Day 1: Thursday, May 12, 2005
I awoke at 5 am, showered, and did a mental run-through of my backpack. In the end, I only forgot my toothbrush. It'll be easy enough to get a new one along with a razor. Taxi got me at 6 am, and in no time I was over DC, headed north, and looped I imagine, counterclockwise to the south. The flight was effortless. At Miami International, I arrived at Gate A, and my connection was at the opposite end of the airport, Gate E10. It was about a 15 minute walk. The signs even showed the number of minutes left! I made the connection without a problem. Spent 2 ½ hours on the flight to San Jose. The guy sitting to me left was very big, so I was fairly scrunched with my window seat. Just behind me was a young Costa Rican, and as it turned out his seatmate, Jennifer, was a doctor about to start her residency. She was 27, Korean, bright personality, traveling alone. I couldn't believe my lack of luck there! So I happened to be in the early stages of another book on Buddhism, and I reminded myself envy creates suffering, and things were just as they were supposed to be. I instantly felt relaxed again, just by letting go. Boom, we come out of the clouds to lush green mountains, touchdown. Welcome to Costa Rica.
Passing through Customs took about five minutes, and the next thing you see is a mob of people on the opposite side of a window. I walked out and quickly learned they were all taxi drivers scooping up tourists like myself. I had already decided to take the bus, only 70 cents! Much better than $12. I made my way to the bus, having already cashed a traveler's check ($50 = ¢20,000). The bus took about 20 minutes to get me to San Jose. It was a nice ride, wind blowing through the open windows. Upon entering the bus terminal in San Jose, I stepped out to get my bearings. It took me a good 15 minutes, however I picked up which way was north and east and headed down the Avenida Central. Much of it was a pedestrian only corridor with stores lining both sides. Street and avenue signs were sparse, and practically camouflaged into the buildings. I thought I was crazy, until a pretty girl in a tourist office confirmed there really aren't a lot of signs . I took comfort, and knew the grid system would make it fairly easy to learn my way around. I love people watching, and I'll got to do a lot. So far, people seem friendly. I got to Hostel Pangea, and got my dorm room for $9 (¢ 7,000). Now I'm catching up with my rest.
I had been so excited about the trip that I hadn't gotten much sleep in the past few nights. Last night, I was up until at least 12:30 am, meaning I probably got 4-5 hours sleep. I feel very sunburned already. I'm afraid to look. I could probably use a shower, and a nap. I'm exhausted. And hot. It's 89°F in the room. The room is quite small. Two bunk beds, and that's it. Still, there's nothing like the feeling of having that pack on your back. It feels good, back in the saddle, sweaty saddle! So, I think I'll pick up another night here so I can explore the city tomorrow, and plan my next stop. Or I may decide day trips are in order. Either way, I'm here to relax and take things as they come, not to stress about a plan and checklists of must-see, must-do activities. Yes, I already made one, it's just a guide though.
Cashed another $100 in traveler's checks, got a much better deal at the Bank of Costa Rica than the airport. I stopped in art gallery Arte Latino as I looked for food. There was one Nicaraguan painter who I really liked. However, his paintings were too big, therefore too costly ~ $500. I spotted a smaller set, and they're from a Costa Rican painter, who won international awards, a 70 year old woman ~ $100 cash. That I could do. Maybe bargain down a bit. Then a few steps away, music playing, open doors, the first soda I'm going to eat at. A ” soda”? is a modest restaurant. I ordered the chicken quesadilla. I love quesadillas. ¢3000 = $6, a splurge plus I got a beer. Well, why not. I'm taking it easy back at the hostel tonight. It's actually 7:17 pm EST, and I'm worn out. I really do need to take it easy on the first day or two, acclimatize myself to the tropical weather, the currency, language, whole scene! The walls are covered with pictures, old and new. Locals are at the bar. I'm the only gringo in here, probably because it's not in the tourist books. Ren and Stimpy is playing on TV. As the girl at the hostel recommended, small and humble is the way to go. I know I'm in good hands. It feels so easy time wise and late tiredness wise. I can feel the alcohol already. Today I've eaten: a banana, OJ, 2 bottled water, power bar, airline granola bar and pretzels. Not a hell of a lot! The shower before dinner felt great. Paktowel worked fine. I'm as perfectly happy in hostels at 28, as I was at 21. Not sure why my mom thinks that I would've changed. This trip is going to be a spiritual retreat as well as emotional and physical. That's why I had to bring a book on Buddhism – it ties together so well with staying present, and experiencing the moment.Dinner ¢ 420 Imperial Cerveza, Costa Rican national beer +¢ 3000 Chicken quesadilla with fries & salad ¢ 3460 + 10% surcharge ¢ 3762 or $9 bus = $ 1 hostel = $ 9 dinner = $ 9 toothbrush & razor = $ 3 $ 22 so far, day 1!
This of course doesn't include the $14 taxi to airport or the expensive airport food.