Do you know the way to San Jose?
Weighted down by heavy backpacks, fresh off our flight, exhausted and excited we finally find ourselves in Costa Rica, the launching point of our trip. Miro and I both have a feeling of disbelief that we are actually here but alas, the announcement over the airplane intercom confirms that we have indeed, arrived. Miro looks at me with trusting eyes, as I hope my look back communicates with confidence that we are here, and not knowing what happens next is OK.
Through the crowd we are greeted by large brown eyes and a huge smile! Our host Iris came to the airport to meet us and and how great it felt to enter a country, welcomed by a friendly face. Whew! All of the stress of finding where to go, what bus to take, where to exchange money, are not there, we are in the capable hands of our lovely host Iris. Iris replied back to our couch request within one hour of sending it, just two weeks ago and she was as excited to have us stay with her as we were excited to meet her. That sort of enthusiasm was translated clearly though all of our correspondences and now, we meet in person. Iris, a transplant herself, was from Austria, and I was anxious to find out more.
She shuffled us off to one of the local buses and our journey began. One bus from the airport, then one bus from the center of San Jose, after a 10 -15 block walk through the city. Oh shit, we packed too much again, and even with the smaller backpacks on our backs, we were feeling the weight of everything. I felt completely weighted down and not very mobile. I was so grateful Iris was with us so at least we didn’t need to think.
We had to menuver our way throught h heart of San Jose to catch the direct bus to Tibas, the small suburb outside of the city. My impressions of San Jose was not to kind, I must admit. It was loud, crowded, dirty, wet and chaotic. Not at all what I expected to experience in the tropical Eco-paradise I imagined, called Costa Rica. It was kind of downtown Los Angeles, only more crowded and not a trace of English anywhere to anchor our reality. I truly felt out of step and out of sorts in an utterly unfamilar place. That was ok, I was just tired, I thought.
About an hour from stepping off the plane we arrived at Iris’s little two bedroom apartment. It’s cute, fresh and tidy and very welcoming. We dropped off our bags and ventured out into the rain to get some food. We ended up at a cute little “soda” in her town and had an amazing fish and rice dish and coffee dripping from a terracotta container, connected to a canvas bag, held up by a metal stand, placed in the center of the table. OK, that’s strange, strong and a little bit of overkill . And strange.
Back at her place, we settle in for the night, tired from our long day of traveling and Iris goes out for a date.
Loving the rain, the green, the amazing food, our lovey host Iris & the Ticos. That’s our Costa Rica, so far…Pura Vida! 5:20 PM Sep 16th, 2009 via web
The next morning after Iris returns from her morning jog we head back into San Jose. Our mission, find a place to cash travelers check and see a couple of museums. Sounds like a good first day plan and not too challenging.
To make a long story short, we didn’t do either, the banks would not touch my euro American Express travelers cheques and our trek to the two museums we picked out of the Lonely Planet book were not successful. (Museo de Arte y Diseno Contemporaneo was closed because they were changing exhibitions and Museo de Formas Espacios y Sonidos was no where to be found, presumably closed.)
One of the interesting things I learned about Costa Rica in general is that the streets do not have street names. Huh? Are you serious? Then how do you get mail? How do you call a cab? How do you order a pizza? Iris tells me that addresses are given in relation to the nearest landmark, followed by some number of “cuadras” (or blocks) and then the direction is given. Most of the time the landmarks are a governmental building, a big tree or a church. However, we were told, many times the actual landmark isn’t there anymore. (Does this sound strange to anyone else?) Aparently though, everyone knows what you are talking about if you ask them for directions.
Iris told us wouldn’t have to worry about that too much in the heart of San Jose since the city itself is based on a grid, and all you have to do, is count the streets from the center and know if you are going east and west or north and south. Sounds easy enough, I thought sarcasticly to myself. Not to mention I didn’t speak a word of the language, I can’t even show a written address to a taxi driver in the case we get lost. I don’t understand how an entire country and be so disorganized, but at least it’s going to be fun trying to figure it out.
After walking around for a couple of hours, we decided today, just wasn’t the day to visit museums. We did, however, purchase tickets to visit the Volcano Poas for the next day. It’s been raining pretty frequently in San Jose and being caught in the rain in the middle of a city isn’t much of a problem. We headed into the nearest cafe and had a cappuccino and waited the rain out. Being in San Jose is not feeling that extraordinary and I think Miro and I will be content with a short stay in the city.