Friday, March 12, 2010

The Best Laid Plans – “Pura Vida!!”

photo: courtesy of

It’s Thursday and suddenly, I’m very much aware of the fact that our vacation is nearing an end. School ends tomorrow evening and we’re off to Arenal early Saturday for the last two days of our trip. Time has moved slowly here – but in a good way. I feel like I’ve been in Costa Rica much longer than five days; a result, I suppose, of learning so many new things between Spanish class and surfing.

Speaking of Spanish class, LAOra combined Levels 2 and 3 yesterday for a trip to the Supermarket. In spite of her intensity and sometimes abrasive delivery, she’s a good teacher and I’m learning a lot – though it kind of sucks that everyone at school speaks English, not really an environment conducive to applying what I’ve learned! Yesterday, she gave us a ten or so questions to answer (in Spanish) based on our visit to Mas X Menos (translated as “More for Less”), the Supermarket in town.

I was paired up with Tia, a 31 year old girl, from Norway. I didn’t spend much time with her prior to our trip to the market and it was nice to get to know more about her. She works on a cruise ship – what is it with all of these people working on ships, and why didn’t I think of doing that in my younger years? She’s very quiet, almost timid, but in talking to her, I realized, she’s no mouse. I especially appreciated her drive to get to the store before everyone else, so “we can be first and not look stupid asking store employees the same questions as everyone else.”

We made a good team. Julia and I had been to the store a few times, so I knew it well and Tia’s Spanish is much better than mine. In the end, we got in and got out in less than 30 minutes.

Today, Julia and I are feeling the pinch of the final days in Jaco. We decide to skip classes in the afternoon, rent a car and visit Manuel Antonio, a national park located about an hour from Jaco. I’ve heard great things about the place and Carlos, Julia’s photography teacher, showed us some pictures. The place looks beautiful with waterfalls and lush plant life. Oh and there are monkeys too! Julia likes this.

We ask Hannah, the School’s Director about renting a car and she offers to call one of the places in town to get one. Kim’s going to join us as well, which will be fun. I like Kim. She’s very down to earth and quite interesting.

I’m excited to see something other than Jaco, so when Hannah informs us that all the cars are booked for the day, it’s hard to conceal my disappointment. “Well, maybe we can rent from somewhere else,” I suggest. Hannah then informs us that the park actually closes at 3pm. It is now 1pm. By the time we get a car, get on the road and get to the park, it will most likely be too late.
Now, I want to throw something. It’s so frustrating getting anything done here. The day we cut class, we walked around town asking all of the tour operators if there was anything we could do, but noooooooo, everything started at 7am! Grrrrrr. We ask Hannah if she’s got any other suggestions and at the same time, Julia mentions going to the local waterfalls. Hannah calls the tour company to check on that and of course, it’s too late for a waterfall tour too!

I’m not a big fan of tours and neither is Julia, so we ask about just doing it on our own. You’d think that between Carlos, who’s milling around taking pictures while this is going on, and Hannah – both people who live here – somebody would have a cool suggestion! But, they don’t and I’m not feeling inspired to do much of anything anymore.

In the end, Kim does her own thing and Julia and I decide to go to Hermosa, a small town to the north – right near the all-you-can-eat sushi place. It’s another hot one and as we walk towards the main road to hail a cab, we pass a cute looking restaurant/taco stand called Star Fruit – definitely a place to check out before we leave on Saturday.

In the cab on the way to Hermosa, our cab driver doesn’t say much except the token Costa Rican salutation, “Pura Vida.” This saying reminds me of “Prego” in some ways, where the Italians use it universally. Sometimes they say it instead of “You’re welcome.” Other times, it replaces, “Hello.”

“Pura Vida” means the good life and everyone in Costa Rica says it. However, it’s more of the way they say it, that we both find odd. Julia put it the best the other day when she said, “It’s this strange insider thing, like they drank the Kool-Aid or something and they’re all walking around saying, ‘Pura Vida’. Girl, imagine everyone walking around in New York, with this goofy look on their faces, greeting everyone with ‘I Love New York!’”

So, the cab driver’s continuous loop of “Pura Vida” adds to my already irritable vibe. Every time we ask him something, he smiles widely and replies, “Pura Vida.” It’s like we’re on Candid Camera or something.

No comments: