How Not to Receive Packages
21 February 2008 | Bahia del Sol, El Salvador
Amy/ breezy, sunny, mid 80's
As of right now, the only way we can use the internet is to sit inside the air conditioned hotel lobby and use the new wireless card we bought in San Salvador on Monday. The wireless internet out at the bar area(where it's much warmer than in the office, and personally where I'd rather sit) is not functioning- or maybe it just doesn't like our computer. Anyway, we're back online- for now. It's been a frustrating couple of weeks. At first, our internal wireless bombed, then we had about a week of being able to use an external wireless antennae we bought from another cruiser a month or so ago, then it quit. Now we have the new card installed, until something goes wrong with it too.
Work is going quicker, now that we have more appropriate tools and supplies. I'll update on boat progress at a later time. Getting those supplies was quite daunting. I'll try and keep it as short as possible, but honestly that wouldn't be nearly as interesting to read. We had 5 packages coming in Fed-Ex'ed to us. A wind generator that is a gift from someone back home, and we are very excited about that and looking forward to getting it installed, and can't thank that person enough for everything he did for us. Another package was an order of tools and supplies that Jim placed. The remaining 3 boxes were items from home, personal items, more of Jim's tools and supplies, some remaining food items that we needed. So three separate shipments between the 5 packages. After the first 2 boxes came in, we went to the airport planning to retrieve our much needed tools and materials and the wind generator, since it had been waiting there the longest and was starting to build up storage fees. There was suppose to be an invoice that we were to receive before coming that we did not know we needed, which obviously we didn't get mailed to us at the Hotel. So basically we went to the airport, an hour bus ride one way, for lunch, before returning by bus back to the estuary, empty handed. Then a week later, after receiving 2 invoices, one for each of the first 2 boxes, and Jeanette at the Fed Ex office, who speaks very good English and is very sweet and went above and beyond to help us, was holding the invoice there for us for the remaining 3 packages, we headed back to the airport. Went to the Fed-Ex office and Jeanette helped us with the initial process, then we went to the Adwana (Customs) office, to finish up the paperwork. Sit and wait, sit and wait, finally Jim and Santos who went with us to help interpret, talked to the secretary and he said we needed to hire a customs agent to basically bargain for us about the duty taxes, since we'll have to pay over $400. Jim, very calmly I might add, asked if there was someone we could speak with. He said to wait a minute. After waiting for about 15-20 or so, we ended up speaking with the Adwana administrator. While were doing all this waiting, I noticed something quite interesting. Everyone was sitting on basic hard plastic, metal framed office style chairs in rows of about 5 seats/row. Instead of having like a roped waiting system, where you wait in line, or even having the numbered tabs you pull off to take a number while you wait, this is what we saw happen- it was quite comical, and it's not going to keep this story short, but it's just funny. So as they're sitting in these rows of chairs, as the person in the front right chair goes up to the counter, everyone moves one seat over. What's weird, is there are no signs directing you to do this, it's almost like a "silent rule", kind of thing. It was quite funny, 'cuz at the time, they were all men, about 8 of them waiting in line. So as one went up, it was cute watching these grown, El Salvadorian men basically playing musical chairs, only without the music. They'd all get up, move one seat over, then all sit down, kind of like "the wave" at a sporting event.
Okay, back to our packages. We go into the administrators office, of course getting stares all along the way, from those men waiting and hopping from seat to seat. "Who are those gringos?" Basically, in a nutshell, if we pick up our packages today, we have to pay the nearly $400 in duty taxes, because we have over value of a $1000 in these items. We were fortunate enough to be given the name and number of a gentleman in San Salvador to help us. Giovanni deals quite a bit with importing and gave us great information to try to expedite and get through the process without too much trouble. We can't thank him enough for taking the time to discuss this with us several times on the phone. Even though we did everything we had read and been told to try eliminate any problems, passport, Coast Guard documentation so they know it's not a vessel licensed in their country, a vessel in transit documentation stating that we are only visiting the country, waiting on parts to repair our boat...,yada, yada, she believed everything we were saying, but said it was purely paperwork issues and she has to follow the book. But gives us an alternative. We could have the packages delivered to Barillas Marina because there is an adwana official on site, put them on our boat there and pay only the shipping charges to have them delivered from the airport to Barillas. Barillas is about 35 miles down the coast from where we are at. She asked if we could move the boat there and pick them up, and if we could do it tomorrow. We're like, well we can get Sunshine down there, but not tomorrow- by this time it was already nearing 5:00, you can't just pick up and leave on a sailboat on a moments or even a few hours notice- unless it's a major emergency like weather or something and you have no choice. This was last Tuesday, so we told her we could go Thursday and the packages could come Friday- she told us the boat had to be there when the packages arrived, there was no way for the official there to store them for us. This was option 1. The other option we asked her was if it had to be our boat- could it be a panga or another boat. She said any boat or even a panga would be fine. So, we leave the airport once again empty handed, this time we had dinner- Subway, and bought Santos and our driver Felix dinner too. On the way home, we discuss all the different ways to work this, decide the next morning, we'll arrange for the panga transfer. Olga- the administrator back at the airport also informed us that someone, either one of us or someone we designate has to ride with the packages since the delivery driver is simply a private driver, not a company or Gov't paid driver. So we eventually decide after coming at this from every angle, because Sunshine just isn't quite ready to go out yet, we need some of the items in those packages to get her ready, Jim and I would go to the airport Thursday, ride with the packages to Barillas, about an hour & ½ drive, have the adwana official there clear the packages, we put them on a panga, have the panga take us around to another village, get a taxi to then take us and the packages back here to Bahia del Sol. No problem, right? Wrong...
part two- next time....