Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 1 Newark to San Jose

Enough cranky complaining from me, hhhhheeeerrrreeee'ssss COSTA RICA!!


Jam and I decided to take a trip before starting(him)/resuming(me) grad school. We tossed around a few ideas and he suggested Costa Rica. HOLY CRAP, I could not believe it - I'd wanted to go to Costa Rica for a few years, but given it's somewhat remote location and reputation for being an eco-tour type place (as opposed to luscious resort type place) I didn't want to push it on poor Jam. Given my enthusiasm for nature, hut-living, cold showers and pit toilets, as well as dangerous vacation locales (ahem, Kenya, hi) I didn't want to be the dominating biologist girlfriend who's like 'um we can only go to places where I can add to my birdwatching life list." Jamaal however, had done research on his own, and being a nature-lover himself (he still talks about seeing a caracal on Animal Planet) had his mind on Costa Rica. After a little internet research, we settled on a tour with GAP Adventures. I left Boston on Friday 13th for NYC, and after a brief visit with my gal Melu, Jam and I walked to the bus (on the way a pigeon shat on him. Good luck!) and headed to Newark for the night!!

Saturday July 14

After an early wakeup call, we headed to the International terminal at Newark Liberty. I've flown international out of Logan and JFK, so I was really bracing myself for a bitch of a time getting through the check-in line and then security. Surprisingly, we were waved to a short line at Continental, then made it through a short security line. Well I should say I made it through. Jamaal got stopped. At first I was irritated that he got stopped because I thought "ok I made sure he didn't have liquids, neither of us have a knife, now they're just being petty or profiling or something" though Jamaal does not exactly look like the terrorist type, lol. So I'm sitting at the end of the security line as they open Jam's bag and there it is. My red mag lite flashlight. That I made him carry the night before. Jamaal offered to hold some stuff for me because I took his liquids in my checked baggage, so I handed off the Mag Lite and didn't even look to see where he put it. As the TSA guys were showing Jamaal how the flashlight could be used as a weapon by swinging it around in the air, I was overcome with guilt. Crap. So Jamaal says to me "what do you want me to do with it" Of course the TSA guys think he's talking to NO ONE and that he's crazy and so they're like 'SIR we do not know what YOU MEAN' I say "oh I'm so sorry, the flashlight is actually mine' They re-exhibit the weapon skit with the light "see this is how it could be used as a weapon" I tell them I understand, and really I appreciate their kindness because my past TSA experiences have been...let's just say...highly negative. I tell them I'll throw it away if they want, or ship it home. They're like "chill dude" and tell me just to go back and check it. Sweet! Jamaal is a trooper and goes back to the desk. I decide to be a good girlfriend and buy us water on the other side of security. As I pay, my cell rings. I ignore it til I get outside. It's Jamaal. "You have to come back" he says "they put both checked bags on my boarding pass and they'll charge me another $100 to check the backpack with the Mag Lite" "Ok" I say. I hang up. And realize I have more than 3 oz of liquid that certainly are not contained in a quart-size ziploc. CRAP AGAIN!!!!! Luckily the lady in the Hudson News held them for me. What nice people! Jamaal and I were both singing the praises of Newark Int'l as we boarded our direct (yes, direct, beautiful beautiful non-stop direct) flight to San Jose.

The flight was ok. I hate flying. Well, ok, I hate taking off. Flying and landing, no prob. So Jamaal got to hold my sweaty hand from the moment we stepped on the plane for about an hour. Sexy. But then it was time to eat, and I started to relax, especially as I wolfed down an omlette and croissant and yogurt, pretty good for airline food, I thought. I couldn't really see out the window cause the guy next to me sort of blocked it, but I felt bad for him; he was sweating like a fiend and clearly nervous about flying, so I let it go. Of course the kids shrieking every time the plane shifted did not help. Now I have nothing against kids or kids on airplanes, and I totally get that babies cry and can't help it....but when your 8-year old is screaming at the top of her lungs every time we hit turbulence, causing the plane to erupt in a chorus of spanish hail Mary's, oh that's when I get irritated. Of course to land in San Jose, the plane has to descend fairly rapidly because of the green mountains that surround the city, so that led to more screaming. I was happy to reach the ground!

Immigration was fun because there were colorful billboards and tv screens broadcasting ecotourism adventures. Plus people were really nice. Costa Rica seemed pretty cool so far....

We made our way out of the airport easily enough, and met our transport and two of our groupies, Lois and Peter. A butterfly landed on my pants! Another omen of goodness! We arrived at Hotel La Amistad after an adventurous ride through San Jose. At La Amistad they were pretty nice - one of the owners got us a decent city map and marked off the local territory. We decided to have an adventure and find the Mercado Central. WOOHOO!!!

First we had to fuel up. I know we're supposed to be having a cultural experience and all and normally I would never ever do this outside of America BUT we went to Wendy's. It was as if we were drawn there by unseen forces. I mean when you are that frickin' hungry, you need something guaranteed. To make up for the fact that we were consuming American fastfood in Costa Rica, Jamaal ordered (and I attempted to order) in Spanish and asked about some vocab words, and I got 'pollo picante' instead of just a burger.....I'm sure we should've given another place a try, but Wendy's did it for us just then, so we reasoned we could get away with our breach of delving into Costa Rican culture just that one time.

After a delicious sandwich, we hit the streets. San Jose is a gorgeous city, even in the rain. Though it has a lot of modern amenities and American landmarks (Wendy's, KFC, 7-11, McDonald's, Burger King, I think I saw a Blockbuster, too) it has these gorgeous mid 19th century buildings throughout, one of the prettiest being the National Theater. There are also several small parks sprinkled throughout the city center, and I loved them because they were filled with familiar tropical plants we grow as ornamental annuals up here in New England, and with PARROTS!! Crimson-fronted parakeets were everywhere, like pigeons here, in the light fixtures, on buildings and in the trees in the parks. Of course because it's me I walked around San Jose hoping that unlike pigeons here, people LIKE the parrots and don't kill or poison them. I'm not sure what the policy is on that, but I'm thinking the parrots win in the end because there are so many of them.

After traversing the streets for a LONG TIME we finally found the Central Market. Yay! Jamaal and I stocked up on souvenirs (ok so Jam bought gifts for his friends. I bought a dress) we decided to walk through the parks and head back to the hotel. We were pretty tired. Plus we wanted to dry off and not look like tourists for a little while:

Tee hee. We both tooks naps, though I admittedly looked for birds out the window for a majority of the time. Then our tour guide called. I could hear Dawna's voice through the phone as Jamaal talked to her. Perky, I thought crankily. We headed downstairs to meet the rest of the group. I was skeptical, I won't lie. But then a girl who had posted on the forum introduced herself, followed by another. Then a bunch of us discovered we'd grown up in Massachusetts. Jamaal talked to the girls from Toronto because he's been and loves it there. Dawna generally got us all enthused. "Wow" I thought, "these people are really cool." I started to get ridiculously excited for the trip. We all went out to dinner together to get to know each other better. I sat near the middle so got to enjoy conversing with everyone. People had such interesting lives, and the wide age-range between all of us made it all the more fun talking to one another. When we went to sleep that night, Jamaal and I quickly realized that we were in for one hell of a good trip.

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