La china guapa. It has been a while since I’ve had a nickname that stuck, but I have to admit that I like the one that Kumata and Sara picked out for me in Costa Rica. It stemmed from our first bus trip out to Corcovado, when several men on the street called me la china guapa, and it’s pretty much stuck since that moment. For all of you non-Asians who have never been to a Spanish-speaking country, it’s customary for anyone who looks even remotely Asian to be labeled china (Chinese). This was true even in Spain, and even though it used to annoy me because I’m not Chinese, I’ve learned to take it with a sense of humor. Next on the agenda is getting used to all of the Southeast Asians who insisted that I must be Japanese (which I’m not either!).
My flight out of Costa Rica was as near of a close call as my flight out of Seattle. I awoke in San Jose, Costa Rica at 5AM this morning, anticipating that I would have more than enough time to make it to the airport for my 8AM flight. Sara’s host mom bade my farewell, and her host sister Kumata walked me to the main drag to catch a taxi. It took nearly half an hour to hail a cab (much longer than anticipated), and by the time the 4,000 colones ride got me to the airport and I made it through the exit tax (ingresos) line, and the line to check into my flight, I was the very last person they allowed to check in. The line to get through security was even longer, but somehow I found myself in the “unaccompanied minors” line, and got through in less than five minutes. I suppose that’s one benefit to looking like I’m under 18.
Anyway, as a recap of the last couple of days, Sara and I spent the day after snorkeling (my last blog update) as an entirely lazy last day in Bahía Drake. We ate breakfast and lounged around Casa Horizantes on the front porch reading our books until noon. I managed to finish my first book of the new year, Maya Angelou’s autobiographical novel I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. We then rented a sea kayak and spent a couple of hours kayaking around Drake Bay, doing our best to protect our already sunburned backs from the sun. Yesterday, we caught the last speedboat of our trip out of Drake Bay into Sierpe, and then a shuttle to Palma Norte where we took a 6 hour bus ride back to San Jose. It was a day of waiting, as our speedboat was 45 minutes late, our bus 60 minutes late, and our friends in San Jose were nearly an hour late meeting us. Still, I suppose that is what one should expect on trips–lots and lots of waiting.
Kumata and Jeff met us at the bus station in San Jose, and we were taken to the host family’s new home in San Jose, which is much bigger and nicer than their house in Limón, with four bedrooms and 3.5 baths (and hot water!) compared to the 3 bedroom 2 bath house in Limón. It was a pleasure to be able to see it before leaving. We had our last home cooked Costa Rican meal, and lounged around before heading to bed. This is when Sara and I discovered the disadvantage of the new house (besides the house’s first cockroach that we discovered during dinner): the house is right across the street from an outdoor basketball court that doubles as a hangout spot for local teenagers at night and a loud step aerobics class that begins at 5AM. I no doubt was counting my lucky stars for learning early on the necessity of traveling with earplugs. You never know when there will be screeching monkeys or drunken teens preventing you from getting a good night’s rest (no joke..the monkeys were a problem in Bahía Drake).
After a 3 hour plane ride to Houston and a much shorter customs line, I am now back in the US sipping a Wendy’s vanilla frosty with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love for my 14 hour plane ride, waiting to embark on chapter 3 of my adventure. As usual, there was a bit of culture shock on the airplane, as I was surrounded mostly by American English-speakers. Sometimes when you travel abroad, you wonder what it’s like to be able to understand and potentially jump into any conversations that go on around you…and when you finally experience it again, it is less than a thrill. I am excited for my pending return to the E.U., although a little nervous to be hit with high prices once again, even though as some others on my flight concurred, Costa Rica is actually more expensive than other destinations such as Southeast Asia. My trip to Costa Rica a times put me out of my comfort zone, especially in terms of the humidity and mosquito population, but like all other trips I have been on, I am grateful for the experience, definitely plan to return, and recommend that others visit as well. ¡Pura Vida!