Updated: Mar 6, 2018
Many attempts at avoiding the capital resulted in failure, and to my expected dismay, it was as terrible as anticipated.
November 17, 2015
I stood on the corner as a man totally encapsulated in a tattered and torn assemblage of what only could be described as bags of sewage crossed my path.
Stepping off the bus I landed into a chaos of smells, debris, cacophony of noises, beggars, peddlers, people shouting from all directions. I stood on the corner as a man totally encapsulated in a tattered and torn assemblage of what only could be described as bags of sewage crossed my path.
As I was distracted by the shitman and everything else, a 'man' with big, bright, pink lips, short-shorts and a neon-green tank top with exposed, womanly breasts goes by.
If there was a moment for one of those sci-fi devices that collapses a person into thin air to then magically teleport them to somewhere else, this would be the moment I fire down quick and hard on the button to do so. I did not work, and so I had to climb and scramble my way through the clamor and confusion.
Street carts half selling cell phone cases and fruits clogged my path. People by the dozens in every square inch heaving trash onto the already littered streets. Grinding, sawing construction buzzing in your ears. Streets seemingly unable to permit flow of traffic have taxis rushing and honking to get through. Trucks parked along the sides blocking most the space and motor bikes whizzing between.
Every reason of why I wanted to avoid this place was now manifesting itself into extremes I could not have imagined beforehand. Finally, after charging through the ground zero of this city's shit storm nightmare I got into the barrio of San Pedro.
(a barrio is a small neighborhood, often cities are sub-divided in this way)
The crowds and vendors went away. The traffic didn't subside, but the energy had gone down considerably. I clambered up the hills to find my way to the hostel. There was a park square there and was just enough to say, "Okay, someone here gave a thought about some semblance of visual pleasure." A respite from the burnt out avenues of barbed wire and just.. filthy coating of grime and debris.
The people seemed old and fat if not young and dressed like trendy skaters. The women were short and a lot of people smoked. It was a city I felt empathy for. Lost in decrepit isolation. This was supposed to be Costa Rica's capital and it was overtaken by a lackluster care for the space one existed in.
It didn't get any better when I got to the hostel either. Granted the moment I pass through a doorway and the hosts greet me saying to come in and those draining packs can come off my back is usually the best feeling of the day.
I was also met with a steady flow of animals. There was Bouncy. A fat, black, well.. bouncy is the only word to describe this dog. He was cute, but had fleas and would split his attention between bouncing around playing and chewing his tail or rubbing his butt back and forth on the chairs to itch himself.
There was Lilly, a big, long-haired, collie-retriever type dog with a steady, composed face that read as peaceful. A litany of cats that came and was still being introduced to new ones until I left the next day. And the host herself, Alexandria, from Germany. She was warm and inviting with her long blonde hair and big grin. She also hands-down gets the award for best laugh. It was like thunder, starting light and distant, then building to a crescendo before trailing off.
I'd been having a lot of issues with the cost of food during my time in CR, but heard from everyone the larger the city the cheaper it gets. I thought so too, but it just didn't seem to be the case. I hunted and hunted just to get a good deal on platanos, which are basically the staple produce of the country, and could find nothing but ridiculous prices or hangers of goopy, black, fly-covered nastiness to buy. I managed to find what I needed, but it took walking the usual arduous 7-8km without much sustenance to save a few scruples and get the best deals.
(platanos are plantains. Often cooked as either maduro (ripened) or verde (green))
By the time I made it back to the apartment, my legs were ready to collapse. I cooked dinner and headed to shower. Of course the place reeked of foul body oder and feline aromas. A cat had pooped in the shower and a cockroach crawled over my underwear as I hung it on the rack. There were dirty clothes spilling over a crate and it was all making my insides squirm, wishing I had that button working to take me away from this place and back to the beach. If at least it were a baño rustico alongside the outdoor camping grounds I was at.. Sure, bring on the scary movie scene, but this were someone's living quarters and it's just hard to follow where all the muddy cat prints take your eyes and then to also be in those smells.
Alexandria does do a lot of charitable work with the strays by taking them in and placing them with homes, which is commendable. And offering a place to stay on the cheap, well that's commendable too. It just fell below the standards for what one would expect for an interior dwelling. Though by the time I hit the bed and finally inside a room that wasn't sweltering, causing me to sweat into the mattress, I think I finally had my best night of sleep yet. And when I awoke, sore to bits but so thoroughly rested, Alexandria had prepared the most scrumptious breakfast I'd had.
Fresh coffee, homemade German-recipe bread, homemade cinnamon sugar begnie (sp?) which is basically like a little French donut. A fruit spread that was as delicious visually as it was in taste. Chopped carrots and tomatoes with cream cheese. It was fantastic. She helped me with directions for taking the different buses and out the door I went to finish up San José and head North to beautiful, Vulcán Arenal!
(a baño rustico is a rustic bathroom. Often consisting of unfinished floors and walls)