Last Leg

On your mark, set, GO!   Today was the last leg of the race.  Captain was hauling ass down the Pacific Coast Highway.  A part of me wanted to ask him to slow down but he had his game face on.   On a two lane, double yellow lined, curvy road, driving at high speeds, it is inevitable to end up behind every slow-moving vehicle there is on the road.  It wasn’t only the slow rides…as usual, we encountered ridiculousness.

The banana truck: there were 3 Ecuadorians sitting atop the bed of a thousand bananas.  Captain had to slow a bit for the truck but it was moving right along.  Trouble is, loose leaves were flying out of the truck bed and clinging to our windshield! I had no clue these leaves were so large but I was genuinely concerned about the hazard they posed when stuck to our windshield!  I was hanging halfway out the window pulling the leaves out of the wiper blades as they swooshed back and forth across the windshield.  It seemed this race was not ours to win.

The car was moving really fast but I had to slow my mind and get clear.  “What is going on?” I asked Captain. “I thought this was a simple process and could be done in three hours!” Captain helped me understand.  The basic buying process is simple but our main objective was to get the title registered and the property in our name all in one day.  This is not a feat that occurs in three hours; it is more like three days!!! No wonder I felt like this was a sprint-it was!

As we neared our apartment, Captain and I wished each other luck and parted ways.  Captain slowed to a roll, I hopped out of the Green Spark and dashed for the apartment.  The time was ticking. Knowing that the ATM was about 20 minutes away, and that Captain was driving double time, I figured I had no longer than 40 minutes to be sure the apartment was in move-out condition.

For the most part, our bags were ready and the apartment was probably cleaner than when we moved in.  There were leftovers in the fridge so I put together a to-go lunch and anxiously awaited Captain’s arrival.  I paced the apartment as the thoughts in my head were running a mile a minute.

It seemed only minutes later, I heard a meek horn from outside. Sure enough, it was Captain coming in hot! The Spark was on two wheels as he made the turn into the drive.  Eeeerrrrrrrrrrr!!! I swear he pretends he is a race car driver when he is in the driver’s seat…

Our drive back to Muisne was no quicker than one before.    Not only were we stuck behind the ONLY slow-moving bus in Ecuador, we encountered a cattle drive and a pickup stuffed with school kids all the while having to dodge speed bumps and the occasional mule standing on the side of the road.  When I wasn’t pointing out road hazards, I used the drive time to have all our money straight.  We still had to pay the notary and the registrar.

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The moment we arrived in Muisne, we used Lingo’s cell phone to call Lucky and find their whereabouts.  Captain and I made our way to the Notary.  When we arrived, we were told the minutes were not yet completed.  What??? We had been gone for over two hours! The notary’s secretary had told us it should only be 30 minutes! Was I surprised? Honestly, I was but shouldn’t have been. This is South America.  Time is experienced much differently.  I found a seat outside in the fresh air and did my best to ground myself.  The finish line was so close but I felt as if the timer would go off before we reached it.  Time was moving so quickly.  I was running a race but had no control over the legs I was running it on.  Finishing this race was all dependent on fate…

I glanced at the clock.  3:30PM, business hours were soon over.  My heart rate rose and anxious thoughts ran through my mind.  “Can’t these people work faster? What happens if the paperwork isn’t finished?  Do we not purchase the land today?  Will someone else snatch up the land before us?  What if we do buy the land but we don’t get the title transferred? When do we do that? Who will help us?” And so on went my anxious mind…

Mrs. Lioness had gone to the Registrar’s office to let him know we would soon be over.  The business day was nearing the end but our hopes were if we made our presence apparent, the office would not close the doors on us.

The secretary sashed from behind the glass partition and handed us the ‘final minutes’.  The six of us huddled around the minutes as Lady Lingo read the minutes aloud.  Occasionally she would stop and translate the words to English for me and Captain.  After reading the document, everyone was shaking their heads in agreement.  Lucky ensured us everything was legitimate and having been in contact with our lawyers in Quito, me and Captain we given the Go-Ahead.

Both the seller and the buyers had to sign the Final Minutes.  Our passport number and thumbprint were also included.  The Notary then went through the final document to stamp and initial each and every page.  The minute the minutes were ‘finalized’ Captain took them and dashed to the registrars’ office around the corner with Lady Luck.  Lingo and I stayed behind to pay the notary.

After handing over a few hundred dollars to the Notary, I received at receipt for payment.  A hushed conversation occurred and I was told I owed another $60.  It was not clear for what I owed more money.  When I asked for a receipt of payment, the Notary stumbled a bit and Lingo translated that it was for the secretary.  My receipt request was quickly pushed to the wayside. I was convinced my glowing gringo skin had a factor in the matter.  I felt violated but my concern was no longer with the Notary.  I had to get to the registrar’s office.

The clock on the wall said 4:15PM.  Lingo and I sprinted for the next office.  I noticed his business hours.   Closing time: 4:30PM.  Fifteen minutes.  I was unsure what this process would entail but I assumed it was something as simple as taking the paperwork and placing it in a file.

Captain was standing at the desk of a gruff man.  With dark eyes, a wrinkled brow, black glasses and permanent frown, the man did not vibrate kindness.   Captain handed the papers to the man.  The Registrar looked at the clock and shook his head no.  “No. What does he mean ‘No’?”  He has fifteen minutes! It’s not quitting time yet!  Ugh! Government workers!!!

The Ladies and Mrs. Lion approached the man.   All with pouty lips, sad eyes and hopeless pleas, the women begged the Registrar to accept our paperwork.  I felt so defeated.  We had run so hard today and it was as if right before reaching the finish line, someone tripped us.  Finding a chair, while the women continued their pleading, I noticed the sign that stated “72 hours” for a title transfer.  That is what all this begging is for! The process was not as simple as I had assumed and definitely not as quick as I had hoped.  What were we thinking in the first place?  Captain was on both knees, promising to make it worth his time to work overtime.  This must have convinced him because business hours had just extended another hour.

The Registrar had agreed to do our paperwork, but first the fees had to be paid at the bank.  THE BANK! It was closing time for all the government offices.  Would the bank still be open?!?  Captain and Lucky dashed for the bank.

Exhausted, I waited for Captain’s return.  It seemed as though we had tripped over every hurdle in this run.

Captain was not hard to spot running down the dirt road from the bank.  When Lucky was not by his side, I thought for sure the bank had already closed and we were out of luck.  “Lucky blew out a flip-flop!!!” After receiving the payment receipt of title transfer fees, Lucky and Captain sprinted for the Ecuadorian Kinkos.  Her flip-flop couldn’t handle it anymore and gave out.  She sent Captain ahead and stopped at a road side vendor to buy a new pair.  Had ANY of us knew what today would entail, we all would have worn our running shoes!

After receiving receipt of payment, the registrar shuffled through our paperwork, lowered his eyes and frowned even larger.  Luck and Lingo quickly jumped up as they noted his distaste.  He handed the papers back to the ladies, Lingo grabbed my hand and we were off again.  “What is happening?!” I asked. Lingo explained to me there was a discrepancy on the paperwork.  It would need to be fixed by the notary.  RUUUUNNNNN!!!!  The notary and her secretary had already stayed over to finish our paperwork.  No way would they still be there in the office!

As we rounded the corner, I peered to the office space and noticed some sort of activity happening at the Notary.  They were locking the door!  NOOOOOO!   Short of breathe, Lingo mustered up the words to tell them our problem. In one of the clauses, one of the property lines had not been included.  How did so many of us miss that???

Lion followed us closely behind and we urged the secretary to fix the mix up.  Of course it was not going to be a simple fix.  The document was 6 pages long and now adding 2 more lines would screw up the whole document.  The last pages had already been signed, dated and finger printed. The secretary would have to add in the property line, adjust the following paragraphs and make this final document legitimate.  The Secretary noted our urgency.

There was a mess of papers strewn out across the secretary’s desk as she was correcting the document on the computer, printing out the changed pages and getting them all in order.  Lion and Lingo were flipping through the papers and I again felt I had no control in the situation.  They were babbling in Spanish and I was praying they were sure to have this right.  This was our last chance and at this point the registrar might have already thrown in the towel!

Trusting the secretary had resolved the discrepancy accurately, the notary stamped and signed the updated pages of the minutes.  Thank Goodness I didn’t dispute the $60 charge or they may have not worked so quickly in our favor!  With a quick expression of gratitude to the notary and secretary, we were off. The race continued.

Sprinting through town, I was dodging mud puddles, ‘jay walking’, and b-lining it to the Registrar’s Office! He had already gone out on a limb to agree to our overtime proposal.  Now he had to wait on a discrepancy correction! It was already past closing time.  I thought for sure we would return to find the Registrar tossing our papers out the door and shutting it in our face…

Much to my relief, the door was open. The Registrar was still shuffling papers and quickly grabbed our updated documents.   The corrections were verified and the Registrar handed our minutes to his secretaries.  The paper shuffling continued and I settled into my seat to wait patiently.  For a moment I felt as though I could relax.  For the first time, reality set in.  We were buying the Perfect Property!

When Lucky had arrived, there was sweat dripping from her brow.  She had mud flipped up the back of her legs and her reading glasses were no longer hanging from the chain around her neck.  In all the racing around, not only had she blown out a flip but her glasses’ chain busted and slipped in a mud puddle!

Captain consulted Lion and Lucky about how much we ‘owed’ the Registrar for overtime.  Our offering was warmly accepted and for the first time I saw a smile on the man’s face.  Documents were signed, sealed and filed.  The Perfect Property was now in our name.  Captain and I took a deep breath, shook hands with the Seller and bid him farewell.

What I thought was going to be the 400 meter run turned out to be the 200 meter hurdles.  We had stumbled over ever hurdle but crossed the finish line.  The meet wasn’t over yet.  The mile still had to be run.  We hopped in the Spark and began the 4+ hour journey to Quito.  In less than 12 hours we would be boarding a flight heading back to the United States.

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