Vamos a Costa Rica!

Over the past few years, I’ve traveled a lot with the kids.  Due to the nature of our business, Joshua has not accompanied us on our big trips, flying in separately when he does join us.   So the three of us have gotten really good at, and used to, traveling on our own.

Enter yesterday, when suddenly we had three extra people with us, who clearly did NOT know our rules of travel.  They chatted after  checking in and strolled instead of walking at a semi-fast pace to security.   Heellooo, do you not get that we are waiting on you guys!? Then, after we got through security and made our obligatory stop at the airport bookstore (and yes, even though I brought my Nook I bought two books.  One of which I read on the plane and may write about at some point), we went to the gate only to find that they weren’t there!

Yes, that’s right.  You read that correctly.   I mean, really.  I know there is a food court just a few steps away and several beguiling shops, but the Milstein 3 rule of travel is that after the books you go straight to the gate and sit there till the flight is called! What is all this setting up laptops a good 10 yards from the gate seating?  Are you trying to stress us out?   What if you amble off to get a coffee, the flight is called and next thing you know we’re waving to you from the windows of the plane as it takes off while you stand on the tarmac, cup of coffee in hand.  IT COULD TOO HAPPEN!

So needless to say, there was a period of ‘adjustment’ over the last 24 hours, during which we had to come to terms with the fact that we had three extra people along who don’t do things they way we do when it comes to international travel.    Deep breaths.   Many, many deep breaths.

Now, a bit about where we are.  We are near San Jose.  Yes, near. We thought we were staying in San Jose, but it turns out that the definition of ‘in the city’ here is kind of vague.  One of these days I will learn not to trust people when they say we’ll be within ‘walking distance’ of everything.   Like, walking distance for marathon runners who jog nine miles just for kicks?   That kind of walking distance?    We are within walking distance of everything within the complex that contains our hotel.   Downtown San Jose, of the Spanish architecture and pedestrian zones, is 7.2 kilometers away.   As the crow flies.   Not quite walking distance.

And about that downtown area.  We told Joshua’s friends (more on them in a minute) that we’d really like to explore old San Jose, take photos, etc.    Should we rent a car?   No, instead Inga would take us, which is great because it’s always more fun to see the sights with someone who really knows the place, right?   Except then she told us that we shouldn’t wear any jewelry or carry any purse or bag or anything that looks like it is of value.   Umm, really?   But what about my camera?  The whole point is to walk around and take photos.   Ok, but make sure the strap is always around your neck so no one can run up and grab it from you…

Now I’ve talked to numerous people who have come to Costa Rica, spent time in San Jose, backpacked all over the country and not one person ever mentioned feeling unsafe or that crime was a problem.  Joshua’s friends talk about it all the time. Anytime they tell us about a place they want to take us, they always tell us that it is ‘safe’, in that way that makes you think ‘wow, good thing they chose that place or we might have wound up in a den of thieves!’.    I tend to think they are exaggerating.   I mean, we live in New York City, people!   We’ve walked the streets of East Harlem and lived to tell the tale.   Once I even walked through Bed-Stuy by myself (like in the Billy Joel song) in the early 90’s.   How bad can downtown San Jose, on a business day at noon, really be?

Am I making Costa Rica sound less than grand?   Well as I mentioned before, we had an ‘adjustment period’.   It had to do with three extra people, and then finding out that our entire vision of what we would do every day was not what we were going to be able to do every day.

So now, to the good stuff.  Joshua’s friends are amazing.  They took us to the Deportivo – like a JCC or nice country club (the very safe kind) – today, and that is where the photos you see above were taken.   Beautiful pool, and I’m told they have tennis courts and other stuff too.   We never got farther than the pool.   They have a restaurant where they make everything from chicken nuggets to Chifritos, which is a great local dish, and they serve you wherever you happen to be sitting.   Joshua had an especially nice time, because there were a lot of people there who spent summers on his kibbutz when they were teenagers, and of course they all came over to say hello and catch up.   After that they took us back to the hotel for a few hours, then took us out to dinner at a Chinese place.   We didn’t get back till almost 10pm, and tomorrow morning they are picking us up again to drive out to one of the active volcanoes in the area.   Having never seen a live volcano, I am very excited.   The kids are not quite as excited (We recently watched a docudrama about the eruption of Vesuvius and subsequent devastation of Pompeii, and I think that may be why), but I’m sure once we get there they’ll enjoy it.

Oh, and Maya bought one of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books today in Spanish and is now trying to figure it out.  She’s already picked up a bunch of vocabulary, and is  keen on learning as much as she can while we’re here.  Unlike German, which she was studying in the Fall, Spanish is much easier to maintain back in New York.    And it’s fun to try and figure out the meaning of the words from the context of the story, which she knows having already read the book in English.

A mixed bag here so far, but I’m sure by the end the fun will outweigh the rest.  Although I do have to tell you about our trip to the local mall and the interesting dancers and live mannequins we saw there…but it’s late.  I’ll save it for tomorrow.

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