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An Atenas Expat Visa Run

by guest blogger Tina Rodriguez

Diego and I have been in Atenas for 10 months and we love it! Initially things were a bit stressful learning to function in a new culture but for the last 3 months we have been feeling pretty relaxed. We are enjoying everything Atenas has to offer; great bakeries, nice boutiques and frequent town gatherings such as the annual chili cook-off.
So, just when things seemed to be running smoothly Diego realized his Visa had been expired for 4 days. To keep his driver’s license current he needed to leave the country. Since we have been flying back to the US, this is the first time one of has had to drive to another country to update our Visa and it is clear neither of us knows what to do. His plan is to hop in the car, drive to Nicaragua, stay for three days and drive back. So at 3:00 in the afternoon off he goes. My phone is broken so the only way we can communicate is by e-mail or Skype. As he drives away I am yelling at him to e-mail me the minute he gets to his hotel.
I don’t hear from him that night but the next morning I am able to get in touch with him via Skype at 6:00 am. He had made a couple of wrong turns and was unable to make it to Nicaragua the night before but he tells me he should be crossing the border in a couple of hours. Again I tell him to e-mail me as soon as he gets to your hotel. I don’t hear from him again on Saturday and by Sunday morning when I still have not heard from him I am a mess.
I have a great imagination and left by myself I can create all kinds of horrific scenarios: was he attacked and left to die on the side of the road? Was he deported? Was he arrested and sitting in some cell in Nicaragua?

I realize his plan had a few areas of weakness:

  1. We have no way of communicating easily
  2. He does not know where he is going or quite how he will get there.
  3. He heads out by himself to a country we are unfamiliar with and
  4. The biggest weakness was he really did not have a plan at all.

I am emailing and calling him via Skype however I begin to lose my cool after 16-18 unanswered calls and 20-30 unanswered e-mails.
I want to maintain my façade that I am a cool, thoughtful person who is great in an emergency situation. I do not want anyone I know to realize I am actually a neurotic female prone to bouts of mania, so I hold off calling any of our friends in Atenas to ask for advice. At noon on Sunday I call my dad and my sister in the United States to cry on their shoulders. What do I do if I do not hear from him? He may not be home until Tuesday. Do I wait until Tuesday to contact anyone at the Embassy or do I risk making a fool of myself and drive to the Embassy on Sunday? I have no idea where he planned to go or where he planned on staying.
At 1:00 on Sunday afternoon, 48 hours after Diego had left, I was about to break down and ask my neighbor for help when Diego walks through the front door happy as can be that he had his passport stamped and is good for another 90 days.

They say everything you need to know you learn in kindergarten. This is no exception. I believe when I was 5 and I wanted to go play, my mom would ask me “where are you going and what time will you be back?” It is a simple lesson and one that should probably be followed when you are traveling in a foreign country unable to speak the language. So just like my mom would do when I broke the rules, I grounded my husband for 2 weeks; no phone, no TV and no friends.

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