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13 March 2010

The Last Night in Costa Rica and the Return to Panamá

Friday, March 12, 2010. San José, Costa Rica.
12:25 AM

"Welcome to the third world"...

Back from dinner, it was at an amazingly good (seriously, better than most places I've eaten at in the states) pizza restaurant/cafe. The pizza was fresh, crispy, cheesy, and all around amazing - imagine Cheese Board with meat! The restaurant is literally hidden down some railroad tracks - there's no street, just a small sidewalk (if you could call it that) along the tracks. And the crazy thing is - the tracks are still in use! Trains were passing by during our dinner (but not too often, and with the doors closed we hardly heard anything).

At dinner, I got to meet Christina's Peace Corps friends: Markus, David, Derek, Blake, Jen, Christine, Anna, Mario, Josh, and Tyler & Anna (the reason for the dinner - they're actually working at the embassy, but originally met while they were both doing the Peace Corps; they've become good friends with all the PC people in CR, and tonight was a goodbye dinner before they move to their next assignment in Nicaragua). [I sat with Christina, Markus, and Blake; good food, good company. Markus is interested in law, so I told him about my current job at a law firm.]

After dinner, the whole group went bowling. It was cool, but I was just having an off night, played horrible (not one strike) which just made me frustrated. So my mood was somewhat sour as I rode back in a taxi with Christina and Christine. I declined the option to keep going out all night.

I needed cab fare, so I wanted to stop at an ATM. The two girls then informed me that all the ATMs shut down at 10pm ("for safety"). NOOOOOO!!!

The taxi driver just kept driving, even as I tried to bargain for an ATM. "I don't know if we're driving in circles," said Christine as we weaved through the dark streets of San Jose. She tried to console me in my frustrated state: "Welcome to the third world." It was just enough time in San Jose - I've had enough of this place. So it's appropriate that I'm leaving tomorrow.

Now I gotta sleep, wake up at 5:30 to finish packing my stuff, get in a cab (one of Anna-Maria's friends who can give me a special price!), and board my 8am flight to Panama. It's gonna be a long day ahead: Wake up - 1-hour flight - see Panama - 7-hour flight - get picked up at LAX by a party bus! Sleep tonight will definitely be needed.


Saturday March 13. 7:50 AM

I realized that I was carrying a laptop! ...

I'm at the airport, about to leave San José. I've been trying to connect to the internet for the past 30 minutes, but to no avail. I woke up at 5:20am, showered, and as I was brushing my teeth Anna-Maria informed me that her taxi-driver friend was already outside. I said my good-byes and was on my way to the aeropuerto.

There was a bit of a traffic jam due to construction, but no other problems with the ride. The airport was crowded when I arrived - an American Airlines flight to Miami was delayed and people were just waiting around, filling up half of the ticketing area.
There are airline employees at the start of each ticketing line to make sure you've paid the $26 departure tax at the fee-collecting table. Everything here is in US dollars. Airports are just a web of stress in which you're constrained on every side - whether from bureaucracy, security rules, or paranoia/fear. Security had no line, luckily, but the guard decided to search my backpack by hand, taking his sweet damn time! Whatever.

I proceeded to the gate, walked through the entire terminal once, looking for some sort of public internet station. I couldn't find any and got kinda bummed. It was only then, after searching the entire terminal for public computers that I realized that I was carrying a laptop! I over-saw some people online on their laptops, so I whipped out the one I was carrying (Christina's) and tried to connect. And it didn't work. After several tries I resigned myself to my fate of unconnectivity and proceeded to snack on my bag of platano chips (which cost $2.50). Determined to check my email, I then walked over to where there are small desk thingys by the wall and saw people on the internet. I asked the guy if the internet connects, and he told me (en Español) that the wireless works only in this area of the airport. So I tried to connect again. There was a different wireless network listed but it still wouldn't connect! Argh! I guess my attempt to find a city tour guide in Panama City via CouchSurfing won't happen. Eh.

My flight's boarding soon - hasta luego!


9:45-ish AM

On the flight now to Panama; it's a smaller airplane: A EMB-190 (never heard of it). I had a hot croissant sandwich and some orange juice to snack on. Apparently I'm not that good at pronouncing "naranja" because the flight attendant had no idea what I was saying and I embarrassingly had to switch to English :/


1:00 PM. Panama City.

I'll just hop on the first bus...

Guess what?! I'm back at the Albrook Mall here in Ciudad de Panamá. The bus from the airport got me here in 1 hour - pretty fast. Now I don't know what bus will take me to Casco Viejo - I'll just hop on the first one to Cinco de Mayo, which looks pretty close by on the map.

There was another gringo (who looked Australian) on the bus with me from the airport (the bus was really packed, but I eventually got a seat). It's so incredibly easy to spot other travelers when I'm abroad. I wonder if I stick out? Probably so, with my big dorky backpack and my nonstop gawking.

Panamá seems so much bigger, more lively, and commercialized than San Jose(or Costa Rica for that matter). It's also way more hot/humid. Ok, gotta go for now, probably won't have an opportunity to write again, so peace out!

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