How to Lose Your Luggage: First days in Costa Rica

Stale, unnaturally cool air flows through my nostrils as I flip through the ads of an airline-funded magazine. A baby cries nearby and I feel bad for her mom and the people next to her. The airline passes out small boxes filled with sandwiches, chips, and a brownie. The whole plane is filled with noise as we all unwrap sandwiches packaged in what I can only assume was the loudest plastic available. We try unsuccessfully to determine what animal the meat in the sandwiches came from before I give up on mine and eat my chips, sitting behind a pile of airplane garbage, as we blow through thousands of gallons of fuel. The plane ride felt like any plane ride. The adventure ahead had not even begun to sink in yet.

As our plane landed at SJO my mood improved. Airports are easy places for me to get stoked; the general vibes feel chaotic and transient. We followed the crowds through the lines for immigration and I wondered where everyone would go once they left the confines of the airport. Likely to cabs and shuttles I told myself, doubt creeping back in as I was reminded the first part of my travels would be adventured solo. Scott had a climate controlled shuttle supplied by his work waiting for him out front. I needed to get to a hostel that night and navigate the bus system down to southern Costa Rica to meet him the next day… or whenever he had a chance to leave work next.

We waited for our bags at the baggage carousel, playing around and succumbing to the excitement. We each stacked our two carry on bags and instruments on a rolling trolley and babbled about our plans. Everything neat, organized, and manageable. I practiced telling Scott the directions to my hostel to boost my confidence for when I would need to speak spanish to a cab driver. The baggage claim spun round and round, pretty peices of luggage going to their own organized trollies to be pushed through customs and out into the cool Costa Rican night air. All the bags except one were taken and we were left standing there. I wondered what happpened to that last unclaimed bag. This was the first time I had checked a bag (it had Scott’s field gear for his job in it) and the airline lost it.

Our bag caught wanderlust and decided to travel to Miami without us. Our plans changed. We were told it would be here sometime the next day, but they could have it delivered to us. There are no addresses in Costa Rica. “Ok… send it 4 hours south to Tinamaste, then go 5km down the dirt road to las Tumbas and drop it off at the place with a driveway that starts 300 meters after the turnoff to the waterfalls…”. That is literally how addresses are given here. We were not going to leave the fate of all of Scott’s work gear up to Delta Airlines. Or maybe this was fate and we both just really wanted to spend one more night together. Either way we easily accepted the new plan and hand in hand walked out of the airport. My solo adventure became a duo adventure. We bought flan to-go from a Rosti Pollo and brought it back to a cheap hostel about a block away from the airport. We ate dessert in bed and made out as departing planes roared over our heads.

The next morning we made coffee out of a Costa Rican coffee maker and dipped a package of “Maria” galletas into the hot brown elixer. Even cheap coffee is delicious in Costa Rica. We cut through the field behind the hostel to get back to the airport. The tall grass seemed more dangerous than the tall grasses of Colorado. We pretended to be frogger as we crossed the busy highway. Then we returned from whence we came- back to the airport to anxiously wait for our bag. They made Scott go around and wait for me at arrivals. I picked the bag up at the carousel from the Miami flight, went through customs, bought two Kolbi sim cards for 4 bucks each, and happily headed out to meet Scott. I pretended I just got there and he was picking me up.

We tried unsuccessfully to get our phones to work with the new sim cards. We found out later the frequencies of our phones were not compatible with the frequencies Costa Rica uses. Scott was supposed to have a shuttle sent for him sometime that day to take him to his new job but we needed to contact them. A pushy taxi driver ended up helping us make a phone call on his phone to Scott’s work. He offered us a ride back to our hostel for 3x more than what it was worth. I told him to screw off but thanks and gave him four 100 Colone coins (about 60 cents) for letting us use his phone. We got into an airport taxi who charged us the correct amount to take our bags back to the hostel where we connected to internet and saw that Scott’s boss had changed the plan and directed us to take a 20-30$ taxi to the bus station and take a bus 3 hours south to San Isidro. Frustration, followed quickly by acceptance. We knew there was a bus that would take us to the station for just a couple bucks, but as we waited for the slow crowded busses we got talked into a taxi ride by a friendly driver who didn’t fuck around and offered us a fair price first thing. He showed us pictures of his kids and dogs as we hurtled through traffic and arrived at the bus stop with just enough time to shovel casados in our mouths before the 6$ bus ride departed.

And that is when it hit us. We are planning to be in Costa Rica for a year. In the jungles, the beaches, and bustling cities. In the land of infinite bananas, decadent panaderias, and chilled coconuts. Of afternoon coffee and arepas with some of the most loving people I have ever met. Scott will have a new job and I will be caretaking, but we both came with a second job as well: the quest to better ourselves, to get sober, to get happy. To practice-practice-practice patience and self love. Bienvenidos a Costa Rica.

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