It is not a good thing to think about paperwork whilst one sleeps. No one wrote the lyric, “I’m Dreaming of a White Pile of Papers” for a reason.  Running a marathon can seem daunting–even after you’ve done one.  But the real hard stuff isn’t any of that-dealing with paperwork—Delta’s rules for using an unused ticket that cost a small fortune are no more fun than wandering among a few circles of hell. Just gave up on that one, which is of course the point of their rules.

And then there’s been the fun of the Costa Rican visa process for students. It’s a lot like the road to Quepos–long and winding and really bumpy and seemingly no end to that road.  I wouldn’t have been so enthusiastic for my daughter to take her Costa Rican journey had I known how inane and expensive the visa process would be. I’m only now writing this because at least  she’s there–on a tourist visa–which will, after hundreds of more dollars thrown at bureaucracy will ostensibly give her a student visa good for the length of her program.  We have different last names, so I’m hoping no one  from CR will read this and put 2 + 2 together to equal $400 more dollars in fees.

Notaries, secretaries of states and airline employees have all had a piece of this action. My daughter needed a recent original copy of her birth certificate from South Carolina and a copy of her non-existent police record from Virginia. Requests had to be notarized on our end and then the forms notarized on their end. Once they were mailed back to us, they needed to go back in the mail to the Secretary of State of the respective state–and no, there was no way the one state agency was going to forward it to the other state agency. There, in SC and VA, the secretaries of state  had to stamp stamp and say, yes, the notary on this other form really is who he/she says he/she is. Good to know. Then once we got that back, it all went into an envelope to the Costa Rican Consulate with a request for the documents to be authenticated.

So now after many checks out the door, we wound up with a stack of papers that say (in Spanish and English) that what we say we say really is what we say we said.  Charles Dickens had David Copperfield say it more simply: ” I am born.” Then after we’ve done all of the check-writing and notarizing and sending in of the silly forms, we got an email that said, “GOOD NEWS! Costa Rica has changed their process as of Dec. 14th” so you might not need this, and this will work instead though you still might have to pay extra for that. And the emails just kept coming with new and contradictory information that really didn’t warm the cockles of my heart. Things like, “We’ve been having trouble getting the visa process to work and many U.S. airlines won’t let you on the plane without a student visa (even though Costa Rica doesn’t issue those until you are in their country). True to form at the airport yesterday, the airline folks were hesitant about letting our daughter get on the plane–very friendly and helpful, but letting us know that other students had been turned back at other airports without proper documentation. After we produced two letters–one in English and one in Spanish that said let her on the plane for Chrissakes,” she was let on the plane. True to form, when she landed in Costa Rica, they could not have cared less and stamped her passport without looking at anything else. Tomorrow she gets to deal with the bureaucracy down there to turn her tourist visa into a student visa. The U.S. has not cornered the market on wasting paper, I can assure you.

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