We did pretty well when you take in the big picture, but on our final Sunday night in Peru, we both were about to have our heads explode. Too many loose ends needed tying up and we were running out of time. Most of our luggage was packed, but we still didn’t know whether we would be able to arrange to ship some of our favorite handicrafts back to the US. We didn’t know whether we’d be able to open the bank account that we need to deposit the proceeds from the sale of our house, if it occurs. I wasn’t entirely sure that the last of my things would actually fit in the suitcases, even with a first class allotment of two 70 lb bags each. We still needed Covid tests, 24 hours or less prior to departure. We didn’t think there could be a winter storm in the US to delay our travels (It didn’t).
On Monday, I crammed more items into each suitcase, until each was as full as it could be. No suitcase ever reached 70 lb, but they were heavy.
I called the notary and the lawyer to see if there was any progress on finding a bank that would allow us to open an account. Unfortunately, it seemed that none of the banks in Barranca would allow foreigners to open an account without a foreign residency visa. We do not have resident visas, as we’ve never needed them. Until 2020, a tourist could stay in Peru for up to 6 months per year, and we usually stay 4 months. For a number of years, 2000-2012, we had a bank account in Peru, but the fees added up, so we closed it. For the last ten years or so, we have not needed a bank account in Peru. We pay our US bills online, and our Peru bills in person (by the caretaker). We get cash from an ATM, and all has been well.
Now we find that when you sell property, you cannot wire the proceeds directly out of the country, the money must go into a bank here first, then get sent onward. Cash transactions are limited to about US $1,000. Any greater sum must be moved by check or electronic transfer. We need to have a bank account if we sell our house. Our papers are in order to sell the house, and we are represented by a real estate agency, so though we can sell the house at this point, we cannot do anything but hold on to the check until we have a bank account in Peru. I had scheduled our pre-travel Covid tests for 2 pm at Suiza Lab, so our departure time from Barranca for Lima was set at 9 am, to make sure we arrived on time for our tests.
There was another important step that seemed to be at a dead end. We need a person who we trust who can sign sale papers for our house if we are not in Peru when a sale is ready to be completed. Though we don’t have anyone lined up to purchase the house, we have to be ready. For a power of attorney, however, one needs a form filled out, the “power” itself, and also a “minuta,” a contract of who can do what. The notary wanted to include the bank account number in the minuta, to specify where the money from the sale would go. We were getting nowhere with banking, and we did not want to leave Peru without having someone in charge. I called and explained that we needed the power of attorney so a sale could theoretically be completed, though the bank check for the proceeds would have to be held until there was an account.
To explain this, we went to see the notary, and he agreed to what we needed, though we’d also have to see the lawyer in Lima. There were more papers to legalize (notarize), signatures with a fingerprint beside them, and lots and lots of proof-reading. If you get one letter or number wrong (or leave out your middle name that appears on your passport but not in your signature, as in my case), the official agency that registers property can refuse to approve your sale.
During our last afternoon in Barranca, Jonathan heard from the potential shipping company, and found that a contract would need to be prepared before we left town the next morning. He had to learn to use WhatsApp, in order to show the representative our goods, and then he had to convince the man that he did not need to notarize his passport. When we went to the notary’s office, Jonathan got one set of papers for the shipper, while we awaited others for the power of attorney (the lawyer in Lima prepares the power of attorney, while the notary in Barranca prepares the minuta).
It was after six pm when it was all done. We were both tired from sitting on the edges of our chairs while people phoned back and forth and typed. We agreed to stop by the office of the lawyer in Lima after our Covid tests on Tuesday. It was Valentine’s Day, but we were content to eat leftovers, watch some funny TV, and get some sleep.
On Tuesday, we were up and getting dressed by 7:45 am, with the goal of leaving Barranca by 9 am. I continued to agonize over art supplies, and how much more I could stuff in the cracks of my full suitcases. We left right on time, waving goodbye to our houseguests, Brian and Eliana, who are staying on for a bit. Fellow archaeologists and excellent houseguests, they had projects of their own to attend to. We enjoyed having dinner together, walking on the beach, and each doing our own thing the rest of the time.
We arrived in Lima with enough time to drop our luggage at the Hotel Senorial, our regular hotel for the past 22 years. Suiza Lab, our stop for Covid tests, was a bit chaotic, and it took about a half hour to get our 30 second sample swabs taken. Once completed, I checked with the lawyer, with whom I’d agreed to meet at 3 pm. He had initially suggested 4 pm, and when I called, he had indeed forgotten I wanted to meet earlier, and had just gone for lunch.
Moving on to our lawyer’s office at 4 pm, we explained that the bank account was a dead end. Optimistically, the lawyer said that he heard the Banco Pichincha allowed accounts to be opened with a notarized copy of one’s passport. We looked at each other and explained that we had to be at the airport at 6 am the next morning, so investigating another banking possibility was no longer possible. He understood, though this means we’ll need to return to the US, put together the papers required for a temporary residence visa (application, proof of solvency, FBI background check, each notarized and apostilled). We pointed out that we really had to have a useable power of attorney before we left, even without a bank account number on it. We then went through another version of the previous day’s anxiety as we waited while the final power of attorney was prepared. Because we were in Peru, we had to get in the car and go down the street to a different office to get the final papers notarized. It has to do with who does favors for whom and when and under what circumstances. Thus, our lawyer uses a notary down the street rather than the one in his own office. We didn’t ask.
Once again, it was after six pm when we were finished, but with the power of attorney in hand, and promises that it would be appropriately registered and recorded the next day, we returned to the hotel.
Carlos, our driver, had stuck with us all day, and agreeing to take us to the airport at 5:30 am, he left for the evening. We decided to reward ourselves by walking down the street to Punta Azul, a very good fish restaurant, that serves lunch to people from Lima (mostly) and dinner to foreigners (mostly). I had forgotten that the decline in tourism over the course of the pandemic would slash their evening trade, and indeed, Punta Azul was closed. We were crushed, and tired. Two blocks down, we stopped at a place that had pizza and pisco sours, grateful to have made it through as many of our to-do list items as we had.
Our Covid test results arrived on schedule: NEGATIVE!
The outstanding issue now is our need to obtain residency visas, and open a bank account. Once we’re in the US, we can use the 90 days that we must stay out of Peru (the country now lets tourist visit for 90 days, then requires them to remain outside the country for 90 days) to collect our paperwork. When we can return, we’ll file our applications, and open a bank account as soon as we are able to do so. Then we’ll really be ready to sell our house.
Everything else is underway and pending: sale of the house, shipping of our goods, further travel.
Our flight left right on time at 9 am, Delta to Atlanta. The flight was long, but the seats were very good, much better than on the Lima to Miami, American Airlines flight we usually take. We had a three hour layover in Atlanta, but the airport is so vast that it took the first hour to go from landing to find our suitcases. Endless corridors have cheery signs like “Only 10 minutes more walking to your next stop.”
A brief stop in a lounge, and it was on to Chicago. Jonathan went to collect the rental car while I corralled the luggage and rolled it out to the curb. We found our Airbnb in Lombard easily, since we stayed there two years ago. We were completely exhausted.
The next day we crawled out of bed, went to our storage unit for winter clothing, and then to the grocery store. We arrived home about 1 pm, just as the first flakes of snow began to fall. The wind picked up and howled the rest of the day, while snow flew sideways and we gratefully stayed supplied and indoors. Today we got up to find it is clear and sunny, 2 inches of snow, and about 4 degrees F (-15 C). We are glad to be here, we think.