I may actually make it to Kenya! Which means I may actually make it to Washington DC for a connecting flight eventually. And that is something I no longer take for granted! But let’s backtrack to where this whole uncertainty started…
Was it when I found myself on a random bus into San Jose that I failed to properly identify before boarding? Or was it when I found myself in a market in San Jose meeting a sketchy man who seemed ready to take all I had in whatever way he had to get it? Was it when I got on a three-hour bus ride through the middle of the jungle? How about when I simultaneously missed three connecting flights? All of these things cast some serious concerns on how and when I would actually make my final destination.
On Saturday, after dropping off the Delgadillos, I went to La Guardia to drop off my behemoth of a bag and that’s where I left off- no plans, no commitments. I walked through the city of Alajuerta until around four. That’s when I began asking for directions. I was directed to a bus headed for San Jose. This was after being explicitly instructed NOT to hitchhike. In a rush to board before the bus left, I failed to make note of where I boarded. This would prove unfortunate in about twenty-two hours.
Once in San Jose, I found the little town quite charming. I made my way to a local market, where I met a sketchy man. He persisted at asking me questions about money, about America, about friends and family. I forget the specifics of the dialogue, but in my memory it goes something like this (in broken English): “Halo. You speake englis? You hab monay to gib me? You hav famly, friend, know you gone? You lib in Los Estados? Ebryone rich? I can help!” I felt like telling him I didn’t need any help. But I really did. I was trying to make it to Limon on the Caribbean coast. I asked plenty of people for directions, all of whom recommended cabs, which I certainly didn’t have the money for that. And after two other people requested that I avoid hitchhiking, I was not about to do that. This man was willing to help and he knew the area. I was careful to stay in the public market while we walked and talked. After about thirty minutes, I decided this man was, in fact, just a helpful Costa Rican. His name is Antonio, and he lived in Los Angeles. And he turned out to be very helpful. He even helped me get to the bus terminal, a task that he told me would be dangerous at night for a lone American traveler like myself. I bought tickets and said farewells with my new Costa Rican friend, including an email exchange. For only five dollars, I was on a bus and on my way to Limon.
The bus took us on a winding road through thick jungle and villages. It came to my attention that San Jose serves as a strict boundary line. West of the city, where we had spent the previous week, is well-kept, wealthy, healthy, and tourist friendly. East of the city is jungle and third world. After three hours on the bus we were in Limon. Most of the people here are African-err-Costa Rican. (Let me just be an ignorant American for a second. What is the politically correct term for black people in Costa Rica?) They know how to have fun, in the worldliest sense. I found a bustling market, still very alive at 12am. There were crafts, fair amusements, a concert, and the Caribbean coastline. After wandering for a bit, I decided to find a room. Communicating was hard, because the Spanish spoken on the Caribbean Coast is not like other dialects. Think Rasta meets Jamaican meets the Spanish language. I finally negotiated a room at $8. As far as amenities go, I overpaid. But the experience was priceless. I was shown to room number 28. The room was 6’x6’ and probably twice as tall as it was wide or long. About 8’ up the walls began a mesh type substance, which was all that was separating me from my hall-mates and the blaring TV in the lobby. There was one, smaller-than-twin, hard, vinyl bed with one sheet, and one two by two table with a chair. The bathroom was a number of small shower rooms and toilet rooms with communal sinks. The shower had one temperature: on. After showering, I got in bed and tried to fall asleep to the boisterous TV and equally boisterous fighting couple outside my room. In the morning the owner was still in the lobby watching TV. He made his 7 year old daughter check me out. I looked around Limon for a while, and tried to go to Church, which was in a soccer stadium and was rained out.
Then I made my way back to San Jose. I got back around 11am and looked around for a bit. That city has some great parks and cathedrals! After a few hours I headed back toward Alajuerta. I had no idea where to go once I got here. I tried helplessly for about an hour to get back to La Guardia, but all I had as a reference was a small business card with the name of a park nearby. Keep in mind that streets rarely have names and addresses rarely have…well…addresses. Finally, I found my way back to the square that La Guardia was on. I found that there was a nice little bread-and-breakfast-esqu hostel for only $12 in the same square. I spent the night and a lot of the next day there, because there was a nice balcony and common room.
I met a few more friends who invited me to travel with them in the near future. I also explored the town a little more before leaving at 1pm to go to the airport and catch my 5:25pm flight.
However, it became clear at around 5:25pm that the flight would not be on time, contrary to the desk attendants assurances at 5 and 5:15. The terminal became a madhouse as the sixty other people also began to realize the situation. Of course no one was staying in El Salvador, but since TACA had booked no more than thirty minute layovers for all connecting flights, we were all going to be missing connections. Unfortunately for me, this meant I would also miss my connection to Ethiopia in DC and then to Mombasa from there. We flew to El Salvador three hours late, and waited for the immigrations officers, who had already left for the night, to come back to the airport. We looked like a hostage situation as we were led out of a small terminal waiting room one by one by officials thirty minutes later.
It wasn’t all bad though. TACA paid for our forty-five minute transport and dinner at the nicest hotel I have ever set foot in in San Salvador. The meal was amazing, and I learned that El Salvadorian food is much more flavorful than Costa Rican food. It is also more distinct to El Salvador than Costa Rican food is distinct to Costa Rica. I toured the grand facility and then went to sleep in my king-sized bed. We woke up bright and early at 6am to take a sunrise tour back to the airport. Surprise!!! There was another delay on the flight to DC. I finally boarded and am now on my way, and praying for no more hold ups!