Before heading off on this trek to the three crosses in Alajuelita, I should have done some research about the endurance and strength needed to accomplish this hike. However, I didn’t.
When my roommate said that she was going on a hike, I don’t know what I was thinking. For some reason I thought it would be similar to my so called “hiking” that I did in Austin, which was more of me walking along side a river. Instead, it was more like the trails I went on in Wyoming, except without the convenience of stairs and paved paths. So one of our co-workers, his friend, Sydney, and I traveled from San Pedro to the town of Alajuelita, which is about a 30 minute bus ride from San Jose. (The total transportation time from San Pedro to Alajuelita is about 45 minutes.) Our original plan was to meet in San Jose at 8:30, but considering it’s a Saturday and we’re running on Tico Time we didn’t end up getting there until about an hour later.
Here is my roommate and I at the beginning of the trip. As you can see, I have a huge smile, my hair is down, and I’m pumped to begin:
The hike was challenging but my Lord, the views were beautiful!
So when I thought of Costa Rica, I thought of the river rafting and hiking and volcanoes and beaches. These are the adventures I envisioned. What I never would have guessed is that my most adventurous night would involve me scaling the wall of my own apartment so that my roommate and I could get back into our home. However, this is exactly what happened.
My roommate and I were making a short trip to Mas x Menos when we locked ourselves out of the apartment. We’re usually extra careful about making sure one of us has a set of keys. However, tonight I closed the door before asking if we had keys. I only grabbed my wallet and Sydney fished around in her bag only to discover that she didn’t have the keys either.
However, we had thought that this scenario could occur, so we had prepared for it. We had left a spare set of keys at Maximo. We were saved! Until Sydney told me that she had needed the spare keys earlier this week so they were in her room at this very moment.
We sat outside our door for a second, puzzling over what to do. We then scoped the walls to see if we could find a low enough spot to climb over and reach our little patio. Thank god for genetics because we needed Sydney’s height & strength and my left hand & cheerleading skills.
I climbed onto Sydney’s shoulders then grabbed the wall. After, Sydney grabbed my feet and started lifting me up the wall. I locked my legs and let her lift me until I could reach the roof. With her help I hoisted myself over the wall and onto the roof. Once I reached our patio I had to deal with the door. There was a narrow space between the iron door frame and the wall so I slipped my left hand through and opened the door from the inside.
The way I’m retelling the story makes it sound so easy but it was so scary. In the moment, my adrenaline was pumping very quickly and my heart was racing. Now that my body has calmed down I have this overwhelming empowering feeling. It feels incredible to have accomplished something so dangerous. I feel like now that we know that we can get into our room without a key we’re probably going to be more lax when it comes to remembering our keys.
The trip started off a little rocky when I got my camera and money stolen on the bus. Now I know how to handle that situation better. However, at the time, I was still the very naive College Station girl who is used to leaving her laptop out in the library when she went to the rest room and being able to return to it when she got back. So unfortunately, I learned how to keep a better eye on my stuff the hard way. Thankfully my roommate went with me so I had access to more money and still got some great pictures from the trip because she had her camera.
The rest of the trip was awesome. We got to Granada, Nicaragua at around 8:30PM and stayed in a very cheap, but also very sketchy looking hostel. I think it was around $8 a night and the facilities were nice enough but they didn’t have anywhere for us to lock up our stuff. After the first night, we traveled a bit farther into Nicaragua and ended up staying in these really precious looking huts that overlooked a beautifully clear lake. It was almost too clear because you could see everything in the lake, which made me uncomfortable at times because I don’t mind fish being close to me, but I’d rather not know it. The place had tubes we could use so I chilled out on the lake for awhile and I had a book to read so it was peaceful and relaxing.
So I know that robbery is a concern here, but I hadn’t heard about anyone that I knew, like really knew, getting robbed here. That is until today. One of the teachers got robbed last night. She lost her passport and $50 because she had just gone to the bank earlier that day. So I retract my recent comment about wishing I had my Aggie ring. I’m glad I left it safely at home.
But back to the teacher. She got robbed right outside her own gate. She was literally right outside her door when this person came by on a motorcycle with a knife. So now she is at the U.S. embassy today having to buy another passport (an $130 purchase!) and canceling her credit card (that she just received in the mail.) This all happened at 8:30 last night, so not even at a sketchy time.
On to more positive news, I finally found some chicken at the grocery store, Auto Mercado, (This place is a bit more expensive than Mas x Menos, and way more expensive than Pequeño Mundo, but their selection and quality is well worth the price.) that looked edible. So tonight marks the first night I’ve prepared a meal with meat here. Besides the occasional going out to eat to order meat, I’ve been living off of pasta, rice, beans, and vegetables. Last night I baked some mangos (or as their called here: mangas. Apparently mangos are something else.) to go with my breaded chicken and it was quite a good little combination.
It’s my first two-day weekend and I just returned from Jaco (one of the beaches that’s about a two hour bus ride from San Jose.) I can’t say that it was the pretiest thing I’ve ever seen. Honestly it was actually kind of anticlimactic, but it was a nice getaway from the inner city. With a book (borrowed from my roommate) and a beach towel (also from my roommate) I set off by myself to Jaco where I saw many Americans and lots of beach front hotels. It kind of ruined the atmosphere of being in Costa Rica if you ask me. I had heard that Jaco was touristy but I didn’t expect it to feel so much like the States. I’m glad I only made it a day trip because I think I would’ve been really disappointed if I had planned to stay the entire weekend. But enough of me being negative, the trip was nice. I watched surfers out on the waves and listened to the sound of the ocean. It was quite relaxing despite the overcast sky and extreme heat. I’m glad I don’t live near the beach because the constant sticky feeling plus no A/C does not exactly mix well with me. Plus the water sort of reminded me of Galveston. Sorry I said no more negativity. Let me start again, it’s if not pretty, at least convenient.
When I returned back to my apartment I found Sydney hard at work labeling our apartment in Spanish. We had been talking about doing this for awhile, but I didn’t think we’d actually ever get around to doing it. Plus, I wasn’t so sure how dedicated Sydney was to learning Spanish. (Her end goal is to get to an Asian speaking country to teach English, so she did not come to Costa Rica to learn Spanish. Costa Rica was just a place that she could gain job experience so she had something on her resume before Asia.)
But I have to say I love the labeled utensils, furniture and walls. It puts me in the mood to study Spanish. Now we don’t even need decorations, the colored papers splayed across our rooms works just fine.
Smile and Be Happy
Our Phrase of the Day Wall
Our ‘Where is the bathroom?’ sign located conveniently on our bathroom door
I would’ve helped her with the labeling, but I found myself being invited to dinner by some of the UCR foreign exchange students that I had met during my time at the hostel. The dinner was really good (It was some El Salvador dish that I’ve already forgotten the name of.) It’s really nice to have a group of people to hang out with again. I miss that from back home.
And one last thing before I go, I finally listened to my dad’s advice the other day and called a local bar to see if they had the CBS channel so that I could watch the Alabama vs. A&M game. It turns out they have the channel. I had been postponing asking around because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Thankfully my dad was persistent, so come September 14th I’ll be at Reventados watching my Aggies BTHO Alabama!
So let me catch you up on my life as of right now.
I recently mastered the art of making gallo pinto (which is a typical dish of Costa Rica including none other than the popular staples, rice and beans)! And when I say mastered I mean I finally didn’t burn the beans and I now understand how to cook rice— the rice goes into a pot of water not straight into a frying pan.
After scouring the internet for recipes, asking about six different students, and attempting the recipe about three different times on my own, I finally made the dish that is typically served for breakfast. It takes a total of about three hours to make and that’s not including the amount of time it takes to soak the beans.
I will never complain about not having instant rice again! Rice here is the easy part. Thirty minutes becomes a piece of cake when comparing it to the beans. You have to soak the beans over night in water, and then cook them for about three hours. My roommate has since informed me that they do have pre-made beans here, so after I finish off my bag of raw beans I will be spending the extra money for the beans that are already cooked!
I also recently experienced my first Costa Rican sunburn. Apparently not wearing sunscreen and laying out on top of a metal roof is not a good combination here. I figured since it was their winter season and pretty cloudy yesterday that I wouldn’t have to worry about protecting myself from the sun. I was wrong.