Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter 23 - The Package

  We have been waiting for a parcel from Washington (the West one) for about two weeks.  Melaney ordered four bottles of Calcium/magnesium/vitamin D tablets.  We need them for our legs.  In putting a tracer on the parcel, we found that it was in Costa Rica.
    We headed out for the Airport. Mel had phoned and found out that the customs offices were 1000 meters from the airport terminal, and one didn’t have to go to the terminal, but bypass it, and go around toward the back of the terminal building.
     We found a location that looked promising, but we had to go through a ticketed gate to get to the parking there.  I waited in the car.  She ran into the building, and was back at the car in two and a half minutes.  We were at the wrong building, we should be across the street.  In leaving the parking gate, the girl charged us 1400 Calones.  That is about two dollars and 80 cents, for two and a half minutes.  There was no exception.  She paid it.  We drove around the other side of the buildings, and found a spot in the shade.  She parked on the street, and went into the building.  About 45 minutes later she came back to the car and said there would be a wait, but there was a cafeteria and bathrooms handy in the building.
    We walked about a block, through a parking area for the big transport trucks, and towards a bank of stairs.  These were huge construction type steel stairs.  I climbed them slowly, one at a time.  My back and hips and knees won’t take that kind of punishment very easily any more.  Mel helped me the best that she could.  We got to the top of the stairs, through the doors, down long wire mesh hallways, though other doors, found the washroom then carried on and down the stairs to the floor that the customs offices are on. 
     After waiting for a long time, Melaney was able to talk to a man in a separate room (the door was kept locked, and only one person at a time could enter.)  When she came out she was wearing a pinned on badge which made her look official, and she sat beside me to wait some more.  We went to the cafeteria and had a drink, then came back to the waiting room.  At least that was air conditioned, so it was relatively comfortable, and the seats were moderately padded.
    By this time, we had been in and around this office for a couple of hours.  Then we were told that the person she was waiting for, the customs official, wouldn’t be in till around 1:30.  We waited some more.  Groups were gathering.
     Mel saw two heavy women go down to the office door of the customs official she was waiting to talk with.  The mother sat on the stairs, and the girl stood by the railing.  After about another hour, Mel decided to go down with the group at the doorway.  As fate would have it, the girl spoke English. She had been raised in Scotland for some years, and spoke with a slight Scottish but mostly Spanish accent.
    In the meantime, I was sitting in the same spot.
    I was getting concerned that the time would run out.  I didn’t have any idea how long the offices would remain open. By this time, we had been away from home about six hours.  Then the girls came on a gallop in front of me, Mel turned her head and told me to stay where I was, the girls and a few other people were off through a side door.
    I found out later that the customs officer was held up in the other building in meetings, and the girls and a few others went over there on foot to try to catch her in another office.  In the meantime, the heavy girls' mother was sitting beside me and I found out that she could speak English, so we conversed. (She is the Dean of a local University--Mel)  One man who spoke only Spanish came to sit by her on the other side, and she told me he said the girls were about third in the line to see the customs agent.
     It was only two minutes to four.  I feared the office that I was in was going to close at four.  I said to my seating companion that they would have to close the doors around me, that I had now waited over five hours, and was not going to move until Melaney could get back to me.
      She appeared.  I was very relieved, but then was informed that the building I was in was open until 5:30.  She motioned for us to go, and I was dreading the long halls and the two flights of stairs.  Mel wondered if there wasn’t a closer door to the street, and I told her I had watched many people go to the exit just a few feet from where we were seated all afternoon.  There were three stairs.  Mel enquired as we passed a desk if the door led to the parking lot.  The girl just shrugged her shoulders.  She didn’t have any idea what the question was.
     We didn’t have the parcel.  Melaney had seen it in the room with the locked door. She said she would explain when we got to the car.
      Out the exit door, and believe it or not, the car wasn’t more than thirty feet away.  I was very relieved that we didn’t have to do the tour walk with all the steel stairs. When we got into the car, Melaney said that the customs agent had told her she had to get a permission certificate from the minister of health in San Jose to import the pills that were in the package.  It was just exasperating.  They could have told us that four hours earlier.
       It was approaching late afternoon, and the daylight is unforgiving.  We always want to be home before dark.  We had an adventure on the way.  Mel recognized a quick turn to get off the main highway toward Poas.  She braked and pulled right quickly and a big truck which had really been tailgating blew a blast on the air horn……We drove along in apparently the correct direction for a while, then somehow took a wrong turn and I could tell by the names on the front of the approaching buses we weren’t going in the right direction.  At one point we were going against traffic towards the highway and I saw a group of traffic police across the median, and one was waiving wildly, indicating we were approaching the highway in the wrong direction.  We made a U turn, and a truck let us in.  We went back the way we were coming from and finally found a marker that we recognized and got to the right road.  Once I saw some familiar landscapes, I felt better.  We arrived at home just before five.  By 5:30 it’s dark. By 6:00 it is pitch dark.
     Gigi had been left all day, and she was barking through the window.  She was so excited to finally see us.
            The package story will continue tomorrow……..

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