Our trip to Costa Rica began with a very long day of flights and layovers that ended in the capital city, San Jose. During the day it was shopping streets, markets, cemetery, parks, cathedral, museum, etc. Later it was local bars, even a few which are famed for the proliferation of prostitution. At first I thought that this was an interesting phenomenon to observe, but when we read about how Costa Rica has been put on the watchlist for an alarming rise in human sex trafficking, it ceased to be intriguing.
On an evening walk on our last night in San Jose, Adam said to me in a conspiratorial whisper, “Can I tell you a secret? I don’t really care for this city.”
I’m loath to make blanket statements about a place that I have only spent three days in when I know that hundreds of different unrelated things color my judgment, but, if I’m only reporting how I feel, San Jose hadn’t knocked my socks off either. It was, to me, a city like any other with nothing that really stood out. In fact, I was beginning to think that I would have nothing of interest to say about San Jose, but then, we hadn’t yet met Patricia.
We stopped in at a local bar close to our hotel for one more drink. They were doing karaoke that night, always a good sign. During one of the intermissions, the DJ put on “Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton and that’s where Patricia came in. She was standing by the DJ booth saying “Oh, I looooooove this song!” drawing out a long “o” sound in her accented English. I smiled at her and we bopped along to the song singing because, as it happens, I looooove that song too. Then she had a conference with the DJ where I heard her at one point scream, “Juice Newton!” and then the karaoke version of “Angel of the Morning” was on. She beckoned to me, “Come and help me!”
Normally, I wouldn’t touch a karaoke song without first practicing it extensively in the car, but what the hell. I was in another country. I had partaken in a few beers (or perhaps a bucket of them), and I was being implored by a local to help her out. How could I say no to that?
It started out alright, but soon the whole thing derailed, and by the time we got to the end of the song (“BAY YAY YAY BAY!”) we were screeching like pissed-off birds of prey. But since no one was really paying attention but Adam who seemed to enjoy the spectacle immensely (he may have had a bucket of beers as well) it didn’t really matter. In fact, in my mind at the time, it all went so well that when she asked me to do “What’s Up?” by 4 Non Blondes, I said sure.
Again, normally I would never do this song for two reasons. One, it’s one of Sabrina’s standby songs and it’s just not right to usurp another’s standby song, and two…let’s just say that I’ve never personally heard the noises of a wombat in heat, but I’m pretty sure that’s about what we sounded like singing, “I pray every single day/for a revolution.”
After the song, Patricia told us a bit about herself. She was 43, had 4 children, and 3 grandchildren. I exclaimed that I never would have guessed and she shoved her face within an inch of mine. “Right. No wrinkles!” she said.
Then she gave me a piece of advice. “Don’t ever have children,” she said gravely, drawing out each word to insure that we understood the seriousness of her warning. “I have a son who…”
I assumed she was going to tell us a horror story to go along with the advice, but she was pulled away momentarily by a gabbling friend from the bar.
The whole time that this was happening, “one more drink” turned into “just one more drink” and then, “OK, just one more drink,” and by the time our wombat impersonation was over I was feeling like it was really time to go.
I went over to say goodbye and she scribbled something unintelligible on a receipt that she snatched from someone at the bar and told me that I had to call her next time we were in San Jose because she wanted to do more karaoke. And although this will probably end up the way most drunken exchanges of phone numbers in bars do, I was glad that we had met her because, frankly, San Jose had been a bit dull up to that point.
Back at the hotel that night, we needed to get to bed so that we could have a decent sleep before we had to catch the bus to the coast in the morning. For some reason, and I never learn that this is faulty logic, I think that having nothing to do but be on a bus for many hours the next day gives me license to be reckless with my stomach the night before. Although I have been proved wrong time and time again in many different countries, I continue to cling to this maxim. And the fact that I couldn’t sleep didn’t help any. Some of it had to do with the nearby display of the country’s prostitution issue whereby a customer of the hotel, who perhaps had a friend in his own room that he didn’t want to disturb decided to use the public corridor near our room for his personal pleasure. Luckily for all involved, the pleasure did not last long.
When we woke up in the morning I was again reminded of why I should not drink myself into a hangover the night before traveling. We had decided to walk the mile or so to the bus station with our backpacks, however, we realized that we had not factored in the extra time it might take for me to vomit in the street on the way and so called a cab instead.
Finally settled into our seats on the bus, I immediately closed my eyes and tried to initiate sleep which I figured was the only way I was going to get through the next six hours. Much to my dismay, about fifteen minutes into the ride, a salesman hopped on the bus and from the aisle next to my seat proceeded to give a sales pitch for bootlegged CD’s that was in length and depth equal to a Time Life Sounds of the 70’s infomercial. But the worst was yet to come.
When I was young I had this book called Good News, Bad News. The premise was that this guy went around living life and for everything good that happened, something bad would happen. I’m not sure what this was supposed to teach young children and I’m not sure what I personally gleaned from things like, “Bad news. He fell out of the airplane. Good news. He had a parachute. Bad News. The parachute had a hole in it…”
However, my morning took one of those good news, bad news turns as the bus started off from the station. Good news. We are on the right bus. Bad news. The driver apparently learned to drive at Mr. Toad’s school of Wild Rides and is flying over bumps and taking hairpin turns on half the wheels that he should. Good news. I took a Dramamine before we left. Bad news. It’s not working. Good news. I’m feeling a little bit better…Bad news. No I’m not. I am going to throw up. Good news. I have a plastic bag. Bad news. It has a hole in it that I didn’t notice. Good news. I didn’t throw up very much. Bad news. I have barf on my pants. And there was really no more good news until we got off the bus and were taken to our little house overlooking the beach which I suppose would make anyone feel just a little bit better.