Today felt like a day of comfort in Costa Rica. At home, I am often busy with social events and meeting with friends and today was a bit of the same. I left Jaco beach on a morning bus to San Jose. I had emailed Ramon, my friend of a friend, before I left, but we had not connected with specific meeting information. When I arrived at the San Jose station, I searched for wifi to check for messages, but there was not a signal to be found. I had a flashback moment when I walked into an Internet cafe where computers were attached to modems and remembered travel days of the past where I spent many hours writing at places just like that. The nostalgia faded, with a moment of thanks for Steve Jobs as I watched the desktop’s swirling circle while waiting for my email to load. We connected and I sat outside waiting for Ramon to pick me up. While waiting…in less than five minutes…I learned the life story of a gentle and humble old man named Patrick. He told me of his daughter who died of Leukemia, his handsome son who he would never want me to meet because he is a gigolo, and businesses success in his life after moving to the US from Trinidad. We said our goodbyes as Ramon pulled up and I wished we had met earlier.
I returned to Ramon’s sister’s house where he is staying while visiting from New York to celebrate his sister’s 50th wedding anniversary. I loved the family dynamics in action…getting to know everyone while enjoying preparations for the party. Ramon was cooking…Amanda was doing Diane’s hair, Jeanette was preparing for her anniversary celebration that would include a church renewal of their vows (say it….aaahh), while the rest of us just enjoyed watching the action and being part of the fun. As the day wound to an end, I was picked up by a friend my aunt made while visiting CR in June. Rita and her daughter joined the festivities before taking me to the bus station where I was scheduled to take an overnight bus to Panama. After one day, I was sad to say Goodbye…this is a family I know I would enjoy being around.
Border crossings are always interesting because they require patience and good observation skills to figure out necessary procedures. I left Costa Rica on the 11:00 pm overnight bus. The bus was dark and everyone slept or rested quietly until the lights went on at 4:30 am. I cannot describe how cold the Tica buses are…today, I was prepared with layers of leggings, pants, socks, and blankets, and I could still feel the cold air blowing through my veins. We arrived at the border, got off the bus, and lined up at the Costa Rican immigration window where we were informed that the office would open at 6:00 am…an hour and a half after our arrival. These are the idiosyncrasies of travel that can be perplexing. That bus arrives every day at 4:30 and waits an hour and a half for the office to open. I wondered why not leave an hour later or why not open the office an hour earlier as I put on my headphones and sat on the cement floor in lotus pose. I really didn’t mind because one thing I have learned in my first months of travel is how to kill time in my mind…dreaming, thinking about funny things, praying, deep breathing…I have never been more at peace with quiet time than I am after so many hours on buses and in hotel rooms. At 6:00, the staff arrived and checked passports. With my exit stamp on hand, I walked across a two block “free zone” and arrived at the border of Panama and got in line to show my passport. The small visa sticker cost $1….nice! When arriving in a new country, you have to be prepared to show that you will not be staying. Keeping a future plane ticket handy smooths the process. In Panama, I had to show my onward ticket, a credit card, and have my picture taken. The last step was a luggage check. Unfortunately, the luggage checker didn’t arrive at work until 7:15 am, so it was back to lotus pose and deep thinking while waiting for his doors to open. Once we got on the bus, we made a quick stop for police to get on the bus to check passports again. I am not a systems analyst, but I can imagine ways this border crossing could have taken less than three and a half hours…like if all the offices were open at the same time, but developing patience isn’t a bad thing…I will take it wherever I can get it.
I will be in Panama City for a few days before heading to Colombia. City living…yeah!