Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Uncanny Ability to Lose Things

And I'm not talking about my uncanny ability here, though I do have one. (For example, we can't find the remote that goes to the DVD/VCR combo, and the television only gets certain channels, so the loss of the remote means that 1) there is no SAP (English) on some of the cable channels and 2) we can't even get certain channels. This meant going out and buying a universal remote, which does not let you set up the SAP on the menu, for some reason, so we still don't have SAP, but we do have all the channels. Therefore, if one wants to use SAP on only SOME of the channels, it means disconnecting the cable from the DVD/VCR and connecting it directly to the back of the t.v., which, quite frankly, is just too much of a pain to bother with. Maybe I should give up on finding the remote and buy a new t.v. that has both SAP and all the channels? But I digress...)

I am speaking of the uncanny ability of Costa Ricans to lose one's paperwork. In one day, I discovered two different organizations (the U.S. Embassy and BAC bank) lost my paperwork. Re: the first: on April 27th (I have the receipt!), I applied for a SSN for my son. I need said SSN to pay my taxes properly. I sat at the embassy all morning that day, wasting several hours, to fill out a form for the SSN. The woman who took the information (who is Costa Rican, by the way -- can someone tell me why the embassy is staffed by mostly Costa Ricans? Call the British Embassy and you get a Brit. Same over at the Canadian Embassy. Argh!) gave me a piece of paper that showed I'd applied for the number and told me to call in a week or so and I could get the number over the phone faster, as it takes about a month for the card to arrive in the mail. I call, a week later, the guy says the number still hasn't shown up, maybe I should call back again in another week. Yesterday, I call again, and the woman there says there is no record that I ever applied for son's SSN and I would have to come back down and reapply all over again. WHAT THE F??? You cannot imagine how livid I was. I let this woman really have it over the phone -- I sort of felt bad later as it probably wasn't her fault, but she ended up taking the brunt of my frustration with the Costa Rican lackadaisical attitude, because damn, does she have any clue what it is like to sit in a waiting room all morning with a three-year-old? Then I sent an e-mail to my friend who is joining the foreign service, outlining all of the above and asking her, specifically, to ensure that whoever gets sent down here to know what the hell they are doing.

Then, later, after my frustration and anger had died down slightly, I realized that I brought this on myself because if I had just gotten the SSN when my son was born or shortly thereafter, this wouldn't be an issue. So goody, I get to go to the freakin' embassy again next week, and since there are only two people who work at the Social Security office, I'm really, really hoping one of them is the Costa Rican girl who screwed up the first time.

Also, on Friday, I went to pick up my debit cards for my new bank account at BAC. You all know my frustration with Banex; about two weeks ago, I was in Escazu waiting for my son at his music class and decided to go down to the BAC office and open a new account. I was missing some paperwork that I needed to open the account (if opening a new bank account in CR, be prepared to jump through hoops, people, including signing over your first born), so I got the info, and came back a few days later to conclude opening the account. Carolina was busy, so I got shuffled over to the accounts manager. Carolina said that the cards would be ready in a few days and I could pick them up at the Santa Ana branch (which is closer to home). Stop by the Santa Ana branch on Friday to pick up the cards (it's actually been about a week and a half since the account was supposed to be opened) and I discover the accounts manager neglected to ever bother submitting the paperwork to actually open the account. Hello? Isn't that your freaking job? Double Argh! As with the previous incident, I may not have been quite so irritated had it not been pouring down flash-flood heavy rains and I ran out in it to get from my car to the bank. But I did, and I was (irritated, that is, and wet).

Costa Ricans have this great way of shrugging their shoulders and passing the buck when something goes wrong. "Sorry, there's really nothing I can do right now," is a common thing you'll hear. I was speaking with a friend's husband the other day about why it is so hard for us Gringos to make good friends with Ticos, and we both came to the conclusion that we are just culturally too different. Basic things like taking responsibility for one's actions (which I feel Gringos do far more than Costa Ricans, who sort of leave everything to "God's will"), telling the truth, stealing, etc. -- we are just too disparate, culturally, to really develop deep and lasting friendships with each other. Ticos have a way of shutting people out, holding them at arm's length, if you will, unless, of course, they are other Ticos. Of course, we can be civil and have great acquaintances, but I really think true friendships between Costa Ricans and Gringos are few and far between (they happen, just not that often -- ask any Gringo or Tico living here). The friendships that do develop do so because, I think, those Ticos are more worldly and open to new ideas and not so stuck in their old ways. I know this sounds very provincial and ethnocentric; I see myself writing the words and am a little shocked at myself for stating what I've thought for a long time. Oh well. Plus I'm a little sad because the first real friend (a Gringa, of course) I've made in living here after almost 7 years is leaving in a few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment