94. Come to Guatemala With Us!

Saturday 8/20- Today is our border run day and the reason we would typically have to drive up to San Jose (to go to the airport). Even though we are in process to get residency and we “technically” don't have to leave the country to be here legally, we do still have to leave every 90 days because we choose to drive. It really doesn’t make any sense but it's the country's policy. Basically, our driver’s license is only valid for the amount of days they give us on our Visa Stamp in our Passport (even though it's still good in the US), which is a maximum of 90 days (and hopefully they give you the full 90). The reason I say hopefully is because at the end of the day, it's up to the Immigration official on how many days they give you. Another thing to know is that when you travel to Costa Rica, you must show proof of leaving the country within the next 90 days (for normal tourists, this would be your return flight home) and the Immigration official will typically give you the number of days until your flight is scheduled to leave. We always show a flight for 90 days out and keep our fingers crossed that they give us the full 90, otherwise we would have to do a border run sooner. If you get a grumpy immigration official, they can technically give you whatever they want and there’s nothing you can do about it. (We’ve heard stories on our Facebook groups about people not getting the full 90). So anyway, back to the driving- -if we get caught driving with an expired Visa they could give us a ticket or even pull our plates from our vehicle, and then we would have a whole other issue to deal with to get them back. It's not worth the headaches and we are also guests in their country so we want to do things the right way.

Although, today was slightly different from a regular border run day since we were already here in the city and didn’t have to get up this morning and get on the road. (If you didn't read last week's blog, it tells you why we had to drive up to San Jose early, so stop reading this and go back and check it out). It’s too bad, though, that we didn’t know we’d already be in the city when we booked this border run flight. Since we thought we would be driving up today, our flight isn’t until after 3 this afternoon. We had checked out all of the places that we wanted to check out yesterday, so we once again were boring and just hung out at the hotel this morning. I spent some time working on my computer, catching up on some things that had been neglected the last few weeks due to just being too busy to take care of them, and of course, putting in some time on the blog. I also used this opportunity to just read a book for a while, since I haven’t been able to do that much lately either. It was a little bit more forced relaxation time since there wasn’t a whole lot else that we wanted to do (and Ramie didn’t particularly feel like driving any more than we had to due to yesterday’s stressful driving). 

We had to check out of the hotel at noon and the plan was to go straight to the airport without making any extra stops, but this drive to the airport would be an adventurous one again. We had two routes we could drive from our hotel to the airport. The first was on the main highway which had tolls and we had to drive quite a bit out of the way to get to the entrance to the toll road.

Or the second, which was more direct but through the small narrow streets and neighborhoods that twisted and turned through the city, where you just don’t know what you’re going to encounter.

Ramie and I both had some anxiety about the drive today since it was another new area and could be slightly chaotic, but we decided to take the more direct route through the neighborhoods. I don’t really know if this turned out good or bad, but it definitely brought us through some narrow roads, and tight spaces. We got stuck in some stopped traffic for a while and didn’t have a clue what was going on up ahead, but we had plenty of time before we had to be at the airport so we weren’t stressed about that. On a more positive note, driving this route was really pretty cool. Getting to see the local neighborhoods and how the typical Costa Rican lives is rather fascinating compared to what is “normal” to us. We eventually made it to the airport at about 12:30 and our flight wasn’t leaving until 3:45, so I took this opportunity to work on writing some more blog posts! I mean, why not?! What else can I do on a computer without any internet access? Yes, it is somewhat of a pain in the butt to fly with a computer since you have to take it out to go through security, but sitting around at the gate is usually some really good focus time for me since there is nothing to do in the San Jose airport (pretty small, only about 20 gates and not even very far to go for a walk if you want to move around) for nearly 3 hours! 

The flight to Guatemala City was short, and we didn’t have any delays or hiccups. I guess our traveling luck might be improving (did I just jinx us by saying that?!) As we were landing, the pilot was telling us the local time and weather like they usually do, and he mentioned that it was 72* here. Compared to what we’re used to, that was cool for late-afternoon, but we are about 800 miles (driving) North of San Jose, so I guess it was to be expected. 

After we deplaned, made it through customs (which was super easy) and got through the rest of the airport and outside (which didn’t take long because we didn’t have to wait for checked luggage) we realized that apparently we have turned soft in the last year. It's now about 5pm, 72* and probably very low humidity, it actually felt chilly to us! I’m glad that I wore capri’s instead of shorts and wore tennis shoes & socks instead of flip flops! 

My Spanish is not that good but I'm pretty sure this says "I love gloves" I think they really mean for it to say I love Guatemala (Guate for short) Hahaha

We had previously lined up a shuttle through the hotel that was supposed to pick us up from the airport, but after waiting around for nearly a half hour (and not having any way to get a hold of the hotel) we decided to just grab a taxi instead. There were plenty of them here waiting, and there were a couple of guys that appeared to be in charge of sending customers to the next taxi driver, so Ramie went and talked to the guy, agreed on the price (and it was actually less expensive than the hotel shuttle that we had previously arranged but didn’t pay for yet) and then we were on our way to the hotel for the evening.

The hotel was close to the airport, so it was only a short drive through Guatemala City. It was a night and day difference, compared to San Jose. The infrastructure was in place and made sense, the roads were well marked, seemed to make sense, and even had signage. Oh, and there were no potholes! The buildings were modern looking, and there were a lot of familiar businesses like KFC, Hardees, & Taco Bell, (maybe we were just hungry and only noticed these businesses) but many others as well I'm sure. Oh and please don't let my description of San Jose city scare you away from ever visiting. It's very safe and friendly, they are just behind the times and do things differently. 

We were dropped off at the hotel and the driver pointed towards a parking garage. As we walked that way, we noticed a small desk set up but no one was there. This was literally a parking garage. Where or how do we get into the hotel? Ohh look, there are some elevators, I guess we will take that and see where it goes, let’s just press the L button that we hoped was for the lobby! We exited the elevator to a very large lobby and restaurant area. As we made our way to the check in we noticed that there were a lot of very well dressed people in the area, (tuxes and evening gowns) and we definitely felt under-dressed in our tourist travel attire! We soon discovered that it was a Quinceañera party. We’re getting good at crashing these on our border runs, I guess, since there was one at the hotel we were staying at our first time in El Salvador too. For those new readers that may not have followed us from the beginning and are not sure what a Quinceañera party is I’ll quickly explain. It's a traditional Latino party for a girl that is turning 15 years old and is generally quite a fancy affair. It turns out that the party was spilling out of the banquet room and into the lobby and the restaurant. I guess they would have to put up with us being under dressed because we were ready for dinner! 

The Birthday Girl

We headed up to the room to drop our stuff and check out the view from the 10th floor. From here we got some beautiful views of Guatemala City and the surrounding mountains. What we did notice was that the city was more of a typical city we are used to with high-rise hotels and other tall buildings (I would say not more than 20 floors though), but also old original buildings that they built these modern buildings around. It was nice to see they didn't knock down the old traditional buildings just to make way for the modern. 

That's enough sightseeing from the moment, we’re hungry & it was time to go eat. We went back down to the restaurant, tucked ourselves into a corner booth, and spent the rest of the evening watching the teenagers and family members celebrate. Of course Ramie had to try the local beer.

As we watched the teenagers interact, we had to laugh because it reminded us of junior high school dances. All the boys gather in one area and looking at the girls and vice versa, neither of them wanting to ask each other to dance. Oh, to be young again! We enjoyed watching the party for the next couple hours, but we had an early flight back to Costa Rica in the morning so back to the room we went.  Unfortunately we wouldn't be staying in Guatemala to see anything but the hotel.

Sunday 8/21- Even though we just got here yesterday afternoon, we had an early flight back to Costa Rica this morning. We were up by 4 to be on our 7am flight, and as we were leaving the hotel to grab our ride to the airport we noticed that it was even chillier this morning than it was yesterday afternoon. It actually felt on the cold side to us- - it truly is amazing how much we have gotten used to the heat on the Southern coast of Costa Rica. I’m beginning to think that I wouldn’t survive a MN winter anymore!! 

The rest of the day was easy- no problems with the flight, an easy drive home from San Jose, headed over to the pet sitter’s to pick up our very excited doggy that missed us so much.

Breeze waiting with her friends for Dad to pick her up.

We walked in our front door around 2pm. We’re very glad to be back home for the next 3 months until we get to do this all again!

Pura Vida.