Tapir Travels #1: The Arrival

January 23 – The Arrival
I reached San Jos�, Costa Rica today after a long journey. I had to change planes in Atlanta, and then stay over night in Mexico City before I was able to get here. It was an interesting experience to fly in at night over the biggest city in the world. A very beautiful sight to see, the lights of it spread out underneath us. I met a Mexican guy on the plane that offered to guide me and two other Swedes that were on the same flight.

The city could be described as brutal. On the streets you would see policemen with riot gear, including helmets, rifles, and shotguns. The size of the city also reflects in all the homeless population and beggars as well.

The feeling of San Jos� is quite a contrast. From the airport I took a taxi to the Hotel Imperial. The driver was going too fast, with the windows open and loud music blaring in the speakers. I would have felt more comfortable wearing a seatbelt, if there would have been any to use. My impression so far of the capital is that it seems to consist mostly of dented, horn-honking cars and street vendors. You can find most things imaginable sold on the streets, a lot of fruit, pineapples, mango, papaya, coconuts (with the straw that always accompanies it).

I have mostly been taking it easy and been trying to adapt to the time difference. It can be hard to sleep anyway at my hotel, last night I woke up four times by a car alarm from the street and couldn’t fall back asleep. The hotel only cost me $4 a night, so I guess I can live with that.

January 25 – Culture Introduction
Two days ago I took a bus from San Jos� to Nicoya, which is situated in the west of Costa Rica. I plan to spend two weeks here in a language school, to brush up on my Spanish. It took me five hours to go through half of the country. Such a small nation!

To go to the Peninsula of Nicoya we passed the river Tempesque by ferry. After a few hours from San Jos� the road turned in to gravel. Dotted along the way there were small villages with simple houses, many with tin roofs. Every village has its own dusty soccer field and next to the houses there are palm trees with coconuts. Of course there’s a local bar with walls almost caving in and a couple of chairs outside of it. Even though there are probably one or two buses going through here everyday, everyone stopped what they were doing, and stared with big eyes when the bus passed. I guess there’s not a whole lot to do in these small villages.

Nicoya is a small place with a Catholic church and a lot of restaurants. The twelve students of the school are almost the only foreigners there are except from a few exchange students. It’s a lot hotter here than in San Jos�, and very humid. I live with a seemingly typical Costa Rican family a short walk away from the school. Between 8 and 12 I’m having classes together with a girl from Germany. Some afternoons there are other activities, like salsa classes, which is absolutely essential to know in this country.

I’m still having a hard time sleeping at night. There are not many cars here, but last night I was kept awake by some barking dogs accompanied by a rooster and several birds. It’s like a zoo going on at night. I have to get some earplugs.