We're Not in Kansas Anymore
09 November 2013
Terri & Jay Chattaway
"What was that all about?" It was one in the morning and Jay and I were laying in bed, going over the day's events. We had sailed all night and then taken by van to the immigration office. It was quite a day with an interesting cast of characters.
For $25 Coral Marina sent us with a guide to orchestrate and simplify the immigration process. (Orchestrate, maybe, but simplify? No way.) His name was Juan, and he reminded me of the cowardly lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ. Not because he was cowardly, but because he was sweet and shy-like as well as being a little bit round like the lion.
We arrived and entered a small building with several windows; one for the PUERTO de CAPITANIA, one that was the BANJERCITO, another called ADUANAS, or customs, a booth to get fishing licenses (thank goodness we didn't have to visit that window. See my previous blog, In Search of an ATM) and what I will call the GREAT OZ's office. No, he wasn't behind a curtain, but he was behind a glass partition and it seemed like he was the man who ran everything. EVERYONE went through him first and even the man in the uniform checked with him on occasion. Many dollars passed his way and we quickly learned that money puts you to the head of the line.
But money still wouldn't have helped us as after waiting two hours for our turn. (Actually we were standing for all that time, there were only four seats for the hundred or so people/munchkins crowded into the office) Finally, the Great Oz will see us. But then we find out the office didn't send all our paperwork with Juan. Thank goodness I had copies of everything. I hand them over to Oz. He looks them over says something in Spanish, shakes his head no. We don't have a crew list. The marina office had forgotten to ask me for a crew list. But wait! "I have one in my trusty folder," I say smiling thinking I am so prepared. The Great Oz looks it over and, again, says something in Spanish and shakes his head no.
I ask Juan several times over the next couple of hours what is it that we needed. He explained to me several times, but with his accent and the way he described it, I never could figure it out. In the end, it looked like the same crew list only Juan had to fill it out, not me. But this didn't happen for several more hours mind you.
Okay. Now we are sent to the BANJERCITO window to pay. There is Teller One and Teller Two. Unfortunately, we got Teller One who I would describe as the Wicked Witch. She did not like us Americans, that was evident and she growled when you came up to the window. Teller Two I will describe as The Good Witch, if only in contrast to Teller One. The Wicked Witch shuffles through our papers, reorganizes them, shuffles through them again, reorganizes them again then takes our money and prints something out and sends us back to the Great Oz.
The Great Oz presents us with our visas. Great! Now what?
Another window. This time we go up to the PUERTO de CAPITANIA. We wait in line again. The woman behind this window is very attractive and dressed professionally. She takes our papers and shuffles through them, rearranges them and then shuffles through them again. Jay signs something and then they send us back to the BANJERCITO.
Oh, no, not the Wicked Witch again! Yup. First time we paid for our visas, now we are paying the Port Captain, I am told.
Back to the PUERTO de CAPITANIA line. More papers. Where is your original documentation for the boat? I have a copy right here. No. We must have the original. Where is the original? I look to Jay. It's back at the boat. Oops! He looks at the clock. The day began at 8:00. It is now 1:30. The office closes at 2:30.
Jay looks at me with exhaustion and exasperation. This is not going well.
Quick. You and Don go get a cab and I will stay here in line, saving our place.
Jay and Don take a cab to the boat. Jay proudly speaks Spanish to the driver.
They get to the dock. Jay's key doesn't work. He goes back to the taxi and gets Don's key. He goes to the boat, gets the documentation, is half way up the dock when he realize he has the expired copy. He goes back to the boat to get the right one.
Jay gets back into the car only to find Don has had an entire conversation in English with the driver. The driver speaks perfect English.
So much for Jay's Spanish.
They get back just as it became my turn to step up to the window, about 2:15. The professional lady takes our papers, makes a copy of the original documentation and then hands it back and sends us back to the BANJERCITO. Now we are to pay for our Temporary Import Permit for our boat.
Oh no! Not her again! This time we get lucky. We get the Good Witch. She is much nicer. She takes our papers, shuffles through them, rearranges them, takes our money, prints something out and sends us back to the professional lady. She presents us with our Temporary Import Permit. Good for ten years. (Thank God for small favors.)
Finally, we're done!
Nope. Now we must go to ADUANAS, office of customs. New window, new character. I would say he is like the SCARECROW in his stature and maybe even a little in his intellect, not sure. Jay fills out forms declaring what we do and do not have on our boat. They have a procedure. They have a stoplight in the office. Really, a real stoplight. Underneath the stoplight is a button. Jay has to push the button. If it is green, all is good. If it is red, sirens go off and they take you in a van to board your boat.
"You push button." says the SCARECROW.
Don and I look at Jay and say, "You know that button is going to turn red, right?"
Jay scowls and pushes the button.
It turns red and sirens go off. Steam starts to escape from Jay's ears. Realizing Jay is about to crack, Magic Juan (as we came to call him) whisper's something to him.
"Did you say I should give him money?" Jay asks indignantly. Juan starts to say something else when he is interrupted. It is time for the office to close and the SCARECROW wants to go home. He ask Jay some questions, to which he answered no to every one and then had him fill out another form.
Now we can go on our way. We ask Juan directions to town. All we want now is some food and a marguerita.
"No." He says. "You must come back with me to the marina. We have to make copies of all your paperwork for our files."
Now, I've had it too. "So, you will arrange for a free shuttle into town then?" I half ask and half demand.
"Si, senora, of course."
So, after an all night sail and an all day adventure at the office of immigration, we finally sat down to eat at 5pm. When we arrived back at the boat, all heads were asleep before they hit the pillow, which I think was around 6:30. That is why Jay and I were awake at 1am, wondering, what just happened? What was that all about?
This was my version. Below is Jay's version.
THE IMMIGRATION SHUFFLE
(Sung to the tune of "Hokey Pokey")
You put your passport in
They take your passport back
You sign a bunch of papers
And they take them all back
You go to window one
And then to number three
Pesos are flying out.
You see a bunch of boaters With papers all around.
A bunch of curt officials Who seem to be profound
Shuffling all those papers, Visas and the like
That's what it's all about
You move around the room
And now it's in the gloom
Smells and heat get to ya
And even feels like doom
Window number three,50 dollars please
The banks a banjercito
I just want a mojito
That's what it's all about
Now you're almost ready,
Got your visas in your hand
You think you really made it
And you're feeling pretty grand
But wait there just a moment
There's just one last stop
Fill out new forms and copy
What you've already printed out
And wait, these are not original said the big aboriginal
Back to the boat by cab, but the gate key won't work
I'm beginning to feel like a jerk
Got the original, but it's expired,
I feel the heat and I'm perspired,
Back in the cab where Don has engaged,
The driver who responded so well to my Spanish,
We find he is now fluent in English
Back to number three and see What's waiting there for you
That's what is all about.
Got my visa and my passport Stamped in triplicate
Now, off to Aduanas to see if I am it
I push the big button Knowing full well that it will not be good sign.
I think Magic Juan will resign
The light turns red, I've had it.
It's time to close the doors
The official senses that I'll soon be on the floor. Magic Juan is whispering Something in my ear.
Does he want money or perhaps a beer
I know the word cerveza And I think I'll try it out
That's what it's all about
Well just another form, he says And I won't go to your boat
Any meat or guns or money For a loan that wouldn't float
Where is your boat he asks me
I was tempted to say.
Some place on a mooring
Very very far away.
He looks at me with compassion
And says it's ok
That's what it's all about
We'll, we think we got all through it,
Many copies in our hands.
However the marina Has alternate plans
We must import our boat
Now that we have all the papers in hand
Back to the marina In a very crowded van
The people are quite grumpy And ask for all our stuff
Welcome to our country In a voice that's quite so gruff
It's not the hokey pokey
And we still have all our limbs
We are now considered Immigrants
we say with such chagrin
Off for margaritas finally we share some grins,
That's what it's all about.