is not actually where we stayed. But the internet really wanted us to stay there. We probably should have stayed there because that’s where people go on romantic get-aways to Costa Rica when they are in love love love! My girlfriend Ilana came and visited me for five days. Carlos would not stop asking me about her pre-visit and joking with me about her being my ex-girlfriend friend that was now coming to visit. This status came about when, in the first week of working at the lecheria, Carlos asked me if I had a girlfriend. I said no because I didn't yet have a sense of our camaraderie and how he felt about queers, so no is usually a solid answer to avoid the topic. (Carlos also asked me, when I said I had two brothers of the five siblings, to clarify, that there were three boys and three girls in the family? I said "Pues, si. well, yes, I guess so." Victor, my other co-worker, the same day, asks me, "Do you have a boyfriend?" Again, I say no. "Why not?" he asks me. (Victor also has a boyfriend and a girlfriend, I've discovered, and flirts with me daily, which is the best. We feed the calves milk together and he tries to swoon me by discussing classical music)). So, a couple of weeks later, after Carlos has become my closest friend here, Carlos is still intent on asking me why I don't have a girlfriend. I concede part-way, but can't go back on my original word, and things were more complicated than simple girlfriend or not, so I explain that we were together but now we are just friends because when I get back, she is going to South Africa, and it is hard to be together when we are not actually in the same place. Therefore, Ilana became my ex-girlfriend, now friend, who was coming to visit me, which Carlos spun into, my ex-girlfriend coming to visit me in order to get back together with me as my girlfriend. This idea was very exciting to him. Thus, between sawing boards or loading armfuls of grass into the truck, he would slip in, "So, you and la hembra are going to share the same bed, verdad?" or "You are excited to meet up with your novia, verdad? She is coming soon."And I would bury my face and laugh, not sure how to respond.
I met up with Ilana at the airport at 6:45pm, where our hostel host, Alonso, was supposed to meet up with us and bring us the short distance to his hostel for the night, in order that we could travel to Manuel Antonio (“where the rainforest meets the sea”) the following day. We waited, talked to various people looking for other people, used another hostel host’s cellphone to call Alonso, and waited some more. It was 8pm, and we decided to get another ride there. We were ushered into a cab with a badass girl driver. As we drove past a hostel on the corner, she whipped the cab onto this side street, leaned halfway out the window, and called out to the owner, “Tiene espacio?” “ten dollars a night for each of you,” and before we knew we had agreed, she had taken five dollars from us, and sped off. The owner says, “I don’t know if you understood what we had available…” She drew us a nice map, and showed us where various other hostels were close by, and we headed out into the night with our KFC street map and backpacks into sketchy sketchy Alajuela. Ilana seemed a bit bewildered that she was actually here, and I, similarly, was used to only cow land, so wandering a San Jose suburb was somewhat of a shock to the both of us: tin walls, bars, lit-up signs with lights out in the narrow, dim street. A group of teens popped out to yell “ahhh” in our faces, then “puta.” The first hostel we came to was dark and smoky. I thought maybe we should take the room instead of wandering nervously. All three of us pretended not to see the fat cockroach scurry across the floor as the door opened. “Maybe we’ll be back,” we said. Finally, we were let into a hostel with a nice, open patio with an outdoor kitchen, and a big grey dog with sad eyes that took to tearing off wooden scraps of the kitchen cabinet to chew, which sounded like someone was tearing down the wall.
We got to Quepos, the town over from Manuel Antonio just fine, and instead of going to the beach, we went to the farmer’s market and supermarket. I was of course on a cooking rampage since I haven't been able to cook for two months. Ilana put up with my cooking pursuits very well, and even ate a whole bowl of pineapple rind soup with me (Sonia had made pineapple rind gelatin, which was the best thing ever, and I absolutely had to try it.) Only, we didn't have eggs, a strainer or a blender in our Wide Mouth Frog Hostel, so ended up gnawing on the boiled pineapple rinds, swallowing some to get our fiber in (and to mimic the cows who I am still so impressed with eat the whole pineapple, spines and all), and slurping up the boiled liquid for dessert while listening to (a much straighter) game of “Never have I ever” being played at the table next to us. Platanos maduros definitely improved over the three days, and the yuca was okay after deciding that no, we should not after all try to eat the skins. The chichurritos (plaintain chips) I had watched Sonia cook just about every day, turned out almost perfectly, crispy and thin. Needless to say, I was eager to try to cook everything I had eaten since this probably was my only cost-effective opportunity to cook tropical foods. I was a little ambitious to say the least to expect cooking something for the first time to turn out just as I had eaten it in my two Tican homes, but I was sated.
After convincing Ilana to hike the 4 miles to the national park/beach instead of taking the bus that left in 5 minutes, without sunscreen since I was bitter about buying more after losing my non-toxic organic brand, we finally saw a beach in front of us, decided to forego finding the park for the moment, and scampered down to swim. Now, I had heard about rip tides and explained to Ilana (not knowing that she was afraid of the ocean anyway) that all we had to do is let the current take us out if we get sucked into one, and then swim parallel to it, so that we could swim back in. Ilana stood in the big crashing waves while I swam further out. “You just have to get out past the waves, and then it isn't scary.” We didn’t realize we were already being pulled out a bit, until we tried to swim back in as a lifeguard was whistling and waving us in. “See, see the foam he said, the brown areas…rip tides.” I didn’t catch everything he said, but apparently the rip tides were strong that day. We ate a slightly sandy cabbage salad leftover plaintain lunch, and afterward, finally entered the park, realizing that there were non-wavy, non riptide, rainforest beaches inside, along with monkeys eating out of Cheetos' bags on the beach.
Catching the bus back to Zarcero: on route from San Jose to Quepos, we passed through Alajuela, which is an hour from San Jose, and also on route from Zarcero to San Jose. Therefore, getting off the bus at Alajuela, and catching one to Zarcero would save us about two hours. We got off, and wandered about in search of the bus stop going the other way, entering two highways accidentally. A roadside man told us we had to go to San Jose first, that that was the only way. We tried once more, asking two policemen. Where is the bus stop where we can go to Zarcero? They laughed and described "down this road, cross the highway, on the side." We thanked them and started to head off, and they called back, and were like, "we just want to make sure you understand. It isn't a typical bus stop. It is a cement square." Hmm, okay, well at this point we were determined not to have to go back to San Jose.
There were two other guys there. One, standing right on the white line, ready, determined not to miss his bus. Where are you going, I ask. Shoot, not the same one. The other guy was sitting up on the cement, off the road, clearly a tourist who had just gotten off a plane with all his over-packed black rolly luggage. That made me feel slightly better because if there was any way that he could flag down the right bus, we definitely could. Catching the bus right here meant standing literally on the white line of the highway (so the bus could see you clearly) and squinting your eyes to read the black label on the front windshield to see where the bus was headed, with enough time to stick your arm out frantically before the bus came whizzing by. As we were walking up to the bus stop, one for San Carlos (which goes through Zarcero) was passing. shit. I stuck my hand out anyway. So there we were, huddled on the white line, craning our heads into the highway as a bus was approaching, and just as we read the label, phew, not us, it was already flying by. We had not eaten lunch, and had packed some of our adventurous leftovers into a greasy margarine container and a cut soda bottle. I stood there, slurping up our soup like a drink, interspersed with my leathermen knife as a spoon. Ilana resigned to eating the rice with her fingers. Our bus came about 20 minutes later, and I just about leapt in front of the bus, waving my arm like I needed rescuing. The bus lurched to a stop 200 feet in front of us, and we grabbed our bags, still clutching our food uncovered, and ran, like the bus could still very well leave us behind.