Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Our Shiny New Beast

Well, we finally did it. 

When Scott returned from a seven-day cat-and-mouse journey in Panama last week, we knew it meant one thing: the new van finally arrived.

He summarized his cultural experience:
"Nowhere are the differences between Central America and North America more evident than in the navigation of law, bureaucracy and borders."

In short: it wasn't easy.

To acquire such a beautiful beast of auto-mechanic machinery (as you can clearly see in the photos on the right), we practically had to sell Scott's soul to make it happen:

Step 1:  Research a safe and roomy van to transport our students around Costa Rica.  Jim Rowe, our Executive Director, found the Toyota Hiace

Step 2:  Find a dealership selling the it.  Costa Rica was sold out of the 2010 model, so Jim turned to a dealership in David, Panama.  

Step 3:  Jim spent a week in Panama negotiating the purchase of the brand new vehicle.  The dealership agreed to do all of the paperwork necessary to bring the van across the border to Costa Rica. 

Step 4:  A month later, Scott Brown, our Associate Program Director, flew to Panama to pick up the van, expecting a seemless transaction to bring it back to our San Jose base.  He forgot he was in Central America.

Step 5: Surprisingly, the dealership did not have the legal certification of ownership they promised - they gave him a "Bill of Sale" to use at the border instead because "that should work."

Step 6:  After a 1.5-hour drive to the border, Scott learns his documentation is worth the same as a stack of Post-Its, and he must wait until Monday when the "official" transit office is open for proper documentation.  

Step 7: Scott spends a weekend in some sketchy hotels.

Step 8: Monday morning - Scott obtains a "document of certification" from the transit office. 

Step 9: Monday afternoon - the border patrol again tells Scott his documentation is worth nothin.

Step 10: Tuesday morning - Scott returns to the transit office where he informs them of their incorrect documentation.  Their response: he can not receive the documents the border requested because Scott is neither Panamanian nor Costa Rican.  His next step was acquire a "re-exportation" form that includes a Bill of Sale.  This will help the border people properly tax Scott with duty fees. 

Step 11: Tuesday mid-day - Scott arrives at a lawyer's office where he is told to pay a lot of money for the lawyer to make four copies of the necessary documentation. 

Step 12: Tuesday afternoon -  Scott arrives at the border, and they allow him to leave Panama.  But Costa Rica (and a train of six locals trying to "help") wouldn't let him enter without speaking to (and paying for) a border lawyer for more "documents." 

Step 13: Scott ignores them and checks into a dodgy Panamanian hotel for the night.

Step 14: Wednesday morning - Scott makes it to the border very early to avoid the border people (who had been complicating the situation).  Costa Rica allows Scott - and the van - to enter.  He drives five hours back to base. 

Step 15: Costa Rica Outward Bound drops the van off at a type of "quarantine" holding center (called Almecen Fiscal) where Costa Rican officials kept it for a few days to perform a full legal inspection. 

Step 16: Costa Rica Outward Bound sent the car to the Reteve for a thorough mechanic inspection... twice. 

Step 17: Wait for our Costa Rican license plate and our Costa Rica Outward Bound sticker logos to arrive... 

And now, after the month of headaches to acquire this shiny new eye candy for our base, we are almost ready to use it for the Busy Season.  But until then, we can stick our heads into it a few times a day to appreciate that new car smell.  

Read more blogs about 2010 new equipment: 
Rash guards

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