Monday, February 16, 2009

Renewing Driver's Licenses

Today, we renewed our Costa Rican driver's licenses!

The experience was a lot less hectic than when we first got our licenses. Two years ago, the MOPT (Costa Rica's transportation authority) was in downtown San José, we had help, and we were getting new licenses (really, we just showed our USA licenses and our cédulas and we got Costa Rican licenses).

This time, we went to our branch of the Banco National in the morning, and paid c10,000 for the renewal fee, plus a c455 processing fee. Then, just to be accurate, we used the scale at the mall to get our height and weight (you know, in metric...).

Then we went home, where I promptly burned lunch, AND broke (another) glass - this does *not* bode well for later...

Well, I guess that got all the bad luck out of the ether, because the rest of the day went pretty well.

We took the San Pedro bus to downtown San José, then the Sabana Cementerio bus to the Fischel stop, then walked a couple of blocks (asked a bus driver for the La Uruca bus) turned around and walked a block back and a block over (sigh), and caught the La Uruca bus. It was easy to see the Mercedes dealer where our stop was - we got off and crossed the street with no problem (yay for pedestrian lights and crosswalks!). We knew the medico / laboratory was near, but didn't immediately see it - we asked a handy guard, and he pointed down two doors East :-).

Since I knew my blood type, my medical check was only c10,000. Rick's was c15,000, and now he knows his blood type :-). The receptionist (3:15) asked for our cédulas, took our cash (we probably could have paid with a credit card), and started our paperwork. Rick went off to give some blood while I stood in the examination line. The Doctor was very nice; asked if I spoke Spanish, and when I said "poquito," he conducted the rest of the exam in English - I didn't even *think* to say the eye chart in Spanish - I should have at least done *that* much.

After the exam, we took our completed medical reports and walked West one block to MOPT. The new MOPT complex looks almost like a university - it is very pleasant. The guard at the entrance asked if we wanted licenses, and we said yes, we were renewing. He asked to see our bank receipts and medical reports, then pointed us to the last building on down a path. Along the way (3:30), we saw several signs that confirmed we were on the "yellow brick road." At the door, another guard checked to make sure we had our receipts and reports, gave us a number, and said to have a seat.

When my number came up, I showed my receipt, report, cédula, and old driver's license, gave my new address and phone number, said I wanted to be an organ donor, and then waited for a camera to become free. I got my photo taken (no fingerprint this time, since it is already in the system), waited a few minutes, and signed for my new card (3:55)!

Everyone was very helpful and friendly, and the lines were short. What a change from before!

On top of everything else, we caught a different bus back to San José - I asked the fellow in line ahead of us if it went to Fischel's, and he said yes. When we got to the right stop, he said here we are! *and* walked and talked with us all the way! Near the end, I was a bit worried that he was going out of his way just to show us how to go, but when we shook hands good-bye at the corner, he took off in the same direction (whew!).

We decided to walk the pedestrian boulevard back to the San Pedro bus, partly because we still don't know a good bus going the right direction, and partly because we like to walk the boulevard when we aren't in a hurry - it is only 10 blocks or so, and always lively.

The crazy part is that my first driver's license was good for 2 years, and in all that time, I have not even *once* driven in Costa Rica! The renewed one is good for 5 years - surely in that time, I'll take the plunge...

Note: current exchange rate is about c564 = $1

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