What a difference a day makes
Yesterday our world turned upside down, but today it seems to have righted. We hardly speak to one another and can barely pull ourselves from bed in hopes of avoiding what we believe is in store for us today. Everyone assures us we need to be at the immigration office before the doors open and our driver is convinced we need to leave by 6:30 to pull that off. We grab a left over slice of pizza margarita made to console us last night. For me that makes a grand total of one slice of pizza and a tiny quesadilla eaten over 4 days. Argh.
We arrive before opening, slip inside door4 and sit in front of window12, where we were told yesterday someone would help us. Security guards usher us back outside and point to a line. Luckily we are the second in this line as opposed to the one beside us already wrapping beyond where the eye can see...its only 7:30 and there are already hundreds of people waiting beside us.
We stand and watch as both our lines fill up and hoards of people continue to flow in around us. They finally take a group of 10 or so from our line inside and point toward chairs in front of window 12. We briefly see the gentleman from yesterday and he seems to notice us before disappearing behind closed doors. A different guy leans out from window 12, sees the documents in jens hand and calls over a security guard. They tell us we are in the wrong place and we must go outside to wait in the other line. Oh hell no.
We try to explain that we know the gentleman that just left and if they give us a minute he will explain, but the security guard grabs our arm to escort us out. Jen and i look at each other and sit down forcefully. We know we aren't leaving unless its over a shoulder. Lucky, before a full on brawl happens the gentleman reappears, points to each of us and then to window10. We rush to the window and plant ourselves in those seats instead refusing to make eye contact with the guards.
He explains that if we have all the paperwork he will file things appropriately, pass them along to the legal department and we will (hopefully) get an answer yes or no before the office shuts down at noon. We emplore him to give us a hint to our fate, but it's out of his control. He did at least make our jumbled mess of documents look tidy, official and coherent.
We send our driver away and find a seat to wait the 4 hours, lugging our battery every step of the way. That cursed battery seems to be hanging around as though its the last remaining piece of the bus we have to clutch onto...ironic since its not yet even touched our engine bay.
We watch more and more people enter and we keep moving further and further back from the window. Each time positioning ourselves in direct eyesight, hoping he will push our cause. With my hacking cough, i'm half convinced they will remove us from the building just to avoid a TB outbreak, but they allow us to stay. Finally after 10am he stands up and waves our way. We've been staring at him for over 2 hours and yet my brain is convinced he's motioning at someone else.
As we approach the window, he looks up and gives us a soft smile. "Todo Bien", he says gently and we collapse into the chairs in front of window10. He shows us a formal 2 page document explaining that we have received an allowance for 90days, but explains we have to go to another building and find door 3, where we will get the actual stamp. We hurriedly rush to door 3 where we are told to get in another line thats not moving at all. Someone finally walks out revealing that easily a hundred people are already waiting inside. The guard confirms we have no choice but to wait, and that this office also closes at noon. We wait it out, watch person after person get called as we try to focus on the mexican soap opera being played on the tv overhead.
We finally get the call with less than 15 minutes left and stumble away in disbelief as we look at our stamps showing july14... 90 days from our arrival in costa rica. What a beautiful sight. We almost run out the door half expecting them to change their mind before we have a chance to escape. We find a cab, toss the battery in the back and head to aduana...fearful of talking with Juan Carlos- who a day ago set this whole miserable chain of events in motion, and who we still aren't certain was looking for a bribe, simply to cause trouble or if he's actually just doing his job.
We walk in, Juan Carlos looks at us and after hearing we have 90 days he seems to have a completely different misdemeanor than 24 hours ago. He collects the necessary items, makes photocopies and begins the paperwork. Im still not sure jen and i have spoken to each other since seeing our stamps...we simply don't want to jynx the flow of our day. After a long while Juan Carlos has everything ready and explains that our permit has been renewed. We just saved E from auction with 20hours to spare! Our excitement lessens slightly when he explains that we cant suspend this permit again for at least 15 days.
We grab our documents, hop yet anther cab to the almacien fiscal, battery in tow. In route we discuss options of canceling our flight and booking another flight 15days out. Of driving to mexico, securing a 6month visa and then flying home from there... We certainly hadn't planned on being gone for another 15days, but not the end of the world, and considering where we were a few hours ago- we're more than willing to accept any path.
Back at the fiscal jen talks with Andres, who has a plan to try and convince one of the onsite aduanas to break the rules and suspend the permit. I climb behind the bus and start the battery transplant. Our fuel filters look mostly dry, but we shake the bus to confirm the tank isn't empty. I disconnect the fuel lines and blow the hoses out...clearly out of practice (and not moving very quickly these days) i take a solid stream of gasoline in the eye. I go around the corner to flush it out before setting up the camera and then climbing in the driver seat to try the key.
Idiot lights, check. I hold my breath and turn the key half expecting no noise at all and half expecting an explosion. Instead, and in keeping with the impossible nature of our day so far...the engine turns over on the first try. I can't believe my ears. We've been fully prepared to wait a few hours for our mechanic to come down from the hills and help us put the pieces back together after a year of sitting in the darkness, but E started up like a complete champ. As if knowing that we couldn't take another blow and begging to get out of this dusty box, the engine sounds almost better than i remember leaving it.
[youtube width="640" height="360"]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2vtH41fNRc[/youtube]
I keep tinkering to make sure things are okay in case we have to drive away today while jen talks with the aduana. Next time i see her she's grinning from ear to ear and whisks me around the corner to explain that while Andres distracted one aduana she worked with the other to get our permit suspended. Absolutely amazing. Several hours ago all seemed lost, there was no hope and everyone told us our vehicle was no longer our own. Less than an hour ago we were talking about changing plans to drive out of the country...and now we seem to be leaving even better prepared than we did a year ago. I gave E a quick hug before we left and promised we'd be back soon.
It took the entire cab ride home to sink in, and we again ran away so quickly (fearing they might change their minds) that we forgot to even disconnect our shiny new battery. We have been giddy ever since. We've talked about any number of tiny events that could have prevented us from finishing on time, or gotten a no instead of a yes. If we left ten inutes later, if our guy hadn't of come back out when he did or if the decision had taken 15minutes longer...we would still be working on the first step of many and our timeline would be expired. But those things didn't happen... and everything worked out just fine. Everything except my health and this horrific cough that simply will not go away. At this point however, who cares...were happy. Like, ecstatically, emphatically, over the top, like a room without a roof happy!
[youtube width="640" height="360"]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6Sxv-sUYtM[/youtube]
Thanks for all the positive energy and wishes that got sent our way over the last few days. We are excited to head back home, to heal and to prepare things for our return in december when we will finally be reunited completely with E, and continue our journey.