We awoke at 4:30am to finish the last of our packing before the journey actually began. Thanks to all the planning and preparation, we felt so ready for the adventure that awaited us. In the Uber ride to the airport, it still hadn't sunk in. We had a nice driver who told us stories of how many times he's been discriminated against since the transfer of administration. It was heartbreaking, and fueled my wish to unite cultures rather than divide even more.
Our first flight from Los Angeles took us to Dallas for a short layover. We arrived in Dallas, grabbed some lunch to go at the airport, and immediately got in line to board the flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. Fortunately it wasn't a full flight, so under scornful eyes of the flight attendants, we slyly moved to an empty exit row to give 6'4" Andre some more leg room. The flight was an easy 4 hours.
The sun had just set as we landed and it was pouring rain outside. We tried to mentally prepare for the rain because the forecast predicted 100% chance of thunderstorms every day! The airport was very nice, and air conditioned, however the humidity still made its way in. It seemed as though our flight was the only one in the entire airport. We made our way to baggage claim and I called my parents to let them know we made it safely. Andre's backpack came out fairly quickly. The more time that went by not seeing my bag the more nervous I became. Then all of a sudden these men came over and started pulling bag after bag off the carousel with fervent pace. Hey that's my bag! He pulled it off and flung it into the pile with the others. I was so confused, but I grabbed my backpack and we hurried out to catch our Uber.
As we were walking toward customs, Andre noticed this girl that had the same backpack as me. A light went off in my head because when I put the backpack on, it didn't feel the same. So I went up to her and said, "Excuse me, you and I have the same backpack, can we..." Before I could even finish my sentence I could tell that she had mine and I had hers! Utter disbelief doesn't even begin to explain how we all felt. What were the chances that this girl on our flight would have the exact same Osprey Ariel 65L teal colored backpack, and that she would take mine and I would take hers?! She didn't even have a luggage tag on her bag, so had we not bumped into each other, who knows how and when we would have found one another again to exchange bags. I was just buzzing with appreciation for my fortune and guardian Kiki. 😽
Once the rightful backpacks were on the rightful shoulders, we went through customs and outside to find our driver. Because of the bag snafu taking time, our driver was gone by the time we got outside. We thought he left us and we'd have to call someone else. But low and behold he circled around and picked us up. He was a vibrant character with enthusiasm for both showing off and practicing his English. We honestly couldn't have asked for more helpful, polite, friendly ambassador to Costa Rica. He even helped us find our airbnb in the dark by calling the hosts for us.
Our hosts were Marcos y Alejandra, a young couple living la pura vida, hanging out playing guitar and singing on a Tuesday night. We got settled in our room and then walked to a nearby neighborhood, Escalante - informally known as restaurant row. We walked down the street deciding where to have a bite. Colonia Tavar was the winner with it's decent sized crowd, nice atmosphere, and inviting garden entry. There's something here called Tico Time and it describes the time table the locals are on, which if you're familiar with "island time" it's probably even slower than that. It was definitely a good 25+ minutes before anyone took our order and that's after asking. We tried the restaurant's specialty Arepas, a Venezuelan dish made of a stuffed corn "tortilla" filled with an assortment of things of your choice ranging from cheese, to beans, to plantains, meat, mushrooms, avocado, greens, goat cheese, you name it really. Basically a Venezuelan hot pocket. Super tasty! We walked back home, visited with our hosts for a bit, and cashed in for the night in preparation for the next day's long journey by bus to the Rio Celeste Farm where our first volunteering opportunity begins.
It still doesn't feel real, more like a dream that we're even here doing this. I don't know if it will ever feel real, because what is reality anyway? Where does the illusion begin and end? Maybe more on that concept after Peru. 😉 Buenos noches!