There’s More to the Story

Three months.

That’s how long we’ve been back in the U.S. and squatting at my parents’ house. We have loved being here with family, experiencing fall, and just resting- but I’m sure it’s not a surprise that the transition has been difficult as well. There is a lot to process, a myriad of emotions, and a lot of uncertainty. I’d like to think it is culture shock, but there’s nothing really shocking about where we’re at right now.

Recently Al and I have been in a weird place. While we love being here and are so thankful for my parents’ willingness to let us live here, we are wondering why we’re here and what is next. We feel like God told us to come back to the U.S.- specifically to Atlanta. He worked out everything for us to come back in amazing ways, but now that we’re here, we’re a little lost.

We don’t feel like we can move to Atlanta quite yet because I’m 20 weeks pregnant and I have to see my high-risk specialist weekly due to what happened when Mariah was born. We don’t feel like we can settle down here and have Al get a real job because we feel like we’re supposed to go to Atlanta. Several doors have closed for temporary jobs for Albin. Our house hasn’t sold in Costa Rica despite numerous people interested. The position we hoped for in Atlanta as houseparents is no longer an option since my due date is a day before the position was to begin.

It’s just confusing.

We’ve found ourselves huddling up with the Lord and asking Him what is going on. A little part of our hearts has wondered if maybe we didn’t hear Him correctly about the whole moving back thing. Why would He take us away from our community, our fostering ministry, our house, etc. and then bring us here to do seemingly nothing? It feels like we’re wasting precious time. We know the Lord has called us to open up our home and our family to those without families, but we can’t do that being unemployed and in a temporary living situation. It just doesn’t make sense right now.

Yesterday morning we had planned to try a new Hispanic church in hopes of finding some Spanish speaking community. We didn’t end up making it to church because Mariah woke up in the middle of night vomiting everywhere. Instead, we decided to listen to a sermon and God spoke straight to our hearts through it. The pastor spoke about how there is always more to the story than what is currently seen. It’s easy to get caught up on a “scene” of our story, rather than the whole story itself. We can’t possibly know how God is working in our little steps of faith to set the future in motion. He is constantly working in our lives to make our story much grander than we could have imagined.

That was a great reminder for us last night. This “scene” in our lives seems a little anti-climactic and. it’s. okay. This is only part of our story and God is setting things in motion because we stepped out in faith. I am ashamed to admit I’ve kind of been like the Israelites in the desert; whenever things got rough, they asked God why He brought them out of Egypt if they were just going to starve, die of thirst, etc. They had seen Him part the Red Sea and do tons of miracles, yet they were worried that He wouldn’t provide for them. It’s incredibly easy to judge them until  I realize that God worked everything out for us to move back and we’ve seen Him do miracles, yet the moment things look a little confusing, I start asking if it wouldn’t have been better if He’d just left us in CR. Lame.

So that’s where we’re at. I have hope that someday I will look back on this post and be able to testify that this period of transition in our lives was just a part of the story. I know God will fulfill His purpose for us and I’m resting in that.

Psalm 138:8

The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re Back…with a Little Surprise

Well, we made it to America. I just might have teared up when we went through immigration in Atlanta and Albin was welcomed as a legal resident. I mean, it took a lot of work to get here, so the tears may have been merited…but I’ve also been pretty emotional these days. About two weeks before we left Costa Rica, I was working on insurance paperwork and had to answer a question about whether or not I was pregnant. I hesitated for a hot second on that question. I’d been really tired, but I figured it was because of the whole moving to another country thing. Nope. I took a pregnancy test and that double line showed up loud and clear.

We were pretty surprised, but then again, God seems to like throwing us a curve ball or two. Keeps life interesting. We’re excited though. Just embracing the transition in Ohio and trying to survive morning (all day) sickness. I’m 14 weeks and praying the nausea and vomiting calms down soon- but most of all, thankful for a healthy pregnancy. Despite wanting to puke my guts out most of the time, we’ve had fun. We made a trip to Chicago, went camping , and I’ve been able to introduce Albin and Mariah to all things fall. Mariah celebrated her second birthday here and is enjoying being spoiled rotten by my family. It’s nice to have free baby-sitters as I’ve milked my first trimester for all its worth. As far as our future plans- they are a little up in the air right now because this new baby might change our timeline, but we’re trusting God with the details.

One of these days I’m going to post about transitioning back to the U.S., but I just wanted to put a quick update out there and announce our exciting news. God is always so good.

 

So many answers…

Just a quick update because A LOT has happened in the last week. God has been showing off these last few days which is giving us a lot of peace.

  • Saturday we were able to meet the beautiful family that J will go to live with. I was pretty anxious, but we were so surprised to find out that they weren’t complete strangers! They actually went to high school with Albin  :). So not only were they a wonderful family, but we’ll also be able to keep in regular contact with them to know how our sweet baby is doing. He will go to live with them this Saturday, but we have so much peace now. I LOVE seeing God’s hand.
  • There was some confusion about when we would be able to fly home because of a check we needed from Al’s employer. We heard from HR and were given the green light for them to deposit into his account rather than him needing to go and pick up the check…which means we will be able to fly home in time for some family events we really wanted to be home for.
  • Since we had the green light from work, I started seriously looking for flights. I’ve been searching for the last couple months and was anticipating to pay around $1000 for all three of us to fly home. I prayed in the morning that God would make it incredibly obvious which day we should fly and later that day I found a great flight that was half as much. I spent $540 for all three of us to fly home. Just huge.
  • As a lot of you know, we’re still in the process of selling our house. We really want to sell it before we leave, but we also felt like we should buy our tickets for September- so we bought our tickets in faith that God will sell our house in His perfect time. We hadn’t heard much over the last few weeks, but in the last four days we have had four showings (two of those with the same family because they wanted to see it again!). No one has made an offer yet, but we know at least two of those families were extremely interested, so please pray that they would make an offer so we can close on the house by mid-September.

In short, this week has been encouraging and peace-giving. Even in regards to selling our our furniture and finding a dog flight kennel for cheap (which is not easy in CR), God has been aligning this thing for us in incredible ways. There was never any doubt that God was guiding this process, but it is doubly- exciting when He shows off.

So that’s where we’re at. We have about a month to finish everything up and say goodbye. Obviously there are a lot of mixed feelings, but man, its a relief to know a Sovereign God has it all in His hands.

Moving Back to ‘Merica

It’s true! We’re in the process of moving back to the U.S.

I’m probably more shocked than you are.

I’ve been overseas for almost eight years and the thought of moving back seems rather surreal, but Albin had his residency interview at the U.S. embassy on Tuesday and he was approved! If you don’t have regular contact with us, you might be surprised that I’m just now posting about this without having mentioned it before, but we didn’t want to advertise it until we knew for sure.

I’ll save the whole story for another post, but in short, we feel like God is leading us back to the U.S. There were many things that happened that led us up to the decision to apply for Al’s residency. After a lot of prayer, we decided to move forward with the paperwork and see if God was going to open the door. He has and we’re going to walk through it, trusting that He knows what is best for our family.

Obviously the next several months are going to be big for us. We would totally appreciate your prayers. The U.S. gives approved immigrants six months to enter into the U.S., so we need to be home by November. Here are the specific things we are praying about:

  • Our foster son. He is now eight and half months old and we’ve had him since birth. He was recently declared abandoned and the biological family has not appealed the decision, but for some reason, social services hasn’t taken steps to move forward with his case. As many of you know, Costa Rica does not allow foster parents to adopt children in their care (we know, it is absolutely ludicrous). While we would LOVE to adopt him, unless God does a miracle (which we totally know He can if He wants), he will most likely be adopted out to another family chosen from the long waiting list here in Costa Rica. Please pray for him and us as we trust the Lord with J’s life. We know God brought him into our lives for these last eight months for a purpose and we are willing to accept whatever God decides in regards to who will receive our sweet baby boy.

fathers day covered

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  • Our transition. We are super excited about this change, but are also aware that it is a huge transition for our family. I’ve been overseas for a long time and Albin has never lived outside of Costa Rica, so we definitely need to prepare our hearts. I know I’ve become a different person and view the world differently than I did eight years ago, and the United States is a whole new world for Al and Mariah. Plus, there are a lot of details, things to do and a lot of emotions.

So that is where we’re at right now. We have a vague idea of where/what God has for us once we get settled, but for now, we’re focused on now. We know He has plans and we trust Him in that. Today as we were having a little family worship session/dance party, we put on a song that we sang over Mariah a million times when she was in the NICU as a newborn. At one point she raised her hands to the sky and started spinning in circles. As I watched her dance to the song I sang over her two years ago when God miraculously healed her, I was reminded again that God holds our lives in His hands and He is sovereign over everything. And that’s where we find peace in the midst of the unknown.

 

Immigration is Humbling…

My last post about immigration got Albin and I thinking about how humbling the residency process is. Even if you are an upstanding citizen who works, pays taxes, doesn’t do drugs, and follows the directions down to a T in regards to filling out your paperwork, you can still be treated poorly and/or denied access. No matter what, you have to prove that you’re worthy to come into that country, and in our case, it’s not even on our own merit; I’m allowed to live in Costa Rica because I married a Costa Rican and maybe someday Albin will be able to say the same about the U.S.

Here are two humbling situations that have happened to Albin and me in our process to enter the U.S. without being stowaways:

  1.      This one just makes me look ridiculous … pride comes before the fall. Don’t forget this a no-judgement zone. When we first married, we were trying to get Albin a 10 year tourist visa into the U.S. so we could visit my family at any time. He had been rejected before, so I went into this meeting determined because now was in attendance. Albin tried to prepare me for the fact that there would be a long line of Costa Ricans waiting to be interviewed. I brushed him off and told him that I wouldn’t have to wait because I was a U.S. citizen at the U.S. embassy. Being the entitled American that I was, I passed the long line of people sitting in rows and went straight to the doors where citizens could sit inside (with A.C.) and briefly wait to be attended. Albin reluctantly followed me, but I’m sure he was pretending like he didn’t know me. In front of the dozens of people waiting in the line, the guard stopped me and asked why I was there. When I told him that we were there for Albin’s visa appointment, he told me that we needed to wait in the huge line. I told him that he must have misunderstood, I was a U.S. citizen. He asked if Albin was a U.S. citizen. Well, no he wasn’t, but surely there were exceptions for the spouses of citizens. I think the guard almost laughed in my face and I’m positive everyone in line that had witnessed my arrogance were pretty pleased I was swiftly put in my place. I then proceeded to grab Albin and do the walk of shame to the back of the line. Pride is ugly, y’all.
  2.      After we received aforementioned tourist visa, we went back to the U.S. for the first time as a married couple. Since being humbled at the embassy, I was not as pompous as I had been previously. As we filed into the border control line in Atlanta, we were told to stay together since we were married. When we were called to come forward, the official stamping passports wouldn’t allow me to come with Albin despite me saying that we were married. He (very rudely) told me to go to the window across from his. Not wanting to cause a scene, I went to the other window and the immigration official treated me well there. As I was finishing up, I heard the man working with Albin literally barking at him to put his fingers on the scanner to be fingerprinted. Albin was clearly not understanding, not because of his English (which is excellent), but because the lid was down on the scanner and the man didn’t realize it. I went over to help Albin and the man told me to leave. I started to get that protective wild hair and told him that no, I wasn’t going to leave and that I was going to help my husband because clearly they were having some communication issues. He stopped what he was doing and said, “You’re married to him?” in the most degrading voice ever. He knew we were married because I had told him that when he had first separated us. His tone dripped with intentional disapproval. If it hadn’t been a federal offense, I would have jumped over the counter and slapped the guy right there. I was livid. I told the official again that yes, we were married and that he was mistaken and needed to lift the lid on the scanner in order for Albin to be scanned. As the officially reluctantly stamped Albin’s passport and scowled as we walked away, the official that had helped me told me to ignore the other guy. Clearly we weren’t the only ones there aware of the official’s inappropriate behavior if another official felt the need to tell us to ignore him. The problem was that it’s hard to ignore someone when they make derogatory statements about who you are. It wasn’t as much humbling as it was completely humiliating for Albin. He still gets all jittery when we’re about to go through border control, but thankfully we haven’t ever been separated or treated poorly like that again.

Like I said above, it’s a humbling process. In my first example, I just needed to be knocked down a few notches, but in the second situation, we had no control over how we were treated because of Albin’s nationality. He had done nothing wrong and the official had no right to treat Albin in that way. While I would have loved to file a complaint, I was scared. I didn’t want to be marked at the black sheep of immigration since we would be spending a lot of time in customs and border control for the rest of our lives. In a way, both situations were a reality check for me. In the first, I was whacked out of my superiority complex … which was necessary. In the second, this naïve white girl got her first true taste of prejudice, and it opened up my mind to the very real problem that is racism. In a way, both experiences were good for me because both taught me how I don’t want to be perceived when faced with racial differences.

 

Immigration

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that anything that has to do with immigration gets my gag reflex going. For those of you who want to know if we got married in the U.S. or Costa Rica first (because yes, it matters in the process), we married in the U.S. first and then got it certified in CR. We turned in our paperwork almost right after getting back from our wedding, but there were some complications and one of our papers expired before we could get scheduled for a meeting with immigration. Side note: we were paying a lawyer (who was a family friend) good money to take care of these things for us, but we found out too late that she was not doing her job very well.

While reading over our documents one night, it hit me that my tourist visa would be expiring in one week and that due to the meeting complications, I was going to be illegal here. Not to mention that I already had a job … which if you don’t have the correct papers, can lead to a swift deportation. Don’t take this lightly, I’ve seen normal people deported from CR before. I started sweating immediately and we called our lawyer. She casually confirmed my suspicions and said I need to leave the country immediately (this was the moment that the family friendship started to deteriorate).

After a minor breakdown and hours of ranting, we bought bus tickets for several days later and hightailed it out of there. We went to Bocas del Toro, a small chain of Panamanian islands near the southern coast of Costa Rica. Minus the panicking and the exhaustion of several buses and water taxis, the trip turned out to be a blessing. It almost made up for the fact that we didn’t get to go on a honeymoon and it was honestly one of the first times since we had gotten married that we felt relatively normal.

While the trip was a blessing, the residency process was not. We finally were given appointments with immigration and did what we had to do, but no matter how organized I was, something always went wrong. Like “they lost our original marriage certificate” kind of wrong. I mean, I should have never given them the original document, but I was naïve to the ways of the Costa Rican filing system (i.e. possibly nonexistent).

I was also unaware of how difficult it was to get fingerprinted here. At the time, there was only one place in the capital to get fingerprinted for the residency process. The first time I showed up, I was oblivious to the line stretching out the gate and around the block. After waiting far too long, I overheard one of the guards saying something about running out of numbers. Only the first 50 people in line were allowed to be fingerprinted that day and I was not one of those first 50 people. The next time around, I decided I would be there when the doors opened at 7:30 a.m. Unfortunately, I was not the only person to have that thought. In fact, I wasn’t among the first 50 people to have that thought. Fail. I approached the guard and asked what time she thought I should arrive in order to be among the first 50. She thought getting there between 1-2 hours before opening time would suffice. Sooo, basically camp out at the crack of dawn. I’ll admit it; I had to have a crying/cursing Costa Rica session in my car to pull it together. After my pity party, I went back to the guard and asked her if there was any other way. She told me that sometimes they would give out more numbers in the afternoon if there was space. The next week, I rolled up in the afternoon hoping for the best. There were huned’s of people there. I went up to my guard (we were becoming fast friends) and she had sympathy on me. She took me to another line and told me to wait there. Besides getting the stink eye from all those people I had apparently just cut in front of, I was feeling pretty confident.

As I came to the front of the (shorter) line, another guard asked me if I had brought the correct seals. What seals? No one had mentioned seals, the instructions I had been given didn’t say anything about seals, and can I bribe someone to ignore the fact that I didn’t have seals? No. Go look around the block and ask at the banks and law offices, they probably have them. I literally ran around the block looking for the seals and of course, no one had them. Finally, desperate and furious, I stopped at a little soda (which is like a little hole in the wall restaurant), and the cook sold me some seals for 20 cents as she served up some rice and beans to another customer. What the…?

By now, I’m panting and sweating and all my guard friends are cracking up at the poor gringa’s plight. I must have done something right though, because as they laughed, they let me pass everyone in line. Success. Not only did I get fingerprinted that day, but I made friends with some guards who clearly needed some comic relief and found an unlikely love for a greasy cook selling 20 cent stamps and Diet Coke.

And then we waited … a long time. About two years in, we finally called the immigration office regarding my visa and I remember overhearing Albin talking to the lady and getting increasingly frustrated with her (which is unusual because Albin is often much more merciful in situations like these). She refused to help us because she said it was impossible that my residency had taken that long and that residencies are processed within 90 days. Albin assured her that wasn’t the case for us and that we just had a question. Nope, a two year wait was impossible and therefore she could not answer our question. He hung up with a prompt “gracias por nada” (thanks for nothing).

Two and a half years later, I was finally given my temporary residency permit; even though it would expire after one year, there were tears of joy that day. I am currently waiting for my permanent residency permit that I get through having my baby in Costa Rica (anchor child anyone?) and I was told it would only take 90 days to be processed. That’s what I was told in regards to my temporary permit, so I’m not getting my hopes up this time. The 90 day limit is today, so I’ll keep you posted.

Immigration processes and policies are definitely a complicated matter. Albin and I have been praying about and considering moving back to the U.S., but we’re trying to come to terms with the inevitable high cost, long wait, and load of work it will take to make that kind of thing happen. It’s intimidating, overwhelming, and humbling (especially when immigrantion is a hot topic right now and people aren’t careful with their comments). Trying to do things correctly and legally through the immigration system is frustrating enough to make even Donald Trump think twice about his hateful assumptions (fun fact: Did you know Trump is married to an immigrant?).

Moral of the story: residency processes just suck. Accept it and move on. No matter where you’re applying, prepare yourself to receive a different answer from everyone you ask about ANYTHING, to spend a lot of money in filing fees (and seals apparently), and to wait. If you are married to (or are going to marry) someone from another country, you said “I do” to lines in immigration offices. Embrace it.Try to have a good attitude and enjoy the ride. All that hard work means you get to live with your foreign dreamboat, and even Trump can attest to that :).

Sidenote: If you’re not going through immigration processes, try to have some grace with immigrants despite the current attitude of condemnation that is so popular in the U.S. right now.  Not everyone trying to get into the U.S. is a druglord or rapist. As evidenced by the devastating story of the Syrian children who drowned this past week as their family tried to escape the war- you never know what extreme circumstances are bringing someone to take desparate measures. That Syrian father wanted was a better life for his family, can we blame him? That could have been you or me, risking everything to give our family a peaceful future. Don’t be quick to judge, friends, almost all of our families were immigrants at some point. 

Crossing the border into Panama

Crossing the border into Panama

Top 10 Hardest Things About Bicultural Marriage

Last week I posted about my top ten favorite things about being in a bicultural marriage. To be fair, here are my top ten least favorite things in no particular order. If you’re considering marriage to a foreigner, I hope this list is helpful!

  1. Vacations will almost always be to see family. Unless you’re loaded and/or unemployed, most of your money and vacation time will be dedicated to seeing family. We usually go home to Ohio about once a year. It can be hard to justify spending money to go see a new place when you haven’t seen your parents and sister for a year. Another thorn is my flesh is that in our case, we have to spend a considerable amount of money to go on vacation to Cincinnati, Ohio. I love to visit my family, but Ohio isn’t exactly an exciting travel destination. If we lived in Ohio and went on vacation to see family in Costa Rica, however, I might be singing a different tune.
  1.  Difficulty with jokes and cultural references. In my honest opinion, my family is pretty witty and we joke around about 75 percent of the time. Albin had a hard time keeping up and inserting his own comments for a long time which made him feel outed. I’ve felt the same way with his friends/family so we’ve spent a lot of time educating one another on the millions of puns, sayings, and jokes that exist in each culture. For example, once my sister used the term “throw you under the bus” with Albin. As we were all laughing about how he had just been thrown under the bus, he was still considering why we were talking about him being run over by a bus.
  1.  Truly expressing yourself. Albin speaks English really well and I like to think that I speak Spanish equally as well; however, sometimes it is hard to truly express yourself and have your spouse understand. Expressing your deepest thoughts usually require you using more extensive vocabulary and that can create some misunderstanding or at least not a complete understanding of what you’re trying to get across.
  1.  Being far away for funerals, sicknesses, holidays, etc. Most likely one spouse will be living far away from their family. That part is hard, but Skype is a huge help (My parents skype me every day to watch my daughter do interesting things like smack her lips or roll over). It is almost unbearable, however, to be so far when there are funerals that you can’t get to, extensive illnesses that you can’t help out with, or holidays that you would otherwise enjoy being with your family for. Thanksgiving is always a killer for me because it’s not a thing in CR and my whole extended family gets on Skype while they stuff deep-fried turkey and pumpkin pie into their mouths. Sure I do a Thanksgiving dinner here, but it’s not exactly the same.
  1.  Missing family in general. This has become increasingly harder since the birth of  our daughter. It hurts my heart a little bit to know that my daughter only gets to see my family in person once or twice a year because I want them to be a big part of her life and they want to be a big part of hers. Knowing that you have to get on a long plane ride if you wanted to see them is a bummer most of the time.
  1.  Cultural norms. This is the everyday stuff that you just don’t agree on because you grew up not knowing there were other options (like whether you should eat big lunches or big dinners). One that has been hard for me is a cuota, which is a fee you pay to go to a party, shower, or even a wedding. Oftentimes you are required to pay this fee on top of buying a gift in order to help the host throw the party or finance the wedding. Not only is it hard for me swallow paying to go to someone else’s party, but it is nearly impossible for me to charge a fee for people to come to my parties. Can’t we just do a potluck? No.
  1.  Feeling lonely if you don’t have a community. This has definitely improved for us, but it can be challenging. It can be extremely lonely to not have any friends doing the bicultural marriage thing. Having community in any stage of life is of utmost importance, but this unique circumstance requires it.
  1.  Residency processes and paperwork. Have I mentioned that I hate it? Residency in any country is usually complicated, expensive, and requires a lot of patience. There is a lot of extra paperwork to fill out for every step you take when you’re married to a foreigner. Almost always, there you are required to pay a fee to file the never ending pile of paperwork. Buying a house, paying taxes, getting immigration visas, obtaining permanent residency, proving our child can receive dual citizenship, and obtaining employment are just a few of the processes that have emptied our bank account of thousands of dollars dedicated solely to filing.
  1.  Not having access to certain things (or they’re really expensive). This one doesn’t necessarily require you to be in a bicultural marriage, because this happens when you live almost anywhere overseas. Most likely, however, you or your spouse will be living in a different culture and will miss things you can’t have (probably more than you ever even wanted them when you were living in your own country). For example, Target. Oh how I miss Target. Another example, cheese is expensive here and I love cheese. When I’m in the U.S., I binge on cheese and when I’m in Costa Rica, I agonize in the dairy aisle about whether I should spend $12 on a small block of cheddar. One more: I absolutely love ice cream and I think I shed of tear of joy when a Dairy Queen opened here last year.
  1.  Negative comments. I previously posted a blog about this. People can be very critical of bicultural marriages and relationships. Whether it’s racism, ignorance, concern for your well-being, or just a case of social ineptness, people can say very hurtful things when you decide to do something out of the ordinary. Once you decide to marry a foreigner, be confident in your decision and don’t let negative comments affect your relationship.

If you’re considering a bicultural marriage and have questions or doubts, please hit me up. I’ll try to be as honest (and encouraging) as I can be!

 

How to Marry a Foreigner (in 500 simple steps)

For the record, I don’t mean to come across as negative in these blogs; I’m just trying to be real. For all of those bicultural couples who have been smooth sailing from day one, I’m super impressed, but I wonder if you really exist. If you do… this probably isn’t the blog for you- unless you want to share your secret.

It’s no secret here that our first year of marriage was anything but a “honeymoon period” and that year two and three were almost just as hard. There were a lot of good things that happened as well during those years, but this fourth year is when we can really see the proverbial fruit from those first three years of hard work. Now that I feel like I have some experience under my belt, I just want to express my process in case someone out there going through the same thing.

Sometime during our first year, I desperately typed in “how to marry a foreigner” on Google. True story. Skipping over all the residency process garbage, I actually found an about page describing how to marry a foreigner. It was all in 7 simple steps that were something like this:

  1. Go to a foreign country.
  2. Meet people from that country.
  3. Choose a foreigner that you are compatible with.
  4. Get to know the person and confirm your compatibility.
  5. Understand laws and conditions about marriage in your home country and the other person’s home country.
  6. Marry the person.
  7. Decide where you will live and begin the process of gaining legal residency.

Sounds pretty simple to me. I remember wondering why I was being such a wimp if it was an easy process. I mean, didn’t anyone else have to wait three and a half years to receive a one-year temporary residency permit because the Costa Rican government lost your original marriage certificate and claimed you never submitted it (even though you have a form from them saying you submitted it)? Didn’t anybody else have fights in Spanglish even though they were “compatible”? Didn’t any other Gringa decide to not change her last name lest her children be named with two same last names? Was anyone else laughed at in the U.S. when they wrote their address on immigration forms as “200 meters south of the former Burger King, first yellow house on the left”?  After reading this, I definitely started having a “woe is me” moment.

Well, the good news is I’ve grown since then and I’ve realized that while getting married to someone is pretty simple, it’s the actual marriage that isn’t so simple.  It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but I have gotten to know myself, Albin, and God in amazing ways. I’ve learned to navigate (better) through Costa Rican bureaucracy, to fight in my second language, and to get over the fact that I didn’t change my last name. Not only have I learned to drive a stick shift in the madness that is CR transit, but I’ve also learned to follow and give directions by only using present (and past) landmarks.

What I’ve learned the most is that with time, foreign things become less foreign and can even become, dare I say, charming (except for immigration, that God-forsaken place will always be foreign and NEVER charming).

So that being said, I think the list could go on and on and be called “How to Marry a Foreigner in 500 simple steps.” For now though, I’ll simplify and rewrite those original 7 steps and add one of my own.

  1. Pray. A lot.
  2. If you meet someone from another culture and feel they might be “the one”, pray even more and think about what each of the following steps imply.
  3. Recognize that bringing two people together from different cultures requires a lot of work and ask yourself if you’re willing to do that work, and possibly live far from home.
  4. Get to know that person and start seeing a godly counselor. Now.
  5. Understand laws and conditions about marriage in your home country and the other person’s home country. Go into this process with more patience that you’ve ever had. Expect things to be frustrating, to make no sense at all, and to never be a simple process. Have no expectations and you won’t be disappointed. Prepare for long lines, different answers from every person you talk to, and more forms than you’ve ever seen in your life.
  6. Marry the person. No joke, the wedding planning will be a breeze compared to proving you’re not an illegal alien. I mean, haven’t you ever seen the final interview scene from The Proposal? If you haven’t, I’ve included the link for your viewing pleasure.
  7. Prayerfully decide where you will live and then begin the process of gaining legal residency.
  8. Become a team. This means that you pray (more) together, wait in line together, fight for one another, hate immigration together, don’t go to bed angry with one another, don’t blame the other person for a ridiculous trait their country has, have lots of sex (to release tension acquired at immigration), and encourage one another. It’s the only way.