Karen and I are highly functional adults, and professionals. We have raised four children; bought and sold real estate and numerous cars, and traveled to a plethora of countries. As a CEO, I have raised substantial amounts of venture capital from high-powered Silicon Valley venture capitalists; I have negotiated deals in China that involved raised, almost screaming, voices (from the Chinese counter part), deals in Korea that involved very prolonged periods of silence on both sides, and deals with mega German corporations. (Karen teaches children how to love reading and literature. So there).
Now why were both of so keyed up for our first border crossing in South America?
At the end of the day, we talked about it (yes, over a beverage, Marcy…) and agreed that it’s the loss of control that makes each of us apprehensive. In business dealings, I have control over my side of the negotiation; at school, Karen has control over her kids. But when crossing a border with a large and expensive vehicle, it feels like we have little control. Combine this with some horror stories from the web and border crossings become obstacles to be almost feared.
But, in reality, we do have control. We have the right to cross the border with our vehicle, we are absolutely legal – with the paperwork to prove it – and if worst come to worst, we can always say: F… it, we going to a different country.
Border crossing should be simple: when you enter a new country, they check your passport, stamp it and admit you. They then give you a temporary import/usage license for your vehicle, which states that you can drive it in their country for xx days, but you are not allowed to sell it. When you exit a country they check your passport again, give you an exit stamp, and then re-claim the temporary import/usage license for the vehicle.
So, what happened? We had decided to drive back from Iguazu to Posadas and cross into Paraguay there; we both enjoyed the Jesuit mission at San Ignacio so much that we wanted to see and learn more, and the part of Paraguay that lies over the river from Posadas contains numerous Jesuit missions.
The bridge from Posadas, Argentina, lands in Encarcion, Paraguay.
We had devoted all of today to the border crossing. First, we wanted to get the Casa washed and cleaned up, and all perishable food thrown away. We then expected the border crossing to be protracted, frustrating, and take most of the day. Finding a car wash took way much longer than we expected, but in the end it was worth it (worthy of a separate blog post…).
At high noon we drove out onto the bridge.
In the end, it was a piece of cake. Nay, it was a piece of cake that served itself. And, asked what flavor of cake you wanted, and if you wanted an extra side of frosting.
As we approached the immigration building on the Argentina side of the bridge, an officer from the gendarmerie noticed that we were in the wrong lane – correct lane administratively, but it would have been too low ultimately for our vehicle to pass through. So he walked up to us, told us what he was doing, and stopped traffic in 3 other lanes so we could cross over to the bus lane. Then he created a separate parking space for us, and a German overland vehicle that was following us, by moving some cones around, so we could park close to immigration and customs. The Argentinean immigration quickly stamped our passports with an exit stamp, and Argentinean customs rather quickly let us know that we didn’t have to do anything else to take the casa out of Argentina.
So far, so good. But we knew that exiting would be easy. Now for entering Paraguay. As we approached the Paraguayan immigration office at the end of the bridge, a customs official spotted our vehicle and the German one. He also then proceeded to move some traffic cones so we could more easily move into the correct lane, and then he guided us to parking spots next to the Paraguayan immigration building.
As we got in line to have our passports stamped, the same customs official walked up to us in the line, and pointed out where his – the customs – office was, and that as soon as we had our stamps we should go see him. In his office, he was quick and helpful, and 20 minutes later we were done.
Everyone we dealt with was helpful and anticipated what we needed before we could ask. The process from start to finish took no more than 60 minutes. And this is what we were keyed up about…