Costa Rica Trip
Also, in English-speaking countries, when I think someone is ripping me off, I have absolutely no problem saying so. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to say “I don’t think so, guy” in Spanish. Often it didn’t fully occur to us that we were getting porked until after. Just after we bought a $19 six pack of rotten Corona, Leigh said, “I’m not sure what just happened there.” Well, we know now. It was a holy day, so we were thankful that the guy was selling us beer. He told us not to tell anyone where we got it, so we thought he was doing us a favor. When we saw the total, we didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so we paid it. It did not taste good. Normally, in order for me to dump a beer, I would have to find a finger or a mouse carcass in it. It did not pain me in the least to dump this batch, even though it was the most expensive beer I've ever bought in a store, I think.
But I'm getting ahead of myself somewhat.The first night was not too impressive. We ate at a restaurant by the ocean. The beer (Pilsen) was not good (not tainted like the Corona -- rather, it just wasn't a good beer), and the food was very salty and greasy. The service was not at all good, and the power kept going out. The first time the power went out, we looked around, and the girl at the next table – said to her friend, “Only the Americans notice when the power goes out.” First of all, how does she know who’s American? People from many countries can look an awful lot alike. Second, I bet the restaurant's workers notice when the power goes out, especially when they’re reaching into a deep fryer, you dumbass. Third, even though power outages are not uncommon there, there is no indication when they’re about to happen, so even the locals can be somewhat nonplussed by the sudden change. Last, and probably most important, she is American. If you’re going to say condescending things about a group, try not to be part of it. Anyway, the next time the power went out, I said, “OH MY GOD – WHAT’S HAPPENING?!” Oddly, Leigh wasn't as amused as I was.
The hotel room wasn’t as bad as I expected. It had a walk-in safe, a balcony (not private, but decent) with a bench wide enough for 1½ people. The water was solar-heated, and collected – at least to an extent – in vats on the roofs. The solar heaters were the real deal, not just black hose in a glass case, although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The water was a little chilly on the cloudy days, but it was still an impressive setup, and I would love to see more of that here. There were two parts to the hotel: The new part – where we stayed, and from which you could see a tiny bit of the ocean if you were looking for it – and the old part, which had a great view, but was scary. I think the cleaners live there, and we felt rather unwelcome when we went up to use the pool. The interesting part is that in its web site, the hotel photoshopped the two hotels so that it appeared that the new hotel has a great view of the Pacific. You can tell it’s edited, because the horizon doesn’t quite match the building. You can see their handiwork at http://www.hotelcocobeach.com/our_hotel.html. The picture above is the hotel as it actually appears (at sunset).
My favorite part of the trip was the beach. I body surfed, which is quite exhilarating. The last time we were at the beach, some of the waves were at least ten to twelve feet high. We ended up diving under some of those, rather than dying under them, thankfully. I passed a lot of salt water through my sinuses, which actually felt pretty good later. A couple hours later, in the hotel, I leaned over to open the fridge, and a little water dripped out of my nose.
I also thoroughly enjoyed sitting on our balcony one night, drinking a box of wine (we're classy) and watching the various goings-on, and making fun of the girls downstairs who talked like Fran Drescher. They were pretty rude to the hotel workers. Everywhere I travel, I feel like I have to be extra nice to make up for the other tourists (and not just the Americans). Most of the other tourists were actually pretty nice, or at least seemed it, but these girls were embarrassing. We were also glad to have the balcony when there was a downpour one morning. That was relaxing. I’m glad the snotty girl from the restaurant wasn’t next to us, saying, “Only Americans think this is a downpour. Gawd.” I should give her a break, I guess.
A few days in, Leigh got sick – probably because she ate part of the greasiest meal I’ve ever seen (when I pressed my fork into a carrot slice on her plate, about a tablespoon of oil oozed out of it), and I didn’t feel great, so I read on the balcony a lot. The book was really good, and the weather was pretty rainy, so I enjoyed the time, although I felt bad for Leigh. The restaurant was El Gato Negro, which I think is Spanish for "the Warm Toilet." Not sure. Either way, it’s my turn now. I’m sick today, but I’m not sure where that came from, unless it was the BK King Fish Sandwich in the San Jose airport. Everything about it seemed like a bad idea, but I was really hungry. At least I was okay on the plane.
One drizzly morning we went to Manuel Antonio National Park. We paid a guy to let us cross a tiny rivulet in his boat (the boat didn't actually move -- we entered the back of it, then got off the front of it, a privilege that cost us $2), thinking at first that it was the entrance to the park. That was another time when a better knowledge of Spanish would have helped. Leigh is pretty good at Spanish, so we did all right, but most of the transactions weren’t clear to me until after the fact. I'm fairly sure I looked like a nodding, smiling dope most of the time. Anyway, we watched some monkeys for a while, which was well worth the admission. We also saw a creature that had the head of a squirrel, and the cat-sized body of a rabbit or kangaroo and it hopped. (Leigh found out later it was an agouti) We hiked up to the overlook, got some pics, and moved on.
The flight was my first time in a puddlejumper. Not as bad as I expected, but it got my attention when the tail started moving to and fro. It felt like the plane would spin around at one point. The landings also got my full attention. The scenery was beautiful, though. Costa Rica is mountainous with dirt roads forming veins along the ridges of the hills. Costly homes with pools, patios, etc., were often next to shanties. It was also cloudy, but spottily so, so the clouds themselves were often striking scenery. The San Jose airport was quite a treat. When we arrived, we tipped a taxi driver $5 on a $1 fare, thinking he drove fast to get us to the Sansa Airlines (the puddlejumper). We then realized it was actually a different building in the same airport, and was about a two minute walk. And they sold our tickets (we had reservations) and we had to wait an hour and a half for the next plane anyway. Lesson learned.
Anyway, we're glad we went, but I'm pretty sure we're done with international travel for a little while. I feel a little embarrassed that we prefer the comforts of the U.S. It makes us seem somewhat unenlightened, especially since everyone we know who went to Costa Rica loved it. I think that when I'm on vacation, I don't want to be in survival mode. I don't want to think too much about how to do what we need to do. I don't want everything to be a production. I like to sit in the sun, play in the water, read, eat & drink, etc. Thinking too much more than that makes it feel like less of a vacation. Well, whatever. This picture is of NYC on the flight home.
Other pictures from our trip can be seen at