Monday, March 9, 2009

Pura Vida!

To start things off, I realized that I didn't explain the way I ended the last entry--"pura vida."  This is Costa Rican's national motto.  It can mean practically anything. 
 -Como está?  -Pura vida!
-Nice weather we're having  -Pura vida!
-I think I broke this, oh no, I'm so sorry!  Ah, what are we gonna do!?  -No importa, pura vida!
 -No comprendo...  -Ay, pues pura vida!   
Shows you how friendly the culture is here, I think, and it excites me that I'm finally starting to get the hang of when to say it (whenever your mouth isn't busy eating or breathing).  Let's get on with the rest of the blog, shall we?  Pura vida!

I just finished my first week and second weekend here.  I miss my friends and family a lot a lot, and since I'm only taking 1 class this month, I've actually had a bit of boring downtime  (I fill it yacking your virtual ears off, my apologies).   My class, avanzado 1, is not too hard for me, but it iiiis WAY TOO LONG.  Four hours every day that start at 8 doing nothing but speak Spanish is pretty exhausting.  Mostly our focus has been on dichos, or sayings, that are common in Costa Rica, especially among the youth.  It's been helpful at times, and interesting to see some of the cute proverbs (that's not the right word, but it's all I can think of) they use in Spanish.  My only concern is that there are almost 100 of them.  Actually there might be one hundred of them, I haven't actually counted, but to give you a sense of the mass, when I've asked my host mom to explain a new set of them each night, she's gotten increasingly hostile.  The last bunch, which was only of 10 but followed a set of 54, was defined to me with examples like, "Oh, that's like when your teacher asks you to do so many dichos," and "That's what you say when something's  impossible, like learning too many dichos."  One word she didn't even define with anything BUT such an example, and told me just to tell my teacher what she had said.  Ay ay ay!  I didn't, don't worry, but I do fear the quiz on them all tomorrow, and my midterm Friday.  But I'll get it done, pura vida!

As for what I've done this first week: not a whole lot.  If I'm completely honest, I have to say I'm not thrilled with my roommate assignment (oh well, pura vida, right?).  I just don't feel we click (like at all!) (though I think she feels we do...), and often I'd rather not spend my time with her.  That said, I don't know many other people here yet because I am doing early start and living at a homestay.  This means all the people in my class have been here for 2 or 3 months and have no desire for more friends.  Basically I haven't a lot of people to do things with in the afternoon.

  I do feel guilty for not walking around more on my own.  They keep driving home the point that San Jose is peligroso, take out your earrings when you walk around there, don't be about after dark, taqua taqua taqua taqua (that's instead of blah blah blah blah here).  But I haven't felt threatened at all.  People say that about U.City, but I walk around at night all the time, right?  I told my other roommate, who's in her 3rd month here, how I was feeling.  "Yea, but don't get lulled into a false sense of security," she said.  They call this Paradise Syndrome.  "A couple of weeks ago a girl was walking to school at 2 in the afternoon and a man tried to rob her.  There were security guards around, and all.  He just walked up, put his arm around her as though they were friends, and discreetly pulled out a knife, too, asking for her computer."  I don't know exactly how it ended, maybe the man saw there were too many people around, maybe he believed her that she didn't have anything to steal (she didn't!), but she walked away fine.  The only other incident was when a student took out his computer at a busstop like an idiot and a man pulled a gun on him.  But he was okay, too, still has his computer, and can recognize it was totally his fault.  Anyway, long story short, I keep my computer at home and don't go out very far alone, especially not at night.

What I haaaaaave done is go to a travel agent A BILLION times (thanks a lot, Tico time!--I'll explain later) to plan a visit with my friend, Anna, WHO IS COMING THIS FRIDAYYYY!!!! AH!!  I have big plans for her, some of which she knows about as I write this, and I'm super excited to be in a place that offers such interesting things to do at such reasonable prices.  I have walked to the mall, which is ENORMOUS, over priced, and overwhelming.  I've walked once more to the downtown-downtown area for an alarm clock and a gift or two, and had lunch at a few nearby restaurants and *gasp!* a hamburger stand.  (That was only 2ce, though, and I'm not going to do it again, and it was only because it's ON campus and I needed something fast that I could find my way home from, and it was really cheap, and I knew how to say it in Spanish, and I didn't even like it, and I felt super bad, and I really don't know what you mean I'm being defensive!)  And Friday a guy who's been here 5 months already showed a friend and I  how to take the right bus downtown and back, and where to buy coach bus tickets to the Caribbean, and all sorts of other useful things.

Which brings me to the weekend.

I learned the definition of "Tico time."   We've been told since we got here that the locals are NOT going to be on schedule.  That's fine, I thought, I'd heard that before, as long as I know that, things should be fine.  Pura vida.  But oooooh my goodness.

In the United States there is that saying my first hockey coach just loved, "Being early is on time, being on time is late, and being late is unacceptable."  Yikes.  I definitely appreciate a courtesy call, or text, or at least excuse, if someone's going to be ten minutes late to something, but I do think that first slogan is a little anal.  Still, when we go to class in the U.S. we get there 5 or 10 minutes early, and the teacher is always there by then, too, available for questions, setting up, whatever.  Here, no.  I'm told I got the most punctual teacher of all the study-abroad classes, and even she walks in more than 10 minutes late 3 out of 5 days (though if you come in after her!? Bad news, so we still have to be there basically at 8, which is annoying).

But this weekend was an entirely new level of waiting.  

My roommate, Rebecca Dos; Sharifa, the other new girl from CEA; Bobby, the guy who's been here 5 months; and I went to Puerto Viejo.  This is a town almost directly east of San José known for it's Afro-Caribbean culture.  It's got a definite rasta vibe, with dreadlocks on half the people, red, yellow, and green decorations up, and reggae playing anywhere a speaker connected.  It has warm water at its beaches, in which float coconuts and coral, and very few few of the tanned, toned surfer-men wear any shirts.  It's a pretty cool place.

The problem was we had to get to the bus station on the other end of town and be ready to snag a seat (they oversell the seating capacity by 8 people, latecomers must stand) by 6 a.m.  The buses actually leave on time, so we booked a taxi for 5.   Wait #1.  No taxi till 5:30.  We did make it, though, and diddn't have to stand or anything, and I was quite out before we even left the city. But when I opened my eyes it was only jungle!!  I went a little picture crazy, I'll admit, but I am glad I was staring like I was born yesterday.  I saw a vulture-like thing that had no feathers on his head and was guarding some food, some of those weird, humped, and skinny Costa Rican cows, a group of black buzzard things, and A SLOTH!!!!  Flipped out a bit at the sloth...

Anyway our hostel was really awesome, too. It's an extremely popular place, so we had to trek there quickly from the bus-stop through a back, tree-roofed mud path.  It, the hostel, was huuuuuuuuge and covered in mosaics that reminded me a lot of parts of the first floor of the city museum.  There were courtyards of grass with rocking chairs and almost no walls at all.  The downstairs had a restaurant/bar, the showers, tables for sitting to chat, the lockers, and a few private rooms, everything covered either with the mosaic pictures or modge-podge art.  The mosaics on the bathroom doors depictied what might be going on inside, and a sign where you check-in said "Please do not smoke marijuana at the front desk."  A definite hippy heaven.   
Also on the first floor were probably 70 hammocks, all hung in a row under a dark wood roof.  This was the more expensive sleeping option.  The option we chose took us upstairs to a platform with a tin roof, under which was lined about 70 tents of various sizes, all with mattresses in them and room for nothing else. Still no walls up here, but make-shift curtains hung in some places, from yesterday's beach-clothes drying on lines around the perimeter.  Super cool.  There were mosaicked bridges to a TV room and some more upstairs bathroom things and other places to sit to overlook the courtyard.  We took one of the spiral staircases down and changed into our bathing suits.  Wait #2 as people get situated, forget sunscreen or bugspray or money or cameras.  One good thing was that we met a fifth for our group while we sat there, though.  She was a 29 year-old called Eddie who is travelling Costa Rica for 6 weeks alone, just to see the place, and she was pretty fun.

Finally we left to cross the street where we rented bikes and dodged the zillions of potholes (that's not an exaggeration, I'm so serious) to get lunch.  Wait #3, we spend almost 2 hours at the lunch place.  Waiting to order, waiting to pay, waiting for Rebecca to order and look at art and pay, and then waiting for her to go baaaaaack to the hostel for more sunscreen.  When she didn't return for 45 minutes we finally just pedalled a little bit down the road and did some shopping, figuring she'd find us eventually, there being only 2 main roads (really only one, I'm being generous) in Puerto Viejo.  Wait, wait, wait, since I didn't have any money with which to do ACTUAL shopping.  And all I wanted to do was go to the beach.  Whatever.  Pura Vida.

When at last she found us and we started to head out to Punta Uva, the most beautiful beach around there, a rasta woman noticed Sharifa's afro and called out an offer to braid it.  Wait # 4.  We spent from about 1 to 4:30 at a table with her in an open-air hotel lobby.  She. Took. Her. Time.  She talked with friends, she started Eddie's hair.  She got asked her friend to roll a blunt for her.  They smoked it.  She finished Eddie's hair.  She talked.  She got hungry and ordered food from a boy on a bicycle.  She started Sharifa's hair, and had to take a break.  She talked to her friends some more and invited us to her birthday party Thursday.  She got a friend to go get her more hemp paper to roll another joint. She started back on Sharifa's hair, got her pass, and talked some more.  Five braids in she decided she was done with that, put the rest in a mohawk poof on top of Sharifa's hair and called it quits.   Yet somehow we STILL were there for another 20 minutes as they discussed how cute her hair was (it looked fine, but honestly like an unfinished job) and how we should find them on Facebook and come to hear their crew play.  Right.  BEACH!  VAMANOS!

At last we headed out, slowly, dodging some guecos (potholes) splashing through the ones that look the least huge.  Bobby pulled us over at a reasonably nice beach only about 15 minutes down the road.  It wasn't Punta Uva, but for someone who rarely sees the ocean, like me, it was wonderful!! We locked our bikes together and went out to take pictures, wade, and jump in the waves for a while.  Commence wait #5 when Eddie realized she dropped her lock's key in the sand somewhere, leaving 3 bikes inaccessable.  We stood around looking for a while, but as it was getting dark we decided we had to do SOMETHING else.  I knew the most Spanish of the group and Eddie felt responsible, so we took the two free bikes back to the shop at top speed.
.....Aaaaaaand we waited.  It took a while for us to be understood, then for her to accept the offer for us to ride back with all the owner's spare keys, and a lock-saw in our basket.  It was quite well into dusk by now, so for once there was no delay as we tried key after key with no chance of turning them.  We eventually had to cut the lock off and pay for it at the shop, but, through the zillion guecos in the dark, we made it back to Rockin J's, our hostel, all in one piece.  And we then took some of the coldest showers ever.

Bueno, here I'm realizing this is turning epic.  I'll try to condense it starting now. 

We had a good dinner of Mexican food and pasta at the hostel restaurant, and just as we were planning to go to the rasta dance club, it started to pour.  We ended up in the hostel all night, meeting other travellers, and just talking.  I had been looking forward to falling asleep to the sound of the huge waves hitting so close to our hostel, but when I lay down at 11:30 (I'm lame, I know), all I could hear was the extreme clatter of a constant DOWNPOUR on a tin roof.  At least it wasn't the distracting sounds of voices, right?

The next day didn't even dawn.  It just came in with some of the rain about 5:30 or 6, I imagine.  We don't change time zones here, by the way, I know that was a pretty random statement.  But it didn't stop raining the entire day, so we didn't do anything but....WAIT!!!!!   
I was soooooooo grateful when the time came for our 4 o'clock bus home, but in retrospect I don't know why I thought that wouldn't entail the word of the weekend, too.  The bus left on time, sure, but about 40 minutes in it broke down!  We were in the middle of a jungle pounding with rain.  Great.  We had to wait for another bus.  When it finally arrived we found there were only 8 free seats on it, and realized, sitting in the back, it was just time to do some more waiting.  20 minutes in I dared to ask the driver in Spanish when another bus might be coming, and he told me 20 more minutes.  Earth to self, TICO TIME!  But it did come in about 40, which wasn't so bad.  We got back and caught a taxi almost home (he "got lost" first, to run the meter up, Delay # Hell-if-I-know-after-all-those-others, but no matter) safe and sound.

Que tigra!  My pura vida weekend.

Only one thing of real note has happened since then, I'd say, and that is that today (I'm publishing this on Wednesday) there were two earthquakes!!!  Both were small, audible, and enough to make one nauseated and the house lose internet connection, but harmless.  Still, they were my first temblores, which was a little cool/disconcerting.

Well.  I hope everything about yooour vida is pura right now.  I'm off to study for my midterms (I know, it feels just as much too early for those as it sounds) on Friday, and am looking forward greatly to visiting Arenal volcano and hotsprings as well as the Monteverde cloud forest with Anna this weekend!!!   Hasta luego!

1 comment:

  1. OOOOOH my gosh. I hope I was a better fit as a roomie... I should have come down there with you, it would have been awesome! It sounds like, despite the tico time, you're having a blast though. I wish I was there! Pura vida.... I think it sounds kind of like Hakunna Matata... :) miss you!