"Makin' a Run for the Border!"

Wow. Just, wow.

We arranged with the property manager at our beach house for him to have a taxi pick us up at 7:30 as we had to meet another driver in town who would take us the 5 hours to Costa Rica and help us cross the border. Yeah, well at 7:45 a.m., there was no taxi so we had to arrange another driver. 

Remember me mentioning earlier how our "nice" property manager, Harry, gave me a cell phone I could use in case I needed it? Well, this seemed to be one of those times. It didn't work. I had found this out earlier when I tried to call and say the power was out and how about someone firin' up that generator I saw advertised on the website for the house. Yeah, well that didn't work out. Later, I found out the generator had hardly any gas in it and we only got to use it for 45 minutes anyway. Putz.  

Anyhow, the housekeeper, Giselle, was able to line up transportation for us. I e-mailed Harry and told him to forget it. He replied later, "Oh, my guy got a flat tire! You just missed him." Even in broken English, Harry lied very well.

No sweat. We made our connection to the vehicle that would take us to Costa Rica and we were off... for approximately 30 minutes until we arrived at the border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica where we came to a screeching (literally) stop. It was as if a Star Trekkian force-field had been drawn between the two countries. Trucks and busses were backed up for MILES in either direction. Fortunately, our driver had no intention of waiting in the really long line and proceeded to pull into the wrong lane and zip to the front. We were through!!!

Wrong. We had merely arrived VERY rapidly to a place where we would now have to proceed VERY slowly. Thank goodness, our driver knew the border crossing routine and took care of us. I would have had no idea where to go. There were several people to pay, talk to, give your passport to, sign forms for and generally just stand in line, often for the privilege of being told to stand in another line. 

It was kind of entertaining seeing how things worked. Many people had to dump everything from their luggage onto big tables where it was searched by some people who could have been homeless beggars for all they knew. Meanwhile, enterprising vendors selling everything from cell phone cases to chickens had set up tables directly behind the inspection tables so, if you were so inclined, you could buy a chicken AND a cell phone case! How's THAT for service!

We hopped in the van off we went...100 yds to the next stop. We had to get out and have someone ELSE stamp our passports. By this time, I didn't know if I was in Nicaragua or Costa Rica. That's not true. I actually suspected we were now in Costa Rica because instead of the machetes the Nicaraguan border guards carried, the Costa Rican guards carried machine guns! Hmmm...I think the Costa Ricans want to keep the Nicaraguans out more than the Nicaraguans want to keep out the Costa Ricans. 

Side Bar: The idea of closing borders to neighboring countries and illegal immigrants is NOT unique to the United States. Based on our conversations with some Costa Ricans during our trip, they do NOT like Nicaraguans and definitely do not like Nicaraguans coming into the country and staying. Just like in our country, the story is that most come for jobs. But also like in our country, many of the illegals coming to Costa Rica from Nicaragua bring gang activity and violence. We were stopped a couple times by Costa Rican police while we were driving or being driven and they really checked out our Nicaraguan driver. Later, we were passed through a checkpoint while a bus with Nicaraguan plates was being searched. I'm not offering an opinion one way or another, but keep in mind that the immigration issue is not unique to the United States and biases, stereotypes, etc. are global. 

And now we're in Costa Rica and all is good. No...all is GREAT! There's a McDonald's up ahead in the town of Liberia! The kids are ecstatic...and so is dad. American grease for the first time in 21 days! 

Driving through Costa Rica and eating at McDonald's,  the socio-economic differences between the two countries was quite apparent. Nicaragua is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere (behind Haiti) and Costa Rica is considered a "wealthy" country comparitively. I asked Grady if he noticed any differences between the countries and he said "Nicaragua looks poorer." He said the roads are better in CR. The buildings look nicer. The people in McDonald's dressed better. I wasn't quite able to explain to him why this was. I had explained to him about the long-running civil war and the way it damaged Nicaragua. It'll be interesting to see if Nicaragua ever climbs out of its hole...that in some ways, the U.S. helped dig. 

Anyway, we finally made it to Toad Hall, our little hotel near Arenal, Costa Rica. Oh my goodness! We were in heaven! 

...to be continued!


9/10/2012 05:07:27 pm

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Joseph Aidan

9/25/2012 12:13:41 pm

I am really impressed from this post! The person who created this post is a generous and knows how to keep the readers connected. Thanks for sharing this with us, i found it informative and interesting. Looking forward for more updates.

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9/25/2012 12:41:49 pm

Feel free to check out my whole Costa Rica-Nicaragua blog on this site. There are dates so you can read them in order. Just go to "Blog" on the top of the page and start at June 14. Enjoy!


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