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08 March 2010

Across the Country by Bus

Bus rides, hospitality, and yes, Univision's headquarters are in LA...

4:20 AM. Sunday, 03/07/2010

It's way too early to be awake. Ugh.


2:00 PM.

We arrived at Agua Buena much earlier than planned. We took two buses; the first leg was from Quepos to San Isidro. Full report to follow.


10:15 PM

Here's how today's journey went: Woke up in Quepos at 4:15 AM, got to the bus station for the 5 AM bus. We soon found out that the bus is actually a 5:30 bus. So damnit, we think, there's 30 minutes of sleep lost. Christina and I just played cards to pass the half hour. The restaurant/bar across from the bus station was just closing for the night (this was the weekend, after all).

The bus (to San Isidro, or "Perez" to the locals) came at 5:30 as promised and just as the sun began to rise. The bus itself wasn't very comfortable, with dull leather seats bolted onto a shaky metal floor. I also sat atop the bus' wheel ridge, giving me very little space to move my legs. It's not too bad, though - I got some shut-eye along the way. We passed through the beach town Dominical and had a short pit stop to purchase snacks, and we arrived in San Isidro [Perez] much earlier than we had anticipated (i.e. 8:10 instead of 9:00). This gave us time to catch an earlier bus for the second leg of our journey. But in the meantime - breakfast! We had empanadas from a nearby cafe (aka a "soda") - the empanadas were made of cornmeal and were delectable.

The 9 AM bus we were trying to get onto was on its way. It had started from San Jose, where it left at full capacity, so we had no choice but to hope that some people would have gotten off and opened up some space for us so that we wouldn't thave to stand for the next 4-5 hours. Lucily, we did get seats. Some people who got on after us did end up standing on the bus, however. But many got off after an hour or two. Christina's friend Glenda was there on the bus. She's one of the many "housewives" in the town whom Christina had befriended in the course of her project.

I put my headphones on and was soon letting the passing scenery, warm but filtered sun, and George Gershwin lull me to sleep. I was half-asleep and disoriented when Christina said to get off. A guy (local taxi driver and friend?) drove us up the road to her apartment. It was warm and sunny but not nearly as humid as it was down by the beach. It was midday when we arrived - the 4-hour bus ride only took 3 hours. We recharged for a while and I checked my email. I attempted to Skype home... no luck. We went grocery shopping at the local supermarket. Cheddar cheese is apparently (and most unfortunately) a luxury item at the prohibitively expensive price of over 3000 colones ($6) per small block. Back at the apartment, we fried (twice) plantains to make a dish (don't recall the name). It was incredibly simple but delicious! They go well with some refried beans spread on top.

Had dinner with a family that Christina's real close with - Lisbeth, William, and their daughter Jessica. They were very very nice - serving us a freshly-homemade soup made with chicken (that they just killed this afternoon!), yucca, potatoes, and plantain, with rice and homemade (!) tortillas on the side.

"Con mucho gusto," they respond to my frequent nodding and exclamations of "muchas gracias." I'm actually surprising myself with the amount of Spanish I can understand - I'd say maybe 35% while listening, 65% while reading. And I know the importante phrases/sentences, but don't know how to conjugate verbs or anything.

Agua Buena - the small town we're in - has ~1000 people. Walking through town, you'd almost certainly bump into someone you know at anytime, because everyone knows everyone else. It's odd. And even to strangers, you say "a dios" as you walk by - a common greeting here.

Skype finally worked to call home. The Oscars are tonight - we watched a bit at the family's house. After dinner, I was also able to skype Michelle (in Vietnam).

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