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Costa Rica Travels Part Two: The Way to San Jose

March 18, 2011

Downtown San Jose
San Jose street

San Salvador welcomed me with a tiny, stinky airport bathroom with 2 out of 3 toilets not working. Bienvenidos a Centroamerica! As much as I like to complain about my US homeland, I must admit that we truly rock at plumbing.

From San Salvador to San Jose in Costa Rica is a one-hour flight. I arrived tired, literally red-eyed and feeling like I had been beaten with a stick. Waiting for luggage felt like it took four hours, but it always does, right?

It’s always the same – the waiting, the circling, the mistaken luggage sightings, the inevitable annoying French couple and their annoying, perfect little French offspring and their well-made cute luggage.

I let myself get reamed a little at the airport money changer with the crappy exchange rate, covering my bases in case I couldn’t find CC and had to take a taxi somewhere, even though I didn’t know where that would be since in Costa Rica they do not have street addresses. I am not making this up. No street addresses. For instance, my hosts’ address is “Go to the (name of the) shopping center, go 10 meters northeast, turn left, go 50 meters east, turn right, second house on the right.”

I asked Doña A. how they get mail and she said “We have a PO Box. I have no idea what other people do.” Doña A. is Salvadoran and thinks the no addresses thing is wacky.

I emerged from the airport into the moist Costa Rican air at the pickup area to find CC and Don E. smiling and waving. Oh, wait, no I didn’t! I emerged to find overly helpful taxi drivers and…no one.

Ha ha! My favorite scenario – barely awake in a foreign country with no one to pick me up and no idea where I am supposed to go. I freaked the hell out for about two minutes, then peeled myself off the ceiling, found a nice clean bathroom, splashed cold water on my face and went out to call Don E’s cell phone.

Once I figured out the phone and the 8-digit phone number, Don E. said they were about 15 minutes away because traffic was bad, so I passed the time speaking bad Spanish with a guy who hangs out at the airport waiting to help people with their bags.

CC and Don E. showed up in a Toyota 4-runner. The little airport guy helped me hustle my bags and got a tip for the effort. He sent me off with a “Pura vida!” the national saying of Costa Rica and the first of many, many times I was to hear it over the next 10 days.

It’s really a sweet thing, a national saying that can express so much – good wishes, happiness, excitement, good-bye…People say it ALL the time. I wonder what our national saying would be in the US.

Costa Rica driving and traffic reminded me of being in Mexico, with smoke-belching buses and manic, lane-hopping taxi drivers. The difference was that there are coffee plants RIGHT there by the side of the road. I gaped as if I had never seen a plant before. Coffee! Right there! Why it should be so stunning to me that coffee comes from somewhere, I don’t know, but I was impressed.

I was happy to be back in a Latino country. I love the lively streets with the stores open right to the sidewalks, the people hanging outside, the crazy mix of restaurants next to tire stores next to lumberyards – everything feels so filled with life.

Grecia town square

Eduardo and Alba's House
CC unlocking the security gate at the home where we stayed.

Our hosts live in a lovely, bright modern home where they rent rooms to Spanish students like CC. They welcomed me in, fed me toast and fruit, and sent me off to bed for about 4 hours of complete collapse. Costa Rica would have to wait.

  1. March 18, 2011 19:36

    Yes “Pura Vida” encapsulates not only a way of life in Costa Rica, but a national mindset. Kind of an explanation of the Costa Rican live and let live philosophy that permits and even encourages a melding of cultures for the world over.

    – Tee

    Tee is the founder and senior editor of Costa Rica CLOSEUP a Travel Guide to Costa Rica with Events, Articles and Information for everyone traveling, retiring and/or purchasing real estate in Costa Rica. Please visit for more information.

  2. billygean permalink
    March 19, 2011 04:32

    Good pics!!


  3. March 19, 2011 12:08

    Thanks, darlin’

  4. March 27, 2011 21:32

    Pura vida. That is lovely. I have trouble picking one mantra just for me, and they can do it for a whole country.

    • March 28, 2011 18:22

      People really say it all the time. Walking down the street, I would overhear it in conversation – once twice within 2 minutes.

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