Sunday, December 16, 2007

Surprises in Costa Rica - the Brauns

No sleep Friday night, as we drove off to JFK airport at 12:30 a.m., arrived at 3:00 a.m., found Lucas who had waited 6 hours patiently for us, checked in for our flight, sat for a while, said good-bye to Matthew, went through security, boarded the plane, and finally snoozed at 8 a.m. in our seats. We had some good views through the clouds as we landed in San Jose, Costa Rica, just after noon local time. We had our first surprise when we went through passport control.

“Lucas was born in Costa Rica?” asks the official.

“Yes,” Jens replies.

“How long are you staying?”

“One week.”

“Well, you know you can’t take him out of the country unless you have the proper paperwork,” the official informs us. “You need a copy of his birth certificate, a photograph, and a completed permission form signed by both his parents. Are you his mother and father? Good, then that part will not be so difficult, since you are both present.”

Ah yes, the Costa Ricans want to make sure no child is taken out of the country without the prior consent of both parents. I remember that we had to go through this procedure back when we lived here from 1989 to 1992. First on the agenda for Monday morning is to go to the Registro Nacional and obtain a copy of Lucas’s birth certificate. We hope it’s not too difficult, as we’d like to leave for Monteverde tomorrow afternoon.

The second surprise came when we went yesterday evening to explore our old neighborhood. Jens drove right by the house we lived in for 2-1/2 years, not recognizing it one bit, but at Spee’s instructions stopping further down the street across from the park where Natalie loved to play on the swings and slides. We got out and walked around. Our house no longer had a grassy front yard or metal fence with yellow flowers covering it. It’s a commercial enterprise with parking up to the front door. We visited the basketball court around the corner, passed by the home of Natalie’s friend, whose name we all forget, and enjoyed just looking around a typical middle-class neighborhood. We went up to the main road and searched for the pre-school. It had had a long, sloping front yard and two modest buildings. In its place today is a large modern building.

Next we went by the old Save the Children office, which was in a house just a few blocks into the next neighborhood. It looked exactly the same except for the sign on the building. We drove around that neighborhood, buying lunch supplies at the same old Automercado (supermarket) and noting that many of the same businesses are in operation.

We’re having a lot of fun showing ourselves and the kids all of this from our lives during those three years. Lucas and I went into the Clinica Santa Rita, where he was born, and the staff greeted us warmly and let us see the room where I was in labor, the entrance area to the delivery room, and the baby nursery. This morning we went to Meeting for Worship, where we were kindly welcomed. The two old-timers whom I recognized did not remember us and alas, the mainstay and our good friend Erna Castro died over 10 years ago (probably at age 80, so not surprising).

We’re also enjoying beautiful, interesting, warm Costa Rica. This morning we went to the old capital city, Cartago, then up to the rim of the Irazu Volcano. It was spectacular. In San Jose we visited the National Museum and learned more about how and why Costa Rica abolished its army in 1948. We’ve walked the streets of San Jose, which are full of Christmas shoppers. There are bits of white paper all over the sidewalks in the downtown pedestrian area – confetti, thought Caleb and I, but fake snow, said Natalie, right on the mark. We’re not missing the real snow that you’all have back home, but hope you’re getting in some fun sledding and skiing!


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