Sunday, June 24, 2012

Throwing Plastic Chairs

One time, maybe back in November, we went to Pricesmart (local Costco) to buy a few things.  One of our main purchases was a $12 block of cheddar cheese.  You think it would be monstrous in size for being this price, but no, it is normal.  Cheese is just expensive here.  It was dark and raining really hard when we left the store. When we got home, there was no cheese to be found.

Joe had left it in the cart, in the parking lot, in the downpour, in the dark.

He was so mad when he realized this that he threw a plastic chair across the room. 

It was just cheese, for goodness sakes, but man, it felt like a really big deal at the time.  And it’s not like we could go back to the store, and in our broken Spanish try to explain, “Uh, we left our stupidly expensive cheese in the cart… did any of you find it?”

This is $16 cheese.  Just cheddar.
So a plastic chair got thrown across the dining room.

Last Thursday was another ‘we-want-to-throw-chairs’ type of day.

We are trying to become residents here in Costa Rica.  Just temporary residents, but you wouldn’t believe the work, the time, the money that goes into getting a ‘cedula’ here (visa).

I will skip all the boring details of what becoming a resident entails, but suffice it to say the process started way back in the States many months ago and continues still…

Thursday morning we head to the Social Security office in downtown San Jose to set up our account.  Paying into social security is one of the requirements to get the visa, even though we will never see a single benefit of paying into it. 

Our friends only pay $26 a month, so it’s worth it so you can get your proper visa and don’t have to leave the country every 90 days.

We got there at 7:26.  Me, Kate, Joe.  We are hoping to get to Spanish class by nine or nine-thirty.

After waiting in line for three hours later, our number is finally called.  We all go back to the office only to have the lady tell us that Kate and I can’t stay with Joe.  The whole reason I went was so Joe and I could tag-team with Spanish.  No love.

Kate and I wait outside for about 30 minutes.   Joe finally comes out and I can tell by the look on his face that it is not good news.

Instead of the normal minimum fee of $26/month, they are telling us we have to pay $440 a month!  Rules have changed.  They are getting stricter.  We are rich Gringos.  “You can pay that much,” the lady tells Joe.  Even after Joe attempts to argue with her, in Spanish of course, the price is still the same.

This lady has got to be kidding.  Wrong.  Confused.  We are volunteers here in this country.  We can’t pay that much.  We won’t pay that much. 

We wasted three hours of our day.  We canceled Spanish class.  We are mad. 

So mad we want to throw a chair across the entire waiting room of the Social Security building.

But instead, we just leave, and start to drive… we are starving… and we almost end up eating at Hooters because it was (almost) the only place open at 11:15 a.m.  (Luckily we did find another option.)

24 Hours Later

Joe takes our good friend Jonathan, who speaks great Spanish, in to the same office the next morning.  Joe is armed with a detailed spreadsheet of our expenses, which our lawyer recommended having (she tells us this after the first appointment – a little too late), to hopefully get this ridiculous monthly fee reduced.

Results: New lady.  New day.  Fluent Spanish speaker to help.  We will be paying just $16 dollars a month.  $16!!!  That is a 97% reduction from the day before!

I mean, seriously???

And so our want-to-throw-chairs experience suddenly turned into a thank-you-Jesus moment.

What a difference a day makes.  And on this day I was humbly reminded of a few important truths
  • We so often waste our time and energy getting so worked up over something that in time will work itself out – sometimes sooner and sometimes later - but it will work out
  • Even if it doesn’t work out the way we envision, it’s going to be okay. God is in control. He has a plan. And if we allow Him, he will use our ‘momentary sufferings’ (whether small daily frustrations like these, or big, life-changing trials) to shape and mold us into His image. (Romans 8:18, 5:3-5)
  • It’s okay to be aggravated, frustrated, overwhelmed, confused. Maybe it’s even okay to throw chairs (or to want to). But you can’t stay there. You have to move on and see the big picture. It’s just cheese. It’s just a misguided government employee who doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. And tomorrow is a new day. 

And now, with our Social Security account in place, we have an appointment to finally get our residency visas on Tuesday.

You can pray that all goes smoothly…

* * * * *

We all experience frustrations like this in our lives.  What is your experience and what have you learned from moments like these?  Share a comment below.


  1. Praying for you all don in CR... Great reminders to think about wherever we are!


  2. Hi Jennie,
    It's Lisa Andrewjeski. Just wanted to let you know Paul and I are praying for you guys. The Hoffs, who live around the corner from us now--crazy, clued us in to your blog. We so appreciate your heart and your desire to serve Jesus. We are in the middle of an international adoption right now, trying to figure out all the insanity that is a dossier. Our six-year-old goes to a Spanish immersion school, and God has used that to remind us of you three. Seriously, praying.

    1. Hey Lisa! Thanks so much for your kind comment. We so appreciate your prayers. I remember Paul telling us last summer about your adoption and thinking that was so amazing. We will pray for y'all too! I need to get your email address too... Thanks again for the comment and for reading the blog!