The Terrific Trip of a Texan Trio in Tico Territory
This is not fair. I’m supposed to fit into one blog an adequate description of the week my parents came to visit me in Costa Rica? That is a tall order, and I’m supposed to be on vacation. Actually, I’m supposed to be in Physical Therapy school right now, so I guess I can’t complain! Okay, let’s take a stab at it:
Due to a flight delay that left me anxiously waiting an extra hour for my parents to arrive, I had to go the first few days of our trip without fingernails. Thankfully, the extremely high level of fun-having distracted me from my cuticle conundrum. From the beginning to the end of the week I just couldn’t get enough of the fresh Menke air that I had been forced to breathe without for so long. We really had a uniquely large amount of opportunities to spend some good quality time together, and I’d say we took full advantage. The dynamic of our family has morphed more than usual over recent years with us kids going off to college and just growing up in general (though “growing up” could be debatable in some cases…), and the rate of change doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon, which made this time to just relax and be with my parents even more special. I say “relax,” but don’t be fooled by thinking we slouched our way through the week.
From the get-go we were up and at ’em early on Thursday, catching a lengthy sequence of buses that got us to Brasilito by about 1 pm. Wasting no time, we dug right into some typical food and drink (that our waitress fetched by riding her bike to the local market right after we ordered) for lunch and then were on our way to the famous Playa Flamingo, which did not disappoint. Waves were ridden, beaches were walked, and a less-than-impressive game of frisbee was played by the time we decided to head back in hopes of catching the sunset at Playa Conchal. Of course, there are no guarantees when relying on public transportation, but with a lot of persistence and a little luck we waited a grand total of 2 minutes for the hourly bus that dropped us off in Brasilito with just enough time to hike to the beautiful Conchal to take in a beautiful sunset on our first evening. A rude awakening by some apparently insomnious roosters got us up and going after a wild and crazy night that ended promptly at 8:30 pm. Going on wims and game-time decisions, we somehow found a bus that dropped us off 3 hours down the highway just in time to catch the next bus we needed pulling up as we were getting off. As if that incredible timing wasn’t enough, try this one on for size: walking calmly under false pretenses thinking the ferry was going to leave at 3 pm, when we were a mere 2 blocks away from the dock at 1:55 pm we were informed it leaves at 2 pm. Of course, this new information was immediately and dramatically followed by the horn sounding of the ferry. Luggage in hand and 2 hours until the next ferry at stake, I ran to the ticket booth, whose curtains were closed when I arrived but were miraculously re-opened in response to my yelling pleas, while my parents jogged it out toward the boat. We basically had to leap from land to ferry Indiana-Jones-style as it was pulling away. I almost felt like I should have left a hat or something on the other side so I could go back and get it just in time like he does, but at least now I know for next time.
Heeding recommendations to avoid the waterfall upon arriving to Montezuma, we took the evening nice and slow to rest up for our big day at Isla Tortuga the next day. Even though the water was not as clear as normal because of the rainy season, we still really enjoyed the snorkeling; so much so that we were the only ones that went back out after lunch! We also got a couple hours to bum on the beach while enjoying all the food and drink we could want, along with a boat ride to and from the island where we saw a lot of butterflies who apparently fly around the sea “because they like it,” according to our tour guide. Learning from Emily’s and my mistake, we made sure to super-apply sunscreen and it certainly paid off. Left with plenty of sunlight upon our return, we decided to safely hike up the famous waterfall trail there and were simply amazed with what we found. I ruined my shoes, according to mom, but I would have ruined a lot more if necessary to see what we saw. Keeping with tradition, we hit the hay at a nursing-home-reminiscent hour of 8 pm, and were on the road 12 hours later towards our final traveling destination, Manuel Antonio.
Wouldn’t you know it, but we caught another bus by the shoestrings due to some nifty taxi maneuvering, saving us a solid 2 hours extra. When we arrived to Quepos we even had time to grab a leisurely Sunday lunch and go to the market before heading to the hotel. Everything was going great; or so it seemed. You see, for some reason that reaches beyond the capabilities of human understanding, the national park is closed on Mondays. And what day were we planning on spending all day in the park but… Mondays. Oops. Nevertheless, thanks to some sharp thinking and quick decision-making, we made all the appropriate arrangements to change our zip lining tour to Monday and get the heck out of dodge that same day, which would allow us to see a cool volcano and even have more time to see my university on Tuesday before heading over to meet my Tico parents. Perfect! You know, it’s amazing what keeping a positive attitude can do for the success of a trip. Heck, it’s true of life in general. Not everything went like we planned, and there were moments of frustration, but we still had a legit blasty blast because of who we were surrounded with and by keeping our focus on things that are really important. The zip lining was awesome, the beach we visited later had “gnarly” waves and the convenience of our bus ride back home could not have been better if we had planned it originally.
I immediately slipped into premature culture shock when we entered the Hampton Inn in Alajuela where we merited 2 free nights due to some saved-up points from somewhere. It really surprised me how weird I felt; I kept wondering where all the indoor insects, oscillating fans and community bathrooms were. It wasn’t anything overwhelming, but it certainly felt strange. Volcán Poás was just what the doctor ordered with a mid-day hike in the cool mountain air, and the clouds even parted enough for us to get a clear view of the crater. A rainy afternoon followed, but we continued undeterred to take a quick tour of Universidad Nacional to see a bit of the campus and my classrooms before we ate a lovely dinner of arroz con pollo with my Tico family. As if the language barrier wasn’t awkward enough already, for some reason my padre Tico wanted to bring up a discussion about American politics and the economy that resulted in nothing much except a bunch of nodding heads and uncomfortable glances. Overall, though, it was a great evening that I think everybody, including myself, really enjoyed.
By 10 am on Wednesday my parents were up in the air heading north and I had completed all of my class requirements, meaning my remaining obligations consist of eating, sleeping, packing and an IFSA farewell party on Friday. The semester is starting to wind down quickly now and it’s causing me to realize that I have just as many goodbyes to say as I do hellos to prepare.