San Jose has changed a lot since I was here eight years ago. The streets are a little cleaner and there are even more American companies taking over every corner. The cities and towns I’ve been to in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua were similar and felt like they blended together but San Jose actually felt like I was in a different country for the first time in awhile. Luke and Deb agreed. Speaking of them, Costa Rica would be our last country together backpacking. I’ve been with Luke since our teaching gig in Guatemala and once we traveled down to León, Nicaragua, Deb joined us for the long haul. I told them about my friends who lived here around San Jose who I would be staying with. I told them about Monica. Do you remember her?
I met Monica in June of 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa. We were on the same flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town making her one of the first volunteers I met for that trip. Monica and I were pretty close and I told her one day I’d visit her. Well three years later, here I am! Monica and I have kept in contact over the years up to my arrival. I asked her to meet us at a restaurant called La Sospecha later that evening. The restaurant was Dani’s idea, another Costa Rican friend of mine. She and her sister Maria Jose would also meet us up there.
As for Dani and Maria, I also met them in South Africa but during my second visit there while I lived in Kayamandi. I didn’t see them as much as Monica but I remember them both being so cool and very down to earth. Tonight would be one sweet reunion!
Luke, Deb, and I took a taxi to the restaurant and waited while the others arrived. I was curious to see how much my Costa friends have changed over the years. When I wasn’t paying attention, I felt a hand on my shoulder and a familiar voice saying “Dan!”. It was Monica! My face let up a giant grin. She was there along with her boyfriend David. One of the first things I noticed what different about her was that her accent changed. Whatever Euro/Latina accent she had before was gone for the most part. Her English was always great but it was even better now than I remembered and now her accent is more of a streamlined, straightforward English with the slightest hint of Latin flare. She still looked exactly the same though! I introduced her to Luke and Deb.
Monica has been extremely busy since I last saw her. She’s an entrepreneur now and has been a hand at organizing local events with special accordance to San Jose and for the locals to “take back” their city. She even played a part in hosting a wildly popular TED event here. Sounds like a lot of her effort has paid off. Soon, Dani and Maria walked in to join our group. Even though Monica and the sisters have both stayed at my old house in South Africa, this is the first time they met each other.
After we left the restaurant I stayed at the Golden Frog Hostel one more time with Luke and Deb. The next morning I said my farewells to my two traveling companions and wished them luck on their flights out of the country. Luke was going to spend a couple of days in freezing cold New York while Deb was continuing her trip in Colombia. It was really great traveling with people who are very easy going.
Monica picked me up from the hostel and took us to Davids house where he prepared lunch for all of us.
“We’re on this healthy kick”, he apologized as he served my plate.
No apologies necessary. Especially when they went out of their way to make me lunch. The food was great!
Monica planned for the three of us to visit the beaches of a place called Manuel Antonio. It was a few hours drive to the west. I wasn’t sure if Monica remembered how sensitive I was with motion sickness so I warned her that after one Dramamine that I would probably be out cold for the majority of the car ride. Real anti-social. When we drove off, I fell asleep and when I woke up we had just arrived to Manuel Antonio. We met up with some of their friends and had a nice dinner before we searched for a place to stay for the evening. Since it was Valentine’s Day, most places were booked. After a few tries, we finally found a hotel that cost quite a bit but it was the place that had any vacancy, so we took it. Good news was that this hotel was within a short walking distance to one of the beaches.
We woke up the next morning and walked down to the beach. Monica was smart to bring a sheet from our room for us to lay on underneath one of the beach umbrellas.
The water was salty, the waves were oncoming, and there were para-sailors in the air. I love beaches when I get to play in the water! I had all the intentions of burying myself in the sand as well but the sand would have burned me alive. It was too hot! Graciously, Monica and David bought me a coconut to chill off with. I usually don’t like coconuts, especially the water inside, but this particular one was pretty alright! And it was cold! Props to the seller for refrigerating these bad boys.
I remembered in the nick of time to collect sand from the beach here. Really, my bag can’t possibly fit anything else into it. It’s already heavier than a muther, but I HAD to get some.
The drive back to San Jose was a long one because we hit the prime of traffic jams. Seems everyone wanted to get their beach fix in for Valentine’s Day. On the way, we pulled aside and walked over to a natural reserve where I counted 25 gargantuan wild crocodiles underneath the bridge we were on.
And also, we stopped at a market where I just had to sneak snap this woman to my friends back home. My eyes.
In San Jose, I said goodbye to David and then went over to Monica’s house where I would stay the night. Monica wanted to watch a horror movie even though she admitted she was a scaredy cat. While she was looking for a good one for us to watch, I found plenty of opportunities to scare the mess out of her multiple times. “Danny Devito!!” she would yell out at me. That was her new nickname for me. It switched from when she used to call me “Danilo” back in South Africa.
The next morning, Monica took me to a nearby park where we would separate and Dani would pick me up from. It was really great seeing Moni again and chatting over everything we experienced in South Africa three years ago. Keep doing what you’re doing because it sounds like you’re going places! And thanks for taking care of this guy over the weekend!
I walked over with my huge bags towards to where Dani told me to meet her. She left me lengthy instructions on which buses to take but I just couldn’t be bothered. I took a taxi to the mall where we would meet. Soon enough I saw Dani where we met to begin the rest of my awesome stay in awesome Costa Rica!