Sunday, September 30, 2012

Costa Rica Day 1 (San Jose)

My plane landed in San Jose Costa Rica just before noon.  I went through customs and got my luggage without too much hassle surprisingly.  However, once I stepped outside I was hounded by taxi drivers asking me to go with them.  I've seen aggressive people before, but these men and women are aggressive and tenacious to the point that I just wanted to really push them out of the way.  Natalia, who was my couch surfing host in San Jose, suggested to take the bus and get off at the last stop at San Jose.  I trusted her of course, and I eventually found the bus.  On the bus I met an American guy by the name of Jacob.  We chatted it up on the entire bus ride.  He was there for half vacation and half business.  He works for Whole Foods, which is pretty awesome and was there to look at potential produce for the supermarket.  Then this where the conversation starts going crazy.  I asked him if he was into couch surfing.  He said he was totally into it, but unfortunately he could not find a host due to him doing last minute couch requests.  I mentioned I was staying with a girl named Natalia, and his eyes lit up.  He mentioned that he remembers asking a girl with that name if he could stay with her for a few nights, but she declined him because she already had a guest which was me.  Jacob shows me her profile on his phone, and lo and behold that was Natalia.  Jacob and I were both freaked out at just what transpired, but in a positive way.  Also Jacob happened to be on my flight to San Jose.  What are the odds of meeting a random person on the bus who happened to be on the same flight as you and also knows your couch surfing host?  These kind of things rarely happen, and I'm sure this won't happen a whole lot in the future or even at all.  Jacob and I parted ways when the bus made its final stop.  I got his number in case Natalia changes her mind.

I had some hours to kill before meeting Natalia at Parque Central.  Just walking around San Jose for the first five minutes, I realized why people don't come here to sight see.  Downtown was relatively dirty, and there were many American stores and restaurants.  I don't have problems with that, but it was pretty much overkill in San Jose.  In fact I had a bad feeling about San Jose when the bus passed a Denny's five minutes into the ride.  It felt like the city lacked culture and authenticity.  I'm a hopeful person, and I hope Natalia would show me the awesome parts of San Jose.  I did stop for some lunch at what I thought was a local fast food joint called Pollo Campero.  I had two pieces of chicken, which pretty much tasted like KFC's extra crispy chicken.  Nothing to write home about, but not terrible at all.  I later found out though that Pollo Campero is actually global and there are some restaurants in Texas.  In fact it was not even started in Costa Rica.  That was so epic fail on my part.  Don't worry, I made it up eventually.  Here is the picture of the chicken I ate.  The whole restaurant also seems eerily similar to Los Pollos Hermanos from the show Breaking Bad.  I wonder if the creator of Breaking Bad was inspired by Pollo Campero. 

I walked around a couple hours more.  Nothing really too exciting other than seeing people dressed up in cool costumes for a show(I assume for their independence day festivities) at the park.  Natalia met up with me at Parque Central, we hopped on a bus to her her apartment outside of downtown San Jose.  We definitely got along from the get-go.  It also helps that she is pretty passionate about food and was relieved that she was not a vegetarian.  We made it to her apartment, which is a two story townhouse.  She gave me a brief tour of her pad and told me about how to use the bathroom the Costa Rican way.  Apparently in Costa Rica, you have to throw the toilet paper in the trash as opposed in the toilet.  The reason being is that the pipes in Central America have much lower pressure, and that toilet paper clogs up the pipes easily.  As any American I was first disgusted by the fact that I would have to put toilet paper in the trash.  However, I was in a different world and I have to tolerate this for a week.  After a day though, I got used to it.

I told Natalia about Jacob, and we decided to give him a call to see if he was still interested in staying with her.  He called back and was down with it.  Before we picked him up, Natalia and I checked out the Independence Day parade near her house.  It was basically kids holding up homemade lanterns.  My favorite lantern was the one with ox and the cart.  There is of course a history to this.  Here is the link for more explanation; Costa Rica Independence Day Traditions.  What I also liked about this parade is looking at the happy faces from everyone.  You could clearly tell that they have so much pride in their country.

After the parade, we went to Walmart which I was surprised that Costa Rica even has one.  I'm not a huge fan of the store because of their business practices, but I couldn't help but be a little intrigued by it to be honest.  The weirdest part about Walmart was that in order to even park at the parking lot, you have to pass through a security checkpoint.  Even in the United States, there aren't even any security checkpoints at Walmarts in shady areas.  It does make sense since from what I hear crime is an issue in San Jose, but I think it's a little overkill.  Inside Walmart, it was quite bright because it had yellow walls and surprisingly a fun place to shop.  I love that many of the meat and fish in the store are local, and I got an opportunity to take a picture of Chocolate Frosted Flakes in Spanish.  Also another good thing about this Walmart was that no customer was a candidate for the People of Walmart website.  I go on that website every so often, and I just shake my head sometimes of the people that go there.

After we left Walmart, we went to fill up Natalia's car with gas.  The gas stations are full service which I find interesting.  If I lived in Costa Rica, I don't think I would ever get used to the idea of full service gas stations. I trust the people that fill up my car, but I like to do it myself mainly because I'm used to it.  

We picked up Jacob at the hostel he was staying at, and we all decided to go to one of the college bars in the city.  We ended up going to a bar that had the name Buffalo.  I can't remember the full name of it.  Anything that has the word buffalo has to be good.  Basically we just hung out, had some awesome nachos which I should have taken a picture of, and had my first Imperial beer, which I will discuss in more detail in a future post.  Below is the slideshow from my first day at Costa Rica.

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