By now you probably know that I’ve fled to Costa Rica for the remainder of the winter. While I like living in Grand Rapids, the winters are a bit much to take, and last year I decided there was no way I was doing another full Michigan winter. So here I am.
Why Costa Rica? Well, for starters, it’s warm. Costa Rica supposedly has the best climate on Earth; I’m three days in and I can’t complain. We’ve had highs in the low 80s with moderate humidity and a nice breeze. At night it cools off into the 60s. I’m here until March 16, but I guess the weather is pretty much like this year round. I think I can manage.
Costa Rica is also relatively inexpensive. I’m paying $750 per month for a bungalow that is essentially a detached studio apartment, in an absolutely beautiful location not far from the capital, San Jose. (I stole the picture below from Norma’s website. My room looks pretty much like that except that it’s got my stuff all over the place.) Costa Rica is also known for being safe and politically stable, and the people are known for being friendly and happy.
The one obvious barrier to an American such as myself is that the predominant language here is—obviously—Spanish. Fortunately, English is now taught in schools, so most younger people and many older people speak at least some English. I did spend about an hour a day for three months prior to my trip brushing up on my Spanish; I think I probably speak almost as well as the average Costa Rican three-year-old. I can ask for directions to the bus stop, but if the answer is more complicated than “100 meters down the road, on the corner,” then I’m probably going to get lost. (That’s how Costa Ricans give directions, by the way. There are apparently no proper addresses and few street signs. The “address” of the place I’m staying is literally “300 meters west of the soccer field.”)
I arrived around 3pm on January 17. I was supposed to have arrived the night before, but Spirit Airlines decided to cancel my flight without telling me, which was neat. They got me on a flight leaving the next morning, and thanks to ridiculously long check-in lines at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, I almost missed the plane. Then we sat on the runway for an hour and a half for one reason or another, so we didn’t arrive at the San Jose airport until mid-afternoon. I was starving, having not had any time to get something to eat before the flight. I retrieved my bag, withdrew 50,000 Colones (about $100) from an ATM, and went outside, where I was immediately accosted by roughly 50,000 taxi drivers (about 100 American drivers), all asking if I needed a ride. I replied to one of them at random, asking how much to La Garita (“Cuanto hacia La Garita?”). He said $25. I blame my hunger for my decision to agree to this probably exorbitant price; La Garita is only 20 minutes away. I bought a hot dog at a vendor outside the airport (Spanish for “hot dog,” by the way, is “hotdog”) and got in the taxi.
I had a really nice conversation with the taxi driver on the way to La Garita. He was more than happy to entertain my efforts to converse in Spanish, and would switch to English when I got stuck. He dropped me off at the gate to Villas Normas, and I was met by Norma herself, a very sweet older Costa Rican woman who is the grandmother of the woman whom I made the reservation with on Airbnb.com. She showed me around the grounds of Villas Normas, including the three (!) swimming pools, outside bar area, laundry facilities, etc. Then I settled into my room.
The bungalow is perfect for a single guy like me, although I have some questions about the quality of the construction. All the light switches are in the wrong places, and I find the heated shower head mildly terrifying, especially considering the “wrap some black tape around the wire nuts and call it bueno” installation; I have to assure myself every morning that the odds of electrocution are probably quite low. Apparently these devices are fairly common in Costa Rica. Another cool feature is the lock on the front door, which you can’t open from the inside without the key. Fire? I hope you remember where you left the key!
My favorite part of the bungalow, though, is the label inside the freezer door that reads: OPRIMA BOTON ROJO CADA TRES DIAS / PRESS THE BUTTON AT LEAST TWICE A WEEK.
Setting aside the facts that (1) the translation isn’t quite right, and (2) the red button appears to be missing, I am left with the question: What did the red button do? And if it’s so important that it be pressed on a regular basis, why isn’t it on some kind of timer? How am I to prepare for the pressing of the button? Am I on LOST?
More to come!