Well, we're here....
One week ago today, three cancelled flights later, we made it to Costa Rica. The trip here was highly stressful thanks to a ridiculously confusing QR code requirement by the Costa Rican government and upon arrival, me not being able to talk/negative-COVID-test our way out of quarantine (thanks Wisconsin!), so we are hunkered down here in our (yes, still unfinished!) house in La Flor de Rio Cuarto just looking for ways to pass the time until September 17 at 1:16 p.m., when we will be quarantine-free (woohoo!). All the complaining aside, however, this first week hasn't been all that bad. Here's a look at the how the trip down played out....
Last Thursday, our flight departed at 8:20 a.m. from Newark to head to Costa Rica. We had crossed all the "t's" and dotted all the "i's" in order to make sure we were all set to go. Wisconsin is not approved to send tourists, but thanks to three of the five of us being citizens, we would be able to get in no matter what. However, we would supposedly be subjected to quarantine for two weeks. Travelers from approved states, on the other hand, could avoid quarantine upon arrival by providing evidence of a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival and having sufficient insurance coverage to meet the Costa Rican government's requirements in the event of getting COVID. So, while we technically didn't have to meet either of these requirements as citizens to get in, we did them anyways. Insurance wrote us a great letter highlighting exactly what the government asked for and we got our COVID tests 48 hours ahead of the flight. This was my attempt at supporting evidence to get us out of quarantine. All set to go.
Except that we really weren't. Three of the four of us got our COVID results at 3 a.m. the morning of our flight....everyone except me (and Leo, who didn't take one). Confused (and no lie, a bit worried), I diligently filled out the Costa Rican online form that was required for tourists to enter the country that ultimately results in a QR code you scan before getting on the plane. Well, this online form asked if you'd had a COVID test, to which I'd responded "yes". It then prompted me to upload my results. Problem here. I therefore couldn't continue with the form and could not get the QR code. Oh, well, I thought. The test wasn't a requirement for us anyways (we'd essentially done it in hopes of getting a pass on the quarantine restriction), so I didn't worry about it.
It turns out, I should have worried. As we were in line to board the plane, which we tend to do in the last group since we have the kids (and who wants to sit confined to an airline seat between three kiddos any second longer than you have to....?), we were asked by the ticket agent to scan our QR codes. I explained that we didn't have the codes because we didn't all get our results and that the electronic form wouldn't let me advance without submitting our COVID results. Long story short, the man promptly told me we weren't getting on the plane without those codes. ?!?!?!? We argued for awhile and then eventually he softened (as literally the entire plane has boarded, and our kids are melting down around me) and asks me to fill out the form in front of him on my phone. I start with one and when I get to the COVID test question, he tells me to select "no test taken". I do, and it accepts that response and generates the QR code. What!?!? So, in a panic, I start to work through the (4-page) form on my smart phone for each of us as literally everyone in my family is freaking out around me: the jet bridge doors actually closed at one point and an alarm went off and Yori grabbed her things as it opened and started to literally charge the jet bridge - QR code be damned; Oliver was using my name in vain, commenting on how I was absolutely the worst mother ever and griping about how this was all my fault, and Leo was just hanging on my leg and sobbing. I finally got the last QR code processed and with throbbing thumbs, board the plane and do the walk-of-shame down the aisle to our third-to-last-row seats. Everyone was staring us down as that loathed family that caused the plane to leave 20 minutes late (in my defense, we made up time in the air for an on-time arrival, thank you very much). Throughout the flight, I spent my entire time corresponding with my mother via Whatsapp trying to track down my misplaced (and negative!) COVID results, which she literally got sent to me five minutes before I lost wifi service as we headed out over the Caribbean. (Thanks, Mom!). Ah, so stressful!
Upon arrival, we got pulled aside by a friendly agent because our insurance coverage was questioned on our (damn!) QR code form. Luckily, Johel had organized every paper we could ever possibly need during our time abroad in color-coded folders, so I pulled out my insurance letter, presented documents showing we owned a quarantine-ready house, did a little (forceful) negotiation and convincing, and got our insurance approved (yay!). Doing so saved us hundreds of dollars in having to purchase a separate, Costa Rican policy for the duration of mine and Leo's stays. Phew. Plus the reviewer said we should be able to skip quarantine if our tests were negative and we have no symptoms. Double Phew. Into the immigration line we go.
Here's where all starts to unravel a bit in what is looking to be a glorious entry into our new home country. First, let me start by saying Costa Rican immigration is leaps and bounds ahead of the US': agents are generally friendly, and they let families with little kids go through a much faster and shorter line, something for which we are always eternally grateful. Well, this time we got in our short line, but clearly the Costa Rican government is a bit rusty on admitting large numbers of tourists....we were third in line for well over an hour. Hungry, tired, cranky kids and a boring immigration line are a fatal combination. All that, plus a bunch of entitled old white American men (probably Costa Rican residents) next to us yelling out at the agents lack of efficiency makes for a bad situation. There were about 4.5 agents available to check in TONS of travelers. And because of all the insurance and test requirements, each person took FOREVER to process. Plus, as we learned after getting our our turn at the counter, we wouldn't be able to get out of quarantine because we were from (unapproved) Wisconsin, and this involved the officer writing a carbon copy order for EACH ONE OF US. Oh-my-God. Complete with date, exact time the quarantine would end, full name, address (have you ever seen a rural Costa Rican address? It's a mile long: "100 meters east and 250 meters south of the plaza de deportes, La Flor de Rio Cuarto, Rio Cuarto, Alajuela"), house description, etc. FIVE TIMES. The officer literally took frequent breaks to stretch and shake feeling back into his numbing writing hand. The kids by this point were literally rolling around on the floor, beating each other up or sobbing uncontrollably (or all three) as I stood there collecting carbon sheet after carbon sheet of instructions on our next 14 days. No bueno.
However, we did, of course, eventually make it out (with all of our luggage - yay!) and waiting for us was our Honda Pilot we'd sent weeks earlier from Tampa (double yay - we have a wonderful connection in San Jose who picked up the car for us at customs and delivered it to us at the airport) and off we were. Besides the fact that our brakes started smoking heavily as we descended mountain range #1 (yikes!), all went relatively well: we
stopped for a pisote and toucan sighting and bought and guzzled a gazillion mamones chinos. We even snuck into a grocery store kinda near our town to pick up some essentials for the first night. We rolled into La Flor at about six - pitch black already - and each of Johel's family members were out on their front porches to greet us. We arrived to our (disappointingly undone) house, pulled out the sheets we packed, settled an already-sleeping-Leo into bed and turned in for the night ourselves.