Tuesday, September 28, 2010

International Guitar Festival!

The International Guitar Festival kicks off this week!

Rick and I went for our first little taste at the MedioDía today.  What fun!  The Orquestra de Guitarras de la UCR played arrangements for guitars - there were about 20 players, ranging from soprano to electric bass (is there such a thing as a soprano guitar? dunno, but it went pretty high, like a mandolin).  The composers included Manuel de Falla, Andrew York, Astor Piazolla (!!!), Ernesto Alfaro, Pedro Elías Campos, and Rubén Fuentes.

We're very much looking forward to more guitar this week :-)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Voting From Abroad

Today, we voted in the USA and California elections, from Costa Rica. Because the Democrats Abroad organization had a get-out-the-vote event today, it was pretty easy.*

One thing that makes a big difference (at least for California) is whether you register as living abroad temporarily or indefinitely. To quote from the California SOS website (http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/mov/who-special-absentee.htm):

"You are eligible to vote in California's federal, state and local elections if you are a U.S. citizen living temporarily outside of the U.S. who lived in California immediately prior to your departure from the United States. If you are living abroad for an indefinite period, you can only vote in elections for federal offices (President, Vice President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives)."

This was the first time we registered as living abroad for an indefinite period! In all the previous elections, we lived in both Costa Rica and California. We went through all that agony of reading and trying to understand all the ballot measures, divining which candidates would best represent us, and finally, rejoicing or lamenting the results. This year, we simply wrote down two names - it took us longer to fill in all the forms than to decide how to vote!

I have mixed feelings about this - I have always hated voting, and have always done it from a sense of duty. Because of that, I spent a lot of time reading the propositions, pros, cons, etc. And in the end, I never really felt that I got the whole story. But I was fully engaged. Now, I don't have to spend that sort of effort, but I also am not *allowed* to participate. So, for the moment, especially since I have no choice, I will lean toward relief :-).

The type of residency that your state** says you have when you move abroad affects much more than just your voting. You have to worry about all sorts of things:
  • mailing address - no matter what, you are still going to get mail. Do you want it all forwarded to you out of the country? Probably not. Many people impress family members or friends to take care of their mail, but there are also companies that will sort through your mail and notify you of contents and forward as necessary. The post office does not know that you are out of the country indefinitely. It only knows if you are out temporarily if you have your mail held (and even then, it would be guessing). A mailing address in the state generally doesn't affect your residency status.
  • banking - it's generally a good idea to keep some kind of banking presence in the USA. As dismal as the interest rate is on savings accounts, it can often be a bit better than other banks. Also, if you get social security or pension checks, many countries aren't set up to receive these directly - many people get their checks deposited into their USA bank, then transfer money as needed to their new country. Bank accounts in Costa Rica are fairly difficult to open, and often are frozen or closed without notice. Unfreezing or reopening these accounts is a time-consuming process, and almost always requires a personal visit with documents in hand.
  • driver's license - most people keep their state driver's license. Most countries allow you to drive on your USA license, at least for some period of time. You have to figure out what to do when it is time to renew, and that is when a mailing address really helps. The DMV would not know or care about any change in your residency status, unless you changed states (and this is not the case).
  • taxes - you'd better believe you still pay taxes! The good news is that you can get your refund checks mailed to you in your new country, or direct deposited into your USA bank. You also get a later filing date - no more April 15th deadline; your agony can be extended all the way out to June 15th! The IRS and state tax board have all sorts of rules you get to discover when you change your country of residency and your stateside residency status.
  • health (and other) insurance - we've been away from the states since before the new health-care laws came into effect, so I'm not completely sure what is required of those of us living abroad indefinitely. We're not exactly residents, but we're not "non-residents" either.
  • jury duty - this was confusing at first! I actually got a jury duty summons! I finally remembered that the summons specifically says to not forward, so I asked my put-upon family mail-sorters to return it with that designation. I would think that if you are living abroad temporarily, you would have to ask for an extension, and eventually have to show up.
  • rights upon your return - if you have claimed that you are living indefinitely abroad, then return to the USA, what might you have to do to reclaim residency? Let's say you wanted to attend UC Davis as a resident - more than likely, you would have to establish residency just like someone who moved to California from another state. But it would be worth asking directly about this, especially if you have maintained at least some presence in the state. If you lived abroad temporarily, then you retain all rights of California residency, and don't have to do anything.

The great thing {insert eye-roll} is that these government offices don't seem to be in sync!

* Anyone living abroad can vote on their own (see http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/elections_mov.htm or http://www.votefromabroad.org/). You do not have to be a Democrat to register or vote at these events - you can register for any party (or none), and vote for whoever you like.

**Each state has its own rules regarding continuing residency and voting. The state where you resided immediately before moving abroad is the one whose rules you follow. Most states consider you a resident (of some sort) even while you are abroad.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

Yeah, I know. You thought this would be a sunrise picture, or a description of how great it is to wake up in Costa Rica.

Well, it *is* great to wake up in Costa Rica, and for the last several days, I've had that darned song going on in my head. But the flip side is that everything *doesn't* *always* go your way. Here are a few such items to consider.

Item 1: Several times in the last few months, I have spent the day at a friend's house painting. It is a great way for us to visit and to focus on the artistic side (one big goal for my life here). We don't have a car, and I thoroughly enjoy the bus system here. However! On this trip, the buses *never* seemed to align! They're like the stars that way, I guess. The last time I went, it took two and a half hours to get there, and then (OMG, I almost died) it took THREE and a HALF hours to get home! That's an average of three hours to go a distance of 20 miles! And this is without much traffic - that would take *maybe* an hour in a car (lots of windy roads on one end, and a few stoplights at the other).

Item 2: Rick and I usually go to the MedioDía at the National Theatre. It is a noon concert of just less than an hour, and gives you a nice taste of a performance that is often played in expanded form later that week in San José. Usually it's a nice taste. The last time we went... Well, it wasn't that the musicians were bad, because they weren't. It wasn't a bad composition either. We just didn't like it! It was too something - too modern, dissonant without relief, snippets of melodies that went nowhere... The little girl sitting next to us had her hands over her ears by the end of it - very subtly of course, since she was a Tica, but still. My compensation was that I was with Rick. And anytime I get to spend with Rick is great :-).

Item 3: I often go to the Guadalupe feria - the produce is fantastic, and the people are friendly. But one time, I had gotten everything except strawberries, and so was cruising pretty fast. A stack of strawberry bags caught my eye, and I stopped. I have gotten pretty good at testing weights, and so I pretty much know what a kilo feels like. These bags looked light, and when I asked how much, the guy said the price. Then I picked up a bag, and asked how much it weighed. He said about a kilo - I looked kind of funny I guess, and he put it on the scale. When he did this he kept his hand on the bag, and pressed on the scale - well it was pretty obvious. So I laughed, and motioned that he should perhaps lift his hand. He laughed, lifted his half-kilo hand off the scale, and - well, there you go. I said no thanks and moved on.

I'm quite sure there are other disappointments, but they do fade quickly. Because you know, we *do* have beautiful mornings here :-D

Would I let these set-backs stop me from trying again? No! (One might even be tempted to say "No way, San José!")

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Whatever Will We Say Now?

Typically, when a taxi brings us home, we turn the corner onto our street, take a sharp breath, and say "Perdon! Hay muchos huecos!" (Sorry, there are a lot of potholes!)
NOW WHAT!?!? :-D

Overlapping Holidays

In the states, we have seen the Christmas holiday creep earlier and earlier. Time was, the official start of the Christmas season was the day after Thanksgiving. You could pretty much count on enjoying your Thanksgiving holiday without another holiday invading, then finish it off with a Christmas parade or the first Christmas movie.

I think the earliest I have seen ads for Christmas decorations was a couple of years ago - the day after the 4th of July! Something about pre-ordering your custom decoration for your collection. At this point, not only is Thanksgiving incorporated, but Halloween as well - as soon as the Halloween candy is taken off the shelves, it is replaced with Christmas candy.

When we first moved to Costa Rica, we kidded ourselves - we felt like we were getting away from the USA-style Christmas over-hype. And in a way, we were. It feels different here. Less corporate-controlled, more relaxed, more joyful. However. sigh. If it can be believed, Christmas starts even *earlier* here!

The Christmas-trigger here is now Independence Day (September 15). We went shopping for paper and tape (basic stuff) the day after, and the stores were chock full of Christmas decorations! Window space is a premium now, with flags vying with Christmas ribbon for that eye-level spot. The flags, seals, and buntings are still available, but enormous sections of other goods have been moved aside. One store had reduced its books by about a third, and replaced them with toys. (As an avid reader, I find that sad.)

Notice, however, that the shelves and windows are still full of Independence Day items! In Costa Rica, Costa Rican independence is celebrated the entire month of September - flags and seals go up, storefronts erect enormous drapes of color, school bands practice marching, parks and government buildings are cleaned and painted... The country is full of pride and independence-day spirit.

So, does your average Tico really do much about Christmas this early? I'm sure some thinking starts, but I've asked a few people here and there about it, and most usually get started after the first of November - that's when Christmas trees go up, and decorations become noticeable. The fiestas really kick in at the beginning of December, when the aguinaldos are due - these Christmas bonuses are mandated by law, and amount to an extra month of pay.

What about the other end of Christmas? A few years ago, I was surprised to see a woman buying wrapping paper on Christmas eve - I thought "wow, she really put this off, eh?" But I have since found that gift-giving is also spread out. January 6th is the *big* gift-day, and the official end of Christmas.

For us, the best part of the season are all the fiestas - they are nearly back-to-back, in every town. It is truly a different sort of celebration.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Chocolate Pots de Crème with Mora Sauce

We always seem to talk about food in my French class, and Monday (the first day of level 4!) was no exception. So, here it is, Tuesday, and I just finished sampling the latest piece of heaven :-).

Chocolate Pots de Crème*

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup crema dulce (whipping cream, not actually sweetened, despite the name)
1 Tablespoon sugar
14 pieces (about 4 ounces) of "La Chocolatería" semi-sweet chocolate
3 egg yolks
dash salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla

In a heavy saucepan, scald milk and crema dulce with sugar. Add broken chocolate; stir frequently until chocolate completely melts and thickens slightly. (Mixture must be quite hot.)
Beat egg yolks with salt until very thick. With wire whip, quickly stir a small amount of hot milk mixture into the yolks, then add the yolks slowly to the hot milk mixture, while stirring quickly.
Add vanilla; stirring gently, cook 2-3 minutes until pudding thickens.
Pour into small pots de crème cups, ramekins, or small glass dishes. Cover and chill.
Makes 4 (1/3 cup) servings.

*based on a Ghirardelli recipe, "Lafayette Pots de Crème," with necessary changes to accommodate the products available in Costa Rica. I *highly* recommend the cookbook "Ghirardelli Original (3rd edition) Chocolate Cookbook."

Mora Sauce

3/4 cup Mora pulp**
1/2 cup sugar
Combine and heat on low, stirring constantly, until thickened (stop just before it boils). Let cool, serve while still slightly warm.

** Mora is a tart Costa Rican blackberry. For pulp, dump clean berries into a blender, add enough water to facilitate blending. Blend, then strain. Will keep in the fridge for over a week, or almost indefinitely in the freezer. Also makes an excellent drink when the pulp is added to orange juice :-)

To Serve

Dribble a thin layer of warm mora sauce over each pot de crème. Sprinkle with chopped candied ginger. Eat. Die happy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Breakfast at Our House

One thing that has changed drastically with moving to Costa Rica from the fast lane of Silicon Valley is *Breakfast!* This used to be a quick canned shake on the road, followed by coffee at my desk. Ugh.

Now? Most mornings we have a full, cooked breakfast, eaten together - much better!

Veggie Scramble
Chop the following:
- 1/2 onion
- 1/4 sweet red chili
- 1/2 piece palmito and/or carrot (~2-3 inches)
- 1/2 zucchini (or some other green vegetable, such as broccoli, chayote, or green beans)

Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet, add the veggies, and cook until done. I like mine browned and somewhat caramelized.

Break 3 eggs into a bowl, and remove one yolk (either throw it away or keep for another purpose). Add the following, and stir well:
- a bit of water or sour cream (about 2 tablespoons)
- black pepper
- powdered ginger
- basil
- any other favorite spices (Rick likes garlic)
- cheese en polvo - that is, a dry cheese, powdered or grated (optional)

Add the eggs to the veggies, and reduce the heat. Stir until done. Remove to a plate and cover until ready to serve.

Heat a shallow layer of oil in the pan, then add sliced maduro. Cook on low until browned, then flip to brown the other side.
Meanwhile, slice tomato (sprinkle with basil or pesto sauce), avocado, and fruit.
If cheese is not in the scramble, slice some queso fresco (aka tierno, aka new cheese)
For a *very* hearty breakfast, add some Gallo Pinto :-)

Toss everything on 2 plates, serve with bread and jam, and sometimes sour cream and Lizano. And don't forget the coffee!

Budget tip - throwing away egg yolks is still cheaper than buying prepared egg whites! But stay tuned for a crème brûlée recipe (ok, so it's Pots de Crème) :-)

Living in Costa Rica - Best and Worst (for now)

People often want to know "the worst" and "the best" about living in Costa Rica - unfortunately, this list changes, depending on what kind of day you're having :-S.
So, my list for today is all about the unexpected...

Three of the best things about living in Costa Rica:
- sharing a moment with others while waiting for or riding a bus. Or shopping. Or watching a tope. I love it that so many people get a gleam in their eye, for no apparent reason. Then a smile, then sometimes a comment about the line, or the weather, or whatever, that sometimes leads to a lovely conversation.
- the fiestas that never seem to stop! The new year starts with the end of Christmas fiestas, then continues through school summer break. Then fiestas leading up to lent. You would expect things to quiet down during lent, but noooo! It's *summer,* and March is a *huge* month for weddings, horse fairs, and other celebrations. Then Easter! It is the biggest week for family vacations to the beach, as well as religious parades. May slows down a bit, but there are still plenty of fiestas. Then June and July have major events - Guanacaste day, and San Juan's little summer. August sees patron days in San Ramon and several other cities. The entire month of September is Independence Month, with clean buildings and parks, flags and buntings streaming, parades and fireworks. October and November seem to build up to Christmas, and December is chock full of fiestas!
- the bus system! Every time I really think about this, I have to laugh at myself. I used to practically *live* in my car - drove since the age of 9; I never used a bus (except for school, and then only until I could legally drive). Now, in Costa Rica, I have yet to drive a car. And I get a special thrill out of finding a new way to get somewhere by bus. So call me weird.

Three of the worst things about living in Costa Rica:
- news from USA. More and more, I find that news from the states is just plain depressing. The rest of the world seems so much more sane by comparison. But that might be because I am less vested in the details of the rest of the world.
- cherries and blueberries. Unattainable at a reasonable price, and even if you could bring yourself to pay $25 for a handful, you could only do this for a very short time each year. Mitigated by luscious, year-round mangoes :-)
- that uncomfortable feeling when you think you should know what to do in a situation, but you don't. When and how do you invite someone to coffee? What do you do to thank someone for an invitation? How closely do you calculate time spent on a job, and therefore determine pay? What hints are you missing? It's a minefield...

These are some of the things that were unexpected - let's not forget that the original reasons for even investigating Costa Rica as a place to live still hold:
- We can live (really live) together, as we like, spending real time together
- Medical care is excellent and affordable

and the expected difficulties:
- culture shock - yes, it still attacks, but less frequently, and less severely. And it is more recognizable each time, and therefore more easily dealt with.
- safety, and the necessary suspicion that goes with it - this is still hard to accept and live with, but it is becoming a more natural part of life. I'm telling myself that is a good thing.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is 4 Out of 10 OK?

I have lived here *how* long now? Off and on, coming up on 5 (FIVE) years! And I see that I have *not* been to 6 (SIX) of the top ten destinations in Costa Rica! As a summary, here they are, along with my lame excuses:

1) San José - well, I *live* here, so I have *been* here. But I haven't seen an awful lot of it - almost none of the museums, for example. I'm counting it.

2) Arenal - I have been here, several times! And I'll be back :-)

3) Monteverde - sorta went here, once. Really, it was Santa Elena. But I walked through one of the reserves. I'd go again if someone was visiting and wanted to go - any takers?

4) Manuel Antonio Beach - haven't been. Don't know why. It's been on my "must do" list since day 1.

5) Tamarindo Beach - went to a couple of other beaches on the Nicoya peninsula. They're darned hot! Sámara was nice, and I'd go back with an interested visitor. I would tell a visitor how to get to Nosara. Tamarindo has never interested me.

6) Jacó Beach - Probably won't go, just on principle - too many gringos can't pronounce it. But principles are meant to be broken...

7) Puerto Viejo & Cahuita - ooooooohhhh yeah! Have been. Will return. Got new snorkel gear demanding a try-out.

8) Drake Bay (Corcovado National Park) - this has also been on my "must do" list since day 1. I will get there eventually...

9) Tortuguero - turtles. For some reason, you can't come to Costa Rica without doing something with turtles. I don't mind turtles, I just don't get the fascination.

10) Montezuma - One of the first friends we made in Costa Rica lives here. Maybe one day we'll get out there and see him. If others in this area are as nice as he is, we'll probably kick ourselves for not getting out there sooner.

So, is 4 out of 10 OK? If you count the fact that we'll be here for the foreseeable future, and have spent a lot of time figuring out LIFE, maybe so.

This is not a whirlwind...

Monday, September 6, 2010

Hot Honey Lemonade

Hot Honey Lemonade

4 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 packet splenda
Water to finish filling a mug

microwave 1 minute

The Perfect Pick-me-up!

Shopping Tip - I got 25 small lemons for c500 (less than a dollar) at Mercado Borbon :-)

Permanent - Cedula!

Last Wednesday, I found out that my permanent residency was approved! The next step - get my new cédula! That would be the ID card that actually *says* I am a permanent resident :-).

So, I paid the cédula fee (currently $123) and the rest of the legal fees, and my lawyer called for an appointment. Once upon a time, this took months (I'm not kidding! Our very first appointment for our very first cédula was FIVE months after our residency was approved.). This time? Less than a week! My appointment with immigration was Monday morning - 2 1/2 business days after being notified of the approval. (I'm wondering how many times I can get away with saying "approved" in one post...)

This morning, I hustled over to ARCR, met my lawyer's aide, and checked over my documents:
- latest orden patronal showing that I have joined the Caja (the national health system)
- my passport(s), boarding passes, exit tax receipts
- my old cédula

Waiting in the wings, just in case, I also have:
- hoja de delincuencia (a Costa Rican police report, showing I have been a good girl)
- USA embassy registration (proving that the USA knows where I am)
- Caja carnet
- bank letter, showing that Rick's family (that's me) has converted the required amount of money in the last year as rentistas
- marriage certificate ('cause *everyone* wants to see this)
- copy of Rick's cédula

Then we went over to La Migra (immigration), in time for my 9:15 appointment. As usual, we expect to spend up to 3 hours waiting for my turn.

I had brought a book, but quickly realized that I would be too anxious to read - I had to listen for my name (no numbers or moving-chair line), and that is problematical here. Will it be "Julie Hill?" or "Hoolia Eejh?" Turned out it was "Julie Kris Hill" whaddaya know, almost right - I heard it the first time, as did the aide :-). And it only took about an hour of waiting, most of it sitting!

We both went to the desk, where the immigration official asked to see my resolution (the piece of paper that says my residency was approved), receipt showing I had paid the fee, and then my cédula. Then she asked if I had picked up my old cédula at immigration, or had I had it sent to the post office - I still don't know why that mattered, but it did :-S. And nothing else did matter - she didn't need to see any of the other documents I had with me. But of course, if I hadn't had them...

She took my fingerprints and my picture, and printed out my new cédula information for me to verify. Interesting to me was that the date of my new permanent residency NOW says mid-March! My comprobante (residency package accepted) was dated early May, and my resolution said mid-August, but they changed the residency date to match Rick's. Also, my cédula is good for 2 years, and expires at the same time as Rick's - very nice! This to me is just one more clue that the two residencies are *not* in fact separate.

One other item on the printout was whether to be an organ donor or not - I asked her to change it to yes.

By 10:15, I had a receipt (with picture) for my new cédula, and a date (October 4) when I could pick it up at immigration. However, it turns out that now you can get the ID in ONE WEEK if you opt to have it sent to your nearest post office. Hmmm. Going to Immigration is easy for me, but I'm feeling impatient! I paid the c2,600, and plan to pick it up on my way home from school :-).

Just in time - tomorrow, my old cédula expires :-S

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Changing Ferias?

For several months, I have been reluctant to go to the Feria (farmer's market), and today, it finally hit me why!

When we lived in the "other apartment" in San Pedro, it was pretty convenient to go to Guadalupe - I walked a couple of blocks, caught the bus, walked a couple more blocks, shopped, had a quick lunch in the park, and usually had a pleasant walk home through UCR with my cart full of groceries.

Our "new apartment" in San Pedro is still about the same distance to the Guadalupe Feria. However, getting there and back is just not so straightforward. This is the sort of thing that shouldn't make a difference, but does! For some reason, I just hate the thought of having to go a couple of blocks out of my way, or reversing myself when I know my house is "just a block over that way."

To get to the Feria now, I either:
A) take the Escalante bus East to La Antigua Aduana, then catch a Guadalupe bus North and West, or
B) walk 35-45 minutes, taking the pedestrian bridge (with stairs) across the circunvalación

The return is more frustrating:
A) walk a different route (full cart, so no stairs please!), and back-tracking a couple of blocks, or
B) buy a lot less and take the reverse bus route (no cart on the bus, please), or
C) use a taxi

On weekends, the Escalante bus only comes every half hour, and even at the best of times, it is not very reliable (unlike every other bus I have ever used here).

During school, I went on a Feria hiatus :), and simply picked up a few items each day after school. That worked well enough, but put a strain on my back (no cart), and made a long day even looonger.

I have decided that there are several things I can get at my local grocery store at the same quality as the Feria - things like potatoes, onions, and carrots (all heavy, by the way). The price is not significantly different, and I can get them as I need them (instead of waiting until Saturday). And I can use my cart! It is only certain fruits and vegetables that are either poor quality or very over-priced that I should get at the Feria.

So today, I tried something different! I took the bus into San José, walked 2 blocks to Mercado Borbon, shopped around, and took the bus back - all told, I was gone less than 2 hours, and only had a short walk. This would be a lot shorter during the week, with less waiting-for-the-bus time (and Mercado Borbon isn't open only on Saturdays!). I did a quick informal survey, since I only had a short list of must-haves. I will have to spend some real time looking around soon for particular items. However, for what I did see, the prices and quality were comparable to the Feria.

BTW - earlier, I did a quick run-through of the San José Mercado Central - it was over-priced and had succumbed to tourism. Not worth it...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Permanent - Los Dos!

It was surreal! Today, 11 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days after applying, I got *the* phone call! My application for permanent residency was approved!

Within the hour, we were headed out to our lawyers to get things lined up. I paid the various fees (second half of legal fees, plus cédula fee), got a copy of my approval letter (to carry around until I get my new cédula), and gave the go-ahead for my lawyer to get my cédula appointment. By the time the rain got serious, we were on our way back home - and the news still hadn't really sunk in...

But now it has (yay! little happy dance going on here)!

There are still so many things about this process that are hard to understand and accept. Rick and I started out as rentistas - the law that covers us ties us together as a family. Rick was the primary, so everything was in his name. When we applied for a change of status, to permanent, the two applications were split, and treated separately. This was in early September of 2009.

Rick got his permanent residency in March, and was notified in April. At that same time, immigration said they wanted another copy of my cédula. I still don't know why, or why it took them until April to know they needed it. My letter from immigration accepting my package was now dated early *May!* I don't know if there was even an earlier one - I just never worried about getting a copy of the letter until later, when my cédula was in danger of expiring. (FYI - if your cédula has expired, or you don't have one yet, then this letter from immigration means you are "in process" and they won't kick you out of the country. So it's important.)

Meanwhile, I'm starting to become a very squeaky wheel. I'm calling my lawyer almost every week. The story is always the same - immigration said check back in 2 weeks, or sometimes 3 weeks. (We had started the squeaks in January, but limited them to every 4-6 weeks.)

Finally, immigration said to check back in early August. Yikes! My cédula was set to expire in September! When the August date came and went, and there was no good news, I tried to get my cédula renewed. HAH! When that didn't work, panic went into overdrive. We made it through the weekend, then called and got an appointment with the experts for a little hand-holding.

Here are some odd tidbits:
- Because Rick was the primary, all this time, all immigration looked at was his proof for continuing our residency. They (maybe) looked at his bank statement (converted enough dough) and his passport (time in country). Apparently, I could have stayed the entire time in the states, and it wouldn't have mattered. That wouldn't have been in the spirit of the law, but the way it was explained to me is that the laws here are tiered. Family trumps everything, and so if one family member is granted residency, and the other family member(s) didn't comply, then they can't split up the family - they all get residency.
- Since Rick was granted permanent residency, I could not be denied. WOW.
- Since BCR didn't renew my residency, my lawyer had to go through immigration to get a renewal appointment there. This is *not* a quick process! That request is still pending - and will get canceled now, thankfully.
- My lawyer was notified 20 days after my residency was approved. The astute reader will notice that that means my residency was approved on the 12th of August - one day *before* my BCR appointment to deny my renewal. It really makes me wonder sometimes...

There is another new-ish method going. For cédula appointments at immigration, the lawyer calls for an appointment, and generally gets it for the next day - which means I will get less than one day notice. Fortunately, I live nearby and have no commitments that I can't get out of if needed. I really feel for those folks who live far away tho.

Now - thinking about next week. May have a visit to immigration then...