Yesterday. Five hours and thirty-five minutes @ 49 miles. It was a rainy drive to the Immigration Office in Coxen Hole. We love the rain so no complaints other than I think we were a bit more somber than usual. Or maybe that was our nerves showing!
We started out at 11:03 in the morning. We got about 5 minutes into the drive when Mike asked if I brought the paper with our residency number on it. Nope. I printed it but never followed through. So we turned around and took care of that.
Back on the road and it was a pretty uneventful drive in. I took a bunch of photos and apologize for the poor quality. Between shooting them through the truck window and the rain, they sure aren’t my best work! But I’ll post them so you can kind of get the feeling of what Coxen Hole is like. And then I’ll tell you about our visit to the Immigration Office.
I look at this beautiful view every time we set out in the truck. Next time I should get out and shoot it. There is so much of the essence of Roatan to capture here.
We pass this gravel pit every trip out of Camp Bay. Look at that excavator up there!
These next photos are the drive in to Coxen Hole. Keep in mind that this city is the Bay Islands’ Capital. I love THIS blog Sophie’s World did on Coxen Hole. She’s got some great photos on her site, too.
We knew from our attorney’s email that the Immigration Office is located in the Plaza Mar. Mike was able to locate that Plaza on Google Maps and it got us there. Pouring rain. Mike, the gent that he always is, dropped me under cover. By the time he parked the rain had stopped. Nice!
In our limited Spanish and their limited English, we did just fine getting directions from the security guards outside. We found the Immigration Office. The door was locked so we were back to asking Google to translate all the information on the door for us.
We eventually figured out they were closed for lunch so we looked around while we waited for it to be 1:00. There was a pulperia in this Plaza that we wanted to explore later. A “Real Chinese Restaurant” that I was too chicken to try (wouldn’t you be?). By this time I was jonesing for a cup of coffee and told the ladies at the shop we’d be back soon.
Waiting at the Immigration Office door at 12:55 . . . CLICK. They unlocked the door and let us in. I expected an ominous professional type office and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I expected something like this: (found online while searching for Immigration Office photos) This was not it.
It was just a very sad room with three seats behind a partition. Dirty, yellow, peeling paint. A few scattered chairs. BUT, it had air conditioning!
Since we were first in, we got waited on right away by a nice girl named Ashlie. She had her name in glitter on the wall of her section. She was dressed in an Immigration uniform but the other two workers wore street clothes. Everyone was masked so I really couldn’t tell facial expressions. Usually, in a case like this where I’d be nervous, I would be talking too much. Chit-chat. I realized I don’t do that anymore. So easy to just keep quiet and wait. Wearing a mask has changed my life.
Ashlie did a lot of typing on her keyboard and another worker assisted by pulling pages off the printer. At one point she had to open the printer, remove the toner cartridge (remember those) and give it a good shake. Eventually they gave us these papers to sign. Of course, everything is in Spanish and the fines in Lempira. I quickly looked up the conversion to dollars and saw that the total was under $500.
As Mike was looking over the paperwork, he noticed we had a document belonging to someone else. Sigh. Back Ashlie went to her keyboard and eventually (talk about an over-used word!) we started signing. Mike got his wallet out to pay but nope, not here. You have to go to a bank to pay these fines, we were told. And then come back here with the receipts.
So we went to the bank downstairs. I can’t remember what it was called but it was not our Honduran bank, which is known as Davivienda. We stepped on the sanitizing mat, applied sanitizer at the door entrance, and took a number. Only two people ahead of us. This was an easy wait. We met with the teller and learned that they would only accept Lempira. Cash. The teller added up the Lempira, wrote down the total amount we needed, and sent us on our way.
Mike had 5,000L. So we located an ATM and tried to withdraw Lempira from our Davivienda bank. After about 25 tries, we figured out the ATM. Progress! But only to learn that we could only withdraw 500L at a time. We were really hot and sweaty and one of us had a very short fuse. Times like that we know we have to walk away and regroup.
We looked at Google Maps and found a Davivienda bank. We slowly drove down a very crowded, muddy, single lane street to the bank, which was set in a block of stores. While tedious, this drive was okay because we reveled in the truck’s A/C. However, at the bank there were lines in all directions waiting to get in. Not good. Not good at all.
Suddenly Mike had an epiphany! Eldon’s Supermarket has an ATM that he has successfully used many times. And Coxen Hole is one of two places on Roatan with an Eldon’s! I waited in the truck. I watched a very tired, old man practically hobble into that store and I felt sad.
But wait! Mike walked out of Eldon’s with a spring in his step, baby! That ATM spit out the required funds like it was born to serve him! We were back in business, about to get all legalized!
Back to that Plaza bank we went, armed with paperwork and 11,505.32 Lempira. Again, there were only two people ahead of us so we had a very short wait. For something that took so long, the end result was so quick! Finalizado & Finalizada!
While incurring the fine definitely cost us less money than leaving the island at the 90-day mark, I wish we had known to go to the Immigration Office and ask for an extension. Too bad our attorney didn’t point us in that direction just before our first 90 days were up. Seeing this in print does not make us feel proud. We are trying to be model citizens, obeying the laws, fitting in, and not calling attention to ourselves.
At this point, our understanding is that we have paid for two months of a renewal. When our residency is finalized – and that will be well within the two months – we will make another trip to this Immigration Office to be issued our Resident Alien Cards. Subsequently, we will return to the Immigration Office annually, for five years. After that, it is a five-year renewal. I’ve marked everything on the calendar. We will not be remiss again.
It would just not be right if I finish this blog right there, though it sounds like the perfect ending. I have to tell you that we went back to the truck to lock up our Passports before going to explore the grocery store in this Mall. Passing right by us was a street vendor with exactly some of the things on my list! A broom, a dustpan, and a thing to clean the 10- high ceiling fans at the Calabash House. I had to buy these from him. 800L. $33.61. I thought Mike was going to have a heart attack. Done deal! The ceiling fan cleaner would not fit in the truck. Had to wedge it in the bed for the trip home. (It is still out there. Nowhere to store it here. Smart buy, huh?)
No, we did not stop to eat on the way home. We were exhausted. All we wanted was to get home, feed and water the dogs, put groceries away, and feed ourselves.
We did, however, get a latte each at the coffee shop. Also decided we needed our picture shot with this young buck before heading home.
Along the way there were five men thumbing for a ride. They got one with us and we felt better about everything. Always fun to drive those severely rutted roads with a truck bed full of guys sitting on (not in) the bed. I wondered what they thought about sharing space with that pretty ceiling fan cleaner.
Roatan is a small island. The diversity of cultures is so interesting. We are learning to tread lightly and observe. We feel like we are where we are supposed to be. Our thirst for learning and new experiences is being met daily here. I like this website for describing Roatan’s different cities and flavors.