Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Finally Here!

Well, it was touch and go for a while there about whether I'd actually make it here, but I am, in fact, now in Costa Rica.  Last Sunday, the day I was supposed to fly from Ohio to Atlanta before my flight to Costa Rica the next morning, there was a huge "Thunder-snow" storm... in Atlanta ... En serio!? (seriously!?).  My flight was cancelled while I was heading to the airport, so while I was on hold with the airline for 2 hours and with my deodorant failing miserably I decided to drive instead.  The roads were completely clear by the time I got there and I stayed with Laura and Rob Craig that night so that Laura could get up with me at 4:30 the next morning (as if I needed one more reason to love her so much) and take me to the airport.  Everything's all good with the flights and I talked for 2 hours (in Spanish!) with this guy Rodrigo, from Costa Rica but living in Atlanta.  He reminded me of a much shorter version of my Grampy and Costa Ricans (bless them) speak very slowly.  Just when we're about to land, the pilot announces that the is a fire near the airport ("a bit out of control") and that luckily we have enough fuel to circle for a while, probably 15 minutes ... so 45 minutes later we land.  Christian is waiting for me, looking especially tall and handsome amongst the Costa Ricans, and we head to Brennan's house on a bus.  Brennan is a friend of a friend in Atlanta who is super cool and has travelled all over the world, but is settling (for now) in Costa Rica to be with his cute little girlfriend Farah.  He's given us the keys and free use of the apartment, so we drop off my stuff and are about to head out to see the city when ... I innocently shut the door and lock us out, with the keys and Christian's money and our passports inside.  The locks here are apparently not as crappy as they look because we couldn't pick it, despite the handle hanging on by a screw.  I have some money with me, so we head out to kill 6 hours until Brennan gets home.  Interesting fact about San Jose - apparently it's pretty safe during the day, but after it gets dark at 5:30, the whole city turns into 28 Days Later and it's not safe to walk around (especially sporting the whole gringo tourist, ugly sandal look we had going on).  It was about 4:30.  So first we go eat at this 50's style Soda (casual little restaurant) and the food is GREAT.  I had been a little worried about finding food to eat here, but it's so much easier than in the U.S.  There are really fresh fruits and vegetables everywhere, and really cheap, and the restaurants have food just like I would cook - beans, rice, eggs, fish.  There is bread here, but it's not as much of a staple, and ice cream is the biggest milk product I've seen around (and Costa Ricans must love ice cream because there are signs everywhere).  God, it's so good, and I haven't had any stomach problems since I've been here.  Another interesting little fact - the eggs here aren't refrigerated because apparently eggs don't actually need refrigerated and the only reason they are in the US is because they're given a steam cleaning that washes off the natural protective coating the have so THEN you have to refrigerate them.   So after we eat we have a little while before it turns dark so we walk along the main street trying to find something cheap to do, and then it gets dark and we get a cab to take us to a cine (movie theater).  We buy the tickets and are all excited until we turn around to see the Now Playing poster which is ...Brendan Frazier in the Spanish dubbed El Corazon de Tinto (Inkheart).  NOOOO!!  Could there have possibly been a worse movie playing?  Having already bought the tickets and having nowhere else to go, we suffered through it, but I can tell you (in case you were planning on seeing it) that it was probably better not being able to understand what they were saying and it was still terrible.  So then we were reading the guidebook, trying to figure out where we could go - tried an internet cafe and it was these itty-bitty little booths and there was no way we were getting both of our 6ft bodies in there, so then we tried a couple other places and were wasting cab money so we ended up in what is probably the most gringo bar in the city and ate again (it had been a big day) and tried over and over to call Brennan (his phone was dead and he said he'd had the thought for one fleeting moment that morning that he might need to charge it, but then thought Nah since he never really used it at work).  So we finally made it home and we hung out and talked to Brennan listening to Radiohead (he has great taste in music) and went to sleep.  It was a pretty rough night since we were sleeping on a wood floor, but beggars can't be choosers, so que serà serà.  The next day, yesterday, we got up, made an awesome breakfast of eggs, beans, avocado, tomato and pineapple (I'm just throwing caution to the wind with food but my stomach has been great here, muy fuerte (very strong)).  Then we went to the Museo de Oro Precolumbino (museum of Precolumbian Gold) and walked ALL around the city, just taking it all in.  There are people all over the place with blankets on the ground or little tables, yelling about everything for sale from Lottery Tickets to Bootleg DVDs to food.  The people are REALLY nice - patiently putting up with our broken Spanish and being very helpful with everything.  The sidewalks are really unpredictable and you have to watch where you're walking all the time because there might be an 8 foot deep hole big enough to fall into (real example) just right in the middle of it.  The drivers and pedestrians are both crazy because vehicles hit the breaks and stop on a dime, about 6 inches from the next bumper, and people would never be able to cross the street if they waited for an opening so they just don't and walk out into the street.  Everyone seems to know what they're doing though, and I haven't seen anyone hit yet.  Then last night we went out with Brennan (and Farah met us later) to this really great Lebanese restaurant called Lubnan where Brennan was very popular (we went in through the back door - that's how in he was) and sat around, drinking, smoking a hookah, and eating hummus for hours and hours, talking about everything from Brennan's new ironic mustache for March Mustache Madness at his job to culture to politics to families to everything.  It was so great, and we came home exhausted and crashed out on the wood floor until now, when I'm writing this and Christian is cooking us another awesome breakfast.  I'll keep you updated and try to figure out how to put pictures up - although I can tell you the pictures don't do the scenery justice.  We're surrounded by mountains, flowering trees and plants everywhere, and everything from crumbling historic buildings to crazy Bladerunner looking ones. So far so good.

1 comment:

  1. "but after it gets dark at 5:30, the whole city turns into 28 Days Later" is the best line ever. The trip sounds incredible so far. More. More!!



Chuchi - this is probably my new most popular word. It means snobby or fancy, but is used in the Peace Corps as anything nicer than dirt roads and shacks, or for a person, anyone who showers with hot water. Living in the city, I am super chuchi for here.

Fuerte - literally means strong, but because the culture is based on talking around everything, it´s when a person says anything they want in a direct way - it means asshole

Puede ser and otro dia - literally means "could be" or "another day", but because noone will directly blow someone off, both of them mean "never" and are the answer to a question of when something will happen

Deseas, en tus sueños, Que Arriba Perra/o and Es lo qué es - these are the terrible translations of American sayings that are not used here and don´t really translate, but we say them anyway. Literally they mean "you wish", "in your dreams", "What´s up bitch/dog?" and "it is what it is"

Qué guapa - this means "what a hard worker" and is used by Paraguayans every time I do ANYTHING manual, including carrying a dish to the sink or sweeping out my room. I don´t think they have high expectations for Americans and work.

Saludos - sending saludos by way of a mutual friend is how people tell each other they have a crush on them. The most serious kinds are given with a pinch on the arm and they mean business.

Thumbs up - this is done everywhere here and is a simple answer to pretty much any question. I will probably have carpal tunel in my thumbs when I leave here because I do this so much.

No se como comer esta - this is how one refuses food in Paraguay. Literally, it´s "I don´t know how to eat this" which creates an internal struggle for me each time it´s said because I want to be a smartass and explain that, just like any other food, you put in in your mouth and chew, but I don´t think that´s acceptable here.

No Más and Un poco - this is said after almost every phrase for no real reason other than to make everything sound like it´s not a big deal, even when it really is. Literally, it´s "No More" and "A Little", so the translations are something like "Sit down no more", "Come here a little", and "Do you want dinner no more?"

Cocido - this is a hot drink mixed by carmellizing sugar with a little yerba, adding just enough water to wet it, and then adding more sugar. It´s served by the thermos-full just before bed.

Mosto - this is to sugar what crack is to cocaine. It´s a "tradional" drink capable of putting even the sweetest tooth into a diabetic coma, and is served continuously at fun gatherings like funerals.

Ch-ch-ch-ch - this is the sound Paraguayans make to get each others´attention - like "Psst" . It´s especially used for catcalling, and they have nothing to follow it with - they just want you to look.