Costa Rica :: Part 3

This story is being told as a series. Here’s a link to Part 1

Part 3

In the morning I didn’t stay long in bed: there was a new somewhere to see, and Costa Rica awaited. The day looked gray and overcast, not unexpected in the rainy season. The tour would officially start with a group meeting in the evening, so this day was mine to explore San Jose on my own. It was also the only place along the way, I’d been told, that it was likely that people would speak English, so I expected that I would be OK even if my meager Spanish failed me. So I thought.

I checked my email, tried not to get sucked into the issues back at the office, and sent a quick “I am here safely” message to the friends and family who would want to know. I made myself presentable, gathered up my belongings to head into the day, and went down to get breakfast in the hotel restaurant.

There was only one waitress working that morning. She spoke not a word of English. My prior study paid off, in that I could ask for coffee with milk, could indicate — this more by gestures than words — that I would like the buffet. There was a moment, unfortunately, where she wanted to know something from me, and try as we might, we could not make ourselves understood to one another. It was not the most auspicious start to the day. My confidence in facing the city, when I could not even negotiate breakfast in the hotel, began to evaporate. It came time at last to pay — pagar, I understood — and when the transaction was complete I began to make my way toward the lobby doors.

Rainy season indeed: it was a deluge outside. I sat in the lobby for a while, hoping that the rain might let up. In a while it slowed enough that I could venture outside. As I opened the door, the humidity instantly curled my hair into an unruly blond riot. I pulled my hood up over it and hugged my camera closer to me.

Now unwilling to risk getting lost in the city alone, I walked the small park just outside the hotel. Some kind of celebration was planned in the city for the following day, and students from the two or three schools that ringed the park were there setting up for it.

The younger grades, in their neat school uniforms, let out for the day; mothers shooed their children under their umbrellas for the walk home. A small boy with large, dark eyes stared at me when I smiled at him, glanced up questioningly at his mother, then suitably reassured that this pale stranger was no threat, he smiled back. The sky began to reopen. I pulled my hood higher over my head, and headed back in the direction of the dry safety of the hotel.

For the latter part of the afternoon I sat in the lobby, looking out into the wet city, and read. Throughout the day people arrived, occasionally with bags bearing luggage tags that matched mine. I would learn later that in fact there were two tours from the same company occurring in parallel. Late in the day I hovered in the vicinity of a man carrying a stack of the tags and holding a clipboard. “Hola. Majesta Tours?” I asked. He nodded, looked hard at me for a moment, and asked, “Susan Webster?” I smiled my surprised assent. “I’ve been looking for you,” he said, then introduced himself as Ciro, my tour guide.

“We’re meeting upstairs” — he named a conference room — “tonight at 6PM for a welcome reception; drinks, instructions and introductions. Do you speak Spanish, Susan?” “Solo un poco,” I began to say, then, laughing, told the truth, “No. No hablo. No entiendo nada.” I can say that phrase exceedingly well, and he laughed, finding it funny — as people tend to do when you tell them, in a perfect accent, that you don’t speak or understand anything.

Copyright © 2010

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~ by lorakceel on April 30, 2010.

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