26 September 2011

Day 77: El Rancho has a roof, water and counters!

We got lucky today... no rain all day! The crew finished painting all the support beams and almost finished with the roof. We now have an L-shaped counter poured in concrete that you see on the back wall to the right. We plan to have stools on both sides of the counter.

The guys also finished installing the water lines. We now have water in the bathroom, kitchen sink and outdoor shower. Tomorrow they will pour the other two counter tops along the back walls where the sink and outdoor stove will be located. All of the counter tops and back splash areas will then be tiled.

Over the weekend we went on a shopping spree and bought the counter tile, lighting and bathroom fixtures. We are really getting excited about how everything is finally coming together. Here is a photo of the view you can expect to see from the Rancho.

John left this morning for a quick trip to Texas to pick up some of the certified and notarized documents he will need for his residency application. So, here I am, missing my guy, surfing on the internet and blogging for all our followers. He will be back in 4 days and in the meantime I'm left supervising the construction crew.

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22 September 2011

Day 72: Rancho Progress, Credit & Official Residency

The crew has made lots of progress on the Rancho this week, in spite of the rain. The structure to support the roof is now finished and the concrete base for the tile floor was poured today. Tomorrow, all of the structure will be painted and they will begin to lay the roof. The guys will be so glad to have a roof over their heads to give them a break from the sun in the morning and the rain in the afternoon. Now they won't have to call it a day when the afternoon storms roll in across the mountains.

We have been buying building materials as needed from the local hardware store and this involves several trips during the week. Sometimes we have made 2 or 3 trips in the same day because we forgot, or ran out, of something. The hardware store offers substantial discounts for cash; anywhere from 3% to 15%, depending on the type of material. Cash is not a check or a debit card. Cash is the printed paper and coin that comes from the Banco Central de Costa Rica. Needless to say, this means multiple trips per week to the bank's ATM or lobby to get CASH. I hate walking around with large amount of cash!

Our contractor recommended we talk to the hardware store about opening a credit account because they will give the same discounts if you setup an agreement to pay weekly or bi-weekly. This would be really convenient later on, when we start to build the house. I'm thinking to myself (having been a banker in my previous life) why would they extend credit to a couple of foreigners, foreigners who are relatively new residents in town that they don't know from Adam?!?!?! Where is the guarantee that we even have the means to pay? Yeah sure, they're gonna do that just on our good looks. The banker in me is screaming, "No Way José, estas loco?"

So, wouldn't you know it, we had to make the second run of the day to the hardware store this afternoon to buy about $600 worth of electrical goodies, plumbing supplies and other miscellaneous stuff. What the heck, I'll ask for credit and if they say "No," no harm done. Wow, not only did they say "YES," but they will give us the same discount, as if we paid cash, if we pay the bill once a week. They extended credit to us without asking us to producing any type of credit reference. Not only that, but they will invoice us by email and accept payment directly into their account through online banking.

I LOVE THIS COUNTRY! I grew up in a small town like Atenas. My dad owned the local hardware store, so I really appreciated the courtesy and credit they have extended to us. Couple this with the high tech convenience of on-line bill paying and they've got themselves a new loyal customer for the foreseeable future.

In other news, we made the trip into San Jose Monday for a final meeting with Migración for my residency. Once again, I was reminded senior citizens over 65, the handicapped, pregnant women and parents carrying an infant, always get to go to the head of the line for preferential treatment, EVERYWHERE in this country. It's the LAW. If you fall into any of these categories, you will be given your cedula (National ID carnet) on the spot, instead of having it mailed to your local post office, or having to come back to the Migración Office in 10 days to pick up the cedula in person. Guess what? I don't fit into any of these categories.

When it was finally my turn, I provided them with proof I had made all the bank deposits to cover the cost of my cedula and another $300 deposit to cover the cost of my deportation if my residency is ever revoked for some reason. They took my photo for the cedula, verified all my personal profile data and asked if I wanted to be an organ donor.

The official, who was entering all of the data into the computer was a young lady, struggling to learn to speak English. She was so relieved to find out I speak Spanish. She said she always has a problem with the residency applicants that only speak English, because she doesn't know how to ask them if they want to be organ donors. She asked me to teach her how to ask this question in English and I taught her a couple of ways to say it. We practiced for a few minutes until she had it written down and memorized.

When she was comfortable with the phrase, she thanked me for the lesson. I told her she was very welcome and if she wanted to "pay" for the lesson, how about giving me my cedula on the spot so I could avoid the return trip to their office, or the post office trip a week later. To my surprise, she said, "Con mucho gusto. Seria un placer." She said I would have to wait about an hour, but she would go ahead and push it through for me.

I have been granted "Permanent Residency, Without any Restrictions" since my sons are Costa Rica citizens. With my cedula in hand, this put us in a position to apply for John's residency. We immediately started the ball rolling. Wednesday we went back to San Jose to get John photographed and fingerprinted for his application.

It took forever for John to get called into the fingerprinting office. He kept getting bumped back in line because of those entitled to preferential treatment. He got bumped by two parents accompanied by their infant son, a man over 65, a woman over 65, and a man with a cane + his wife. Next time we have to do something like this, I'm think I'm going to borrow somebody's baby! Finally, after about 2 hours, John was called in to be fingerprinted. The government will automatically run a check through Interpol to make sure he's not a bad guy. After we finished this lengthy ordeal, we headed over to the lawyer's office to sign some additional documents for his application.

On Monday, John is heading back to the States on a 4-day trip to gather all of his certified documents; birth certificate, marriage certificate and local police record. Once he has these documents notarized they will be shipped to the agent that is assisting us with the residency process. With any luck, John will have his residency application approved within the next 6 months.

!Pura Vida!

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12 September 2011

Day 62: Errands and Paperwork

What a day...
  • 30 minutes buying roofing material for the rancho,
  • 1½ hours at the bank paying all the government fees for my residency
  • 3 hours in the capitol of San Jose (and stops at 3 offices) to get signed up for CAJA (Costa Rica's socialized medicine)
  • 1 hour driving back home, and finally
  • 1 hour in line to get the actual Social Security Carnet at the local clinic.
I haven't had a day like this since I had a full time job. All the paperwork is now ready and I meet with Migración next week to get my Permanent Residency and Cedula (National Identity Card).
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10 September 2011

Day 60: The Rancho Construction and Residency

The rancho construction is coming along nicely. After a long hard week, the construction crew took the day off today. Monday, they will be back to tie the lines into the septic tank. Now that all the support beams and headers have been poured, they are ready to start on the roof and floor. We've already picked out the tile for the floor in the rancho and in the bathroom.

They installed decorative cement block vents along the top edge of the bathroom walls and this week the glass blocks you see here will be installed. The glass block window will measure about 3'x3'. Since the windows faces to the east, it should provide a substantial amount of light in the bathroom.

The crew staked out the shape of the rancho's floor and removed all of the sod. Now we can really get an idea of it's size and this rancho is going to be much bigger than we had originally envisioned. What a great place this will be to socialize with family and friends. I can't wait to host a party!

On another topic, I received some great news this past Thursday. The Republic of Costa Rica has made a final resolution in my residency case and I have been approved for permanent residency based on family linkage: A 1st degree relative of a Costa Rica citizen (my adult children.) For those of you in the United States, this is the equivalent of being granted a Green Card. In the next few days, I will need to pays some fees to Migracíon and join CAJA (Costa Rica's socialized medical program). Then they will give me an appointment to get my Cedula (national identity carnet)

Now that I've been approved, the next step is to apply for John's residency. He will be traveling back to the U.S. in a couple of weeks to gather all the certified documents he needs to submit his application.

It is so nice to no longer be considered a tourist in Costa Rica!

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06 September 2011

Day 56: Another milestone - Subie is free at last!

Our Subaru Forester has finally been given a clean bill of health by the Costa Rica Government and it will be delivered to us this evening. It has been inspected, import duty has been paid, it's been registered in our C.R. corporation and it has brand new C.R. license plates. The old Texas license plates, "Blade" will just become a souvenir to hang on the wall of the rancho.
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