Let’s start with today, because otherwise I might never get started. Hopefully I will be able to go back and fill in the previous week’s adventures as I have time.
Each day so far has involved some sort of challenge or something I needed to figure out on my path to being successful and independent while I’m here. For the first couple of days, I felt totally helpless. It was like I was a kid again, and couldn’t go anything for myself. But since then, I have given myself some sort of challenge to work towards as I get the hang of things. Or sometimes, like today, the challenges present themselves because there is something that I need to do.
Today my big challenge was to make it up to Barva, Heredia by bus. To do that, I had to take a bus from where I am staying (San Francisco de Dos Rios) into San Joe, then take a bus to downtown Heredia, then from there get on a bus to Barva.
Also, I had to do that carrying a slice of cake. I was visiting a student for her birthday, and there’s this really wonderful looking bakery on the way to the first bus stop. So I decided to stop in and buy some cake to bring with me. I got her a slice of chocolate cake with puffy frosting, which was just wrapped in a little plastic bag. So now I have to get to Barva essentially one-handed.
Having one hand full of cake turned out to be a really good way to travel. If am am just walking around downtown San Jose looking at stuff, I can feel like a clueless gringa. But I discovered that walking around with cake somehow gave me legitimacy. I was clearly going somewhere, with some purpose, not just gawking. I had a mission- to deliver cake.
The other thing to know about the bus system is that there really isn’t any central organization. Each bus route, I believe, is independently owned and operated. So the bus into San Jose drops you off at one place, but then the bus to Heredia is somewhere else. The advice I got was “get to San Jose, then ask somebody where the buses to Heredia are.”
This would be my third trip into downtown San Jose, and while I’m starting to get familiar with it, something about it just throws my sense of direction entirely off. I kind of know the landmarks to look for, but can get turned around backwards so that I end up heading in exactly the opposite direction from where I need to go.
This time, everything clicked. After figuring out who at the bus stop looked like they might know where the bus to Heredia would be, I asked, and somebody nearby gave me directions- get to the Banco de Costa Rica, turn right, and go a couple of blocks. “The Boulevard” would go the whole way, if I took that.
And while I do know the Bank of Costa Rica, my instinct of where is was in relation to the bus stop was once again completely backwards. But the girl had been gesturing in one direction, so I went that way. With my cake.
It worked! I started passing familiar landmarks, like Central Park, turned to the right, and could see buses way down yonder. And when I got there, they were even going to Heredia. Success!
The bus to Heredia seemed like it took forever. There really aren’t any signs that tell you where you are or how far until you get there. When we got to the stop where everybody seemed to be getting off, I got off too.
Now I needed to get to Barva. I had heard that the Heredia buses are all pretty much in the same spot, so I just walked around looking for one that said Barva. Nothing. I turned around and passed a line of people waiting on the sidewalk, and up pulled a brightly colored school bus with a sign for Barva in the window. Perfect!
Since I was at the back of the line, it was standing room only when I got on. And these are not smooth luxury buses. Also, I still had cake. I was supposed to call the student from Heredia to let her know when to expect me. All I had done was given her the Tico time ETA which was, “I think I’ll be there some time in the afternoon.” I tried to get my phone and the phone number out without dropping the cake, but the bus started moving. I did get everything put back away without dropping the cake
But the buses here do have unspoken rules about who gets a seat. I don’t know the exact rules, but definitely the elderly and people with small kids get a seat first. Women get seats before men do. And people will get out of their seats if somebody gets on who has seat precedence.
So anyway, somebody got up, and as the only woman in that part of the bus, I was “next in line”. This involved having the guy who was actually next to the seat move over so that I could go past him to sit down. But I think having cake might have helped too. So I got to sit down, put the cake in my lap, and make the call.
I had forgotten my camera, so no photos today, but Barva was really charming. After being in San Jose for a week, it really just had a pleasant, small town feel to it. I delivered the cake, visited a soda (a “typical” small Costa Rican restaurant), and walked around with the student before getting a ride back home.
Once again, I successfully accomplished my challenge for the day!