Saturday morning Mom and I headed to Alajuela, as she was flying out on Sunday and I had an appointment with the American Embassy in San José on Monday. We just decided for me to go a day early for my appointment so we could have one extra day together. Funny thing, the shuttle bus didn’t pick us up. It was 7:15 and it should have picked us up at 7, so I called. The man said we weren’t scheduled to leave until 2. Apparently they didn’t take note of the change in reservations. We were told a taxi would come pick us up and then meet the shuttle, but around 7:30 the shuttle arrived. It turned around for us. I was like how in the world are we going to be on the 9 am ferry? Well apparently Pura Vida road fairly close to where I live is a major shortcut and takes us to Tambor. If that shortcut wouldn’t have existed, I don’t think we would have made it in time. The ferry was PACKED. All the people who had been chilling down in Montezuma during Semana Santa were heading out too. Wow!
We got to our Hotel around 12 or 1, I don’t remember. We were tired of course, but I was ready to get out and explore. We walked to the central park and went into a few stores. I was stunned: on one street there was a Pizza Hut, Burger King, Taco Bell AND McDonald’s. I kind of just stared in awe as the smell of low quality meat wafted through the city air. (Don’t think my mom was as excited about this as I was) Civilization does exist!!!! We also went into a Payless…just like the US.
|HUGE church across from central park|
We spent a while walking around Alajuela before returning to our hotel room to stream Easter service from Northland. We then wandered back to the central park in Alajuela and there was a throng of people gathered watching the performers. There were people wearing what I would describe as ponchos singing and playing wooden instruments.
Possibly as entertaining as the musicians was the older man who made himself a soloist dancer, choreographing his moves on the spot. He got really into it and even laid down with his hand over his heart at the end of a song with a romantic vibe. I’m not sure who the applause was for, the musicians or the dancer, but the whole thing was just so “Costa Rican.” I don’t know any other way to describe it, but it was one of those moments where I felt like I was having a truly unique experience only to be had in Costa Rica: standing in the park, surrounding by Ticos, listening to wooden flutes, and watching this man’s interpretation of the music.
Watch a video:
Before pausing to enjoy the song and dance, we were headed to the church. We had looked at it earlier from the outside, but the doors were closed and it was gated shut. However from across the park we could see that the doors were now wide open. Perhaps there was a 5 o’clock mass, but it wasn’t quite 5 pm so we decided to peek our heads inside this massive house of worship. Well just as we were about to cross the sidewalk leading to the church, I noticed something was going on. Although there had been quite a crowd of people just relaxing in the park, there was an equally large group of people lining the streets surrounding the church seemingly waiting for something. Then I realized what was about to happen, and I got really excited! An Easter procession.
For a country that stops for Holy Week, I had hoped to take part in some of the religious festivities that were sure to occur. I remember seeing my parents’ pictures from when they were in Italy right before Easter one year, and was expecting something similar in Costa Rica. Unfortunately my host family from last year had told me that religious happening before Easter that I was expecting didn’t happen in Cóbano, but more in the larger cities. That had been a disappointment, but here I was in the city of Alajuela about to watch an Easter procession.
Although not part of the procession, this man deserved to have his picture taken...
|This man was apparently taking his parrot for a bike ride to see the procession. Never seen a parrot on a bike before...|
The whole thing was so great. From the respect shown by the passersby to the amount of young people involved in the procession. From the detail of the costumes to the woman leading song-like chants from a loud speaker. We followed the procession into the church with the rest of the crowd. The architecture and paintings in the church were incredible.
The Priest said a few words of thanks to all those who had participated or helped prepare for the day’s procession and people began to wander out. On the way out, many stopped at a corner of the church draped with white silk, where Jesus and his pierced hands and feet lay in a glass casket covered in flowers. I guess we stayed and took it in long enough, because Jesus was resurrected before our eyes: two people rolled out another Jesus statue, this one standing and looking toward the future.
After the excitement of the procession Mom and I didn’t do anything too exciting. We walked to a bakery we had seen earlier for a pastry and cup of coffee, went to sit in the hotel sitting area to look at all of the pictures we had taken throughout the week, and mostly just tried to enjoy our last few hours together without bringing up the fact that our long-awaited time together would soon be ending.
Easter morning we woke up to have a breakfast in the Hotel’s garden restaurant. But before we could head from our room, I had to find my Easter eggs…my mother would be that cute to bring a few Easter eggs and hide them in the hotel room. She was prepared, and so was I: I got out my little pink flashlight and started looking in all the dark corners of the room. I have to admit that it’s been a few years since I’ve hunted eggs and I’m afraid I’ve lost my touch. The two spots that I was sure there would be eggs…nada. And it took me a while to find the eggs. Inside my eggs I found bus money (a few rides to work) and I pretty pair of purple earrings from one of my favorite stores at home, The Loft.
Of course mother and daughter had to order the same exact thing from the menu at breakfast: French Toast. I’m so used to eating Tico food that that sounded like a lovely change. And I got my long-awaited cup of coffee. Yes, I am the girl who lives in a country whose leading cash crop is coffee and I gave up coffee for lent this year. That was a TOUGH ONE.
So no need to talk about the goodbyes. Mom left for the airport in the back of the little red taxi, and I headed back into the hotel. Just two more months until I will be back in the US for a visit…
I stayed another night in the hotel, as I had an appointment at the US Embassy in San José on Monday morning. Yes, more money to shell out, and more paperwork to obtain in hopes of acquiring my work permit. (and time’s running out!)
Most of everything was closed on Sunday, being Easter, but I got myself an ice-cream cone from those Golden Arches I hadn’t eaten at in ages, headed into the park, and graded some papers. That’s what is nice about the cities: the parks. Cóbano doesn’t have anything like that. The park in Montezuma is mostly just a swing set for kids, and I find it preferable to stay at my house and enjoy my porch, table in the yard, or hammock between the trees.
At some point, I got hot in the park and wandered back to the hotel. (I surprise myself sometimes with how I can remember my way around a city when I’m normally a complete goof when it comes to directions!) I wrote my friend Nicole a message because I was hoping we would be able to get together when I returned from Alajuela. Probably an hour later, Nicole calls me and says she was actually on the ferry on her way to Alajuela. She was moving back to the United States the next day, and turns out her hotel was only 5 minutes from mine. I don’t think that could have worked out any better. In the past 3 months living about 40 minutes from each other, we had only seen each other once, maybe twice. Then when I am in a hotel six hours from my home in Montezuma, she happens to be just around the block! I am so happy that I got to see her before she moved back to the states!
Monday morning, I headed toward the Embassy. For one piece of paper I needed to get, it sure was a trip. I mean I had to travel 6 hours to San José from Montezuma to spend 30 minutes in the Embassy to leave with a piece of paper that cost me $50. Oh yeah, and then the 6 hour trip back to Montezuma. All for one piece of paper.
But since my appointment was in the morning, and the bus back to my little piece of paradise didn’t leave until 2 in the afternoon, I headed to Avenida Central in San José to spend the rest of my morning/ early afternoon. Again, I surprised myself by what I remembered from the few trips I have taken to San José. I found the bookstore I remembered and spend some time in there. I don’t care the language, I just love books and bookstores. Although I have a Kindle, and several actual books at my house in Montezuma, I just couldn’t leave Libreria Lehman empty handed. So I treated myself to a book by one of my favorite authors: Paulo Coelho. I’ve read three of his books, but Brida will be my first Coelho book in Spanish!
The other highlight of my time spent wandering the city was when I found the Artisan Market I had been two in 2011 when I studied abroad. I remembered this place for the bright woven fabrics, wooden figurines, hammocks, leather sandals, and colorful jewelry that overflowed from the nearly 100 small stands stuffed under the tin roof that spans one block of the city. Two years ago I had bought myself a hand-woven bag/ purse and a beautiful pair of handmade sandals. Only studying abroad, I never expected to return to this heaven-on-earth of homemade items. (I am a sucker for fabrics and handmade stuff. And good prices too)
|so much to look at!|
I don’t know how long I spent strolling down the main aisle of the market, wandering in and out of each artisan’s stand. I wanted to buy something from every stand, because everything was so beautiful and I loved chatting with the people at each stand to hear their stories, but I simply didn’t have enough money. I tried on countless sandals, as each pair is unique, and modeled a variety of purses and handbags. I had to walk around a bit, before finally deciding on my purchases. That was my treat to myself.
|carved from a coconut|
|the leather smells so good!|
|Probably my favorite find of the day...the straps still smell of fresh leather!|
I did have to sit in McDonalds and enjoy a fountain drink, knowing I wouldn’t have another fountain drink until the next time I was either in San José or the United States. Before I knew it, it was time to grab a taxi and head to the bus station. Now, I don’t particularly enjoy the 6 hour bus ride, but there are a few things that always strike me along the ride. At some point the bus stops on the side of the road and this older man will get on with two small coolers. He walks up the aisle and sells his empanadas calientitas (hot empanadas) and then walks the aisle a second time selling canned juices. Five minutes later the bus stops again and the man and his coolers get off. A while later the bus stops again and lets a man on selling various fruits. I have to admit, it’s quite convenient and I enjoyed my empanada!
It was late when I got home to my little casita in Montezuma. Before I knew it, it was 6:30 am and I was on the bus again, heading to back to work. Just like that, it was all over. And back to reality.