say, hey, wait a minute don’t I know you? In seconds he aimed a tiny webcam at me and clicked. Then kachunk kachunk with the stamp and we were officially in. Welcome to Panama. We hadn’t expected to be photographed but other than our likenesses lurking in their computer, I think that went well. We seem to be getting better at this.
The best thing I can say about our stay waiting on the border is that no one fell.
The euphoria of pulling off the first half of our capper rapidly began to fade when it dawned on us that now we were legally separated from our home and our disguises have been blown. Oh yeah, the photograph thingy too.
We may have been a tad premature but the more we realized that we really had to get back into Costa Rica, we really had to get back to Costa Rica. This time my plan would be to start out without my hat or my sunglasses which would give me that squinty look. Perfect! Well, we were even more inconspicuous this time, which seemed to be working even though we left another set of identical photos just like the set we left an hour and a half ago, but apparently they don’t have that CSI photo matching machine, so it was kachunk kachunk good bye Panama and we were officially out.
Now for our good friends at Costa Rican Immigration.
I’m sorry, I really can’t remember much about getting back into Costa Rica except he asked where are you going in Costa Rica and we said Golfito. Pause, huh…Golfito. Kachunk kachunk and we were officially in again. Almost disappointing. I mean we had some interesting stories memorized for the occasion but inconspicuous was our watchword for the day so we backed up and left inconspicuously. Other than another biblical downpour on the twisty blacktop road back to EV, not much had changed except we both have a stamp in our passports that says ninety days more in Costa Rica.
Change partners, do-si-do.