El Blog de San José #8
viernes, el 1 de enero 2016
La hora local: 19:50
Today was an absolute mess and for that reason I consider it to have been a fun adventure.
I finally got to try a Tamel today for breakfast, which I’ve been told is the Costa Rican version of a Tamali. Essentially, it’s whatever veggies, beans & rice (yep), and meat is lying around fried in some thick not quite tortilla like thing. Perhaps it was made of corn meal, I don’t know. There is no set of vocabulary I struggle with more than that of food, so I’ve become well acquainted with eating mystery dishes between Shanghai and San José.
I met my pair of traveling companions at the bus stop across the street from Maximo. We had a minor disagreement regarding which side of the street the Cartago bound buses pick up on and ultimately I was overruled into staying put. The first two buses to Cartago passed us by with out a second glance and it took us no less than half an hour to finally coax a bus into stopping for us with wild hand moving gestures.
Long story short, the bus took us to San José and not our desired location of Cartago. It would appear we had been waiting on the wrong side of the street after all. The driver informed us he would be off to Cartago in fifteen minutes, so as long as we paid our fare once again, we were welcome to wait.
We reached Cartago two hours later than planned via a road that revealed more mountains, streams and country side homes. The bus dropped us right off in front of the only open convenient store in town right across the street from the famous “Ruinas de Iglesia Parrogquial de Santiago Apostol” Ruins of the Temple of the Santiago Apostol Parish. Apparently the Temple has been destroyed repeatedly by earthquakes until they finally decided to give up on rebuilding it. It has remained in its current state of unfinished since 1910. The insides of the ruins were alight with gardens, fountains, a koi fish pond and even a live animal nativity scene.
The exit from the ruins dumped us onto Cartago’s main square from which we went on a hunt to find “The Basílica de Nuestra Señora de los Ángeles” The Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels. The towering white, gray and gold edifice was really something to behold, and the inside was arguably more impressive. The priest was amid mass, communion to be specific, and I was somewhat embarrassed that my travel companions were haphazardly shooting photos amid the religious ceremony. I suppose elegant Costa Rican churches are probably accustomed to it by now. One of my companions made a comment of how incredible it is that the Catholic churches in Costa Rica are as elaborate as they are while the living conditions and homes of the people are “less than desirable.” Thinking of my host family, I figured that people take pride in their worship and that they live comfortably enough to want to devote vast sums of money to the building and upkeep of these precious community spaces.
For lunch, I personally wanted to eat at RostiPollo, which is an amusingly titled chain restaurant, but I was over ruled into eating Casados (again) at a hole in the wall restaurant. While eating in the two-walled joint, we observed twenty cops on motorcycles and few police cars whiz by us clearly on their way to a big ordeal. Not sure what that was all about.
We decided we’d seen the “impressive” parts of Cartago and wanted an impromptu pit stop to Orosi, a village that looked like paradise on the internet. Next impossible task, finding the bus stop to take us there. The internet claimed that the bus stop was at the intersection of two roads that didn’t seem to exist. Although the roads running in either directions were numbered and appeared to roughly be going in ascending order, the numbers we needed were skipped in the ordering. Not helpful. The upside though is that we encountered a really cool “Tribunales de Justicia” Justic Tribunals building during our wanderings. At long last, we found a road with several buses waiting, including the one headed to Orosi. Within 30 minutes, we were weaving our way through the mountains just outside of Cartago. Passing farmlands, the Orosi look out point, rivers and valleys, we landed in Orosi around three o’clock.
I could tell my companions were visibly disappointed with the lack of activity in Orosi, but I was blown away by the variety of foliage enveloping the mountains that towered all around us. In the center of the village, teams were gathering for a game of Soccer and just beyond the field was yet another Catholic Church. Next to the Catholic Church was a starkly less impressive protestant church. Interesting contrast.
When we decided we’d exhausted Orosi, our new troubles extended from an attempt to find the bus back to Cartago. There didn’t seem to be any markers in the town denoting a “parada” bus stop. A kind, elderly lady directed us to the place she claimed to be la parada. As we waited there, people driving by would honk or shout a heavily accented “hi” or “hello” out the window. One truck even had a series of flashing lights to accompany the honk that acknowledged our presence. I must say, I am almost disappointed we stuck out so obviously as tourists. But it seems everyone in Orosi was prepared and at the ready to activate the gringo button.
At long last, the Cartago bound bus was racing towards us…. and then away from us, without stopping. I guess this makeshift bus stop was no good after all. So we trounced back the way we came until we encountered a Tico family who looked as though they were likewise seeking the bus to Cartago. When our trailing of the group was noticed, one of the young men to the young woman next to him declared “Hay Gringos aquí en Costa Rica” There are crazy white foreigners here in Costa Rica. To which I automatically responded “¿En serio? ¿Dónde?” Seriously? Where?
He seemed a bit surprised with my retort and made exclamations regarding my ability to speak Spanish. No apology though. I guess in Costa Rican country side, there is no commitment to the politically correct.
A small dog had drifted into the road and was smash by a car. Okay, so maybe that’s an over exaggeration. It screeched as its legs were run over by the front tire and howled once more as the second tire passed. The whole crowd of us, Tico and American, were verbalizing our distress at the sight with cries of “No” and “Por que” why.
I ended up near the guy who made the comment earlier and his family on the bus. Now that they knew I spoke Spanish, they wanted to know anything and everything about how I came to speak the language, what brought me to Costa Rica, what I thought of Costa Rica and where I come from. By the time they disembarked, I felt both thoroughly interrogated and content to have engaged with local people as we are so often encouraged to do. A glimpse at their “parade” revealed an interesting sign adhered to a store front which read “AA no es la entrada al cielo, sino la salida del infierno” Alcoholics Anonymous is not the entrance to heaven, but rather the exit from hell. Light reading at the bus stop, I suppose.
Of course, keeping with the trend, we struggled once again to find the bus stop that would aid us in getting from Cartago back to San José and each time we asked for directions, the responses kept sending us in different directions. Before we knew it, we’d landed ourselves in what seemed to be a somewhat sketchy part of town with the sun beginning to sink lower on the horizon. One of my friends asked a man on the motorcycle for further directions. We received them. The problem arose when motorcycle man’s friend in the green shirt decided to “help us” find the bus stop.
Now, Study Abroad Safety 101, Tourism for Dummies and the Idiot’s Guide to Being a Foreigner all reinforce one rule at the top of their lists; never, ever, NEVER let anyone lead you or offer to accompany you anywhere to find what you’re looking for. Remembering this as readily as looking both ways before crossing the street, I politely told the man that we were not in need of his help and that the directions were clear enough that we’d have no problems finding it ourselves. Then I told my companions in a low voice, in English, that we needed to briskly get out of there. The two of us women had taken off down the street with our token guy in the group on our tail. I could hear the man in the green shirt calling out after us. Then he began shouting “hermano, hermano!” brother calling after the boy in our little group. Don’t do it, don’t do it, I silently prayed, but there was no hope, I could hear the footsteps of our dear male friend slow to a stop as he turned to acknowledge the man. “Keep walking,” I hissed to the girl with me and we picked up the pace as our dear male friend was listening to the man in the green shirt suggest that he accompany him to his house near the bus stop. It wasn’t long before our companion was running towards us with the man in tow.
We carried on in this way for a few blocks with the man pursuing us. We passed a sweet Tico couple on the sidewalk we were traversing and the boy in our group pleaded to them in passing, begging them to keep the man from our trail. I personally didn’t think they were in a position to do much about it. We could see a line of bus stops across the street and I knew our best bet was to get there to shake our pursuant. But, he’d caught up and was now blocking our path to cross the road. “Hermano, debe venir a mi casa. Solo dos cientos metros aca y podemos tomar. Oye, no soy malo, solo quiero ayudarte” Brother, you should come to my house. It’s only 200 meters that way and we can eat and drink. Listen I’m not a bad person, I just want to help you. The interesting thing was, he didn’t seem particularly interested in us two girls, just the boy in our group, who by now looked rather white knuckled and freaked.
“Voy a llamar a la policía” I’m going to call the police said our dear male friend, pulling out his phone to complete the look of the threat. This didn’t really appear to shake the man who looked incredulous. “Oye,” said the girl with me. “Sabemos que eres buena persona, y nos ha ayudado mucho. Gracias por eso, pero él no puede ir a su casa” listen, we know that you’re a good person and that you have helped us a lot. Thank you for that, but he cannot go to your house. After which I chimed in “Exacto, Gracias por todo, y ahora tenemos que salir y es necesario que dejenos en paz” Exactly, thank you for everything and now we need to leave and its necessary that you leave us in peace.
With that, the man left us alone.
The bus stop that was our saving grace was huge and full of eight or so buses, many of which were headed to San José. A man boarding the bus jumped the sensor to convince the driver to let him avoid paying the fare and jumped it again on the way out the door. I swear, Costa Rican buses are something else. I prefer the Shanghai subway.