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2004-11-18

IMPORTANT NOTES FROM JUSTIN:

I'm running a special sale on my CD for readers of my online diary. Check it out here.

And now, on with the show...



Back in San José

We're back in San José after a sort of failed attempt at doing anything but this.

Group dynamics had gotten a little ugly in Puerto Viejo. Dave Marr was being grumpy and hurling blame at the rest of us for his dissatisfaction with the way his trip was going. At first I thought it was just me that he was acting like a jerk towards. But, when the others blew up at him and told him his behavior was unacceptable I realized that I wasn't imagining things.

Prickly behavior aside, it was clear that we had two contingencies on the trip. One group wanted to have expensive adventure—rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping—and not really interact with the culture so much. The other group wanted to wander through cities and towns, get down and dirty with local experiences, and sort of see what happened.

So, we left Dave Marr and Jovino in Puerto Viejo. They were just beginning their surfing lessons as we boarded a bus towards Limón. We'd been told that there were car rental places in Limón, so we were itching to get there as soon as possible and get a car.

Our bus wasn't like the bus we'd taken to Puerto Viejo. Instead of comfortable, cloth seats with almost–first–world legroom we stepped into a ratty, beaten municipal style bus with comically–small, filthy vinyl seats. Instead of a direct route we found ourselves stopping every kilometer or so to pick up or drop off someone at some spot in a tiny town or on the side of an unmarked road.

It wasn't bad at all. It was quite beautiful to get to see this part of the country—to see lives of people we'd likely never interact with otherwise. But, it was getting late and we really wanted to get a car and be on our way to the Pacific Coast before dark.

Two hours later the bus dropped us off in downtown Limón. The city teemed with life like a garbage can full of worms and maggots. The air smelled the part as well. Litter swam in murky, brown puddles where the defeated streets met the crusted sidewalks. Cars honked and their suspensions made loud clunking sounds as tires bounced in and out of potholes.

Every bar and restaurant was full of people gathered around cathode ray tubes. Every television in the area was playing the futbol game. Such widespread enthusiasm had to mean that Costa Rica's team was playing.

This part of downtown was anything but tourist–friendly. It was the city center of a port town. This was a place for sailors and truck drivers to mingle, a place for the wives of the proletariat to shop, a place for urban children to grow up dodging cars and playing with cans as the world devoured itself around them.

Fortune was on our side. We walked less than a block before we came to what had to be the best possible place for us to find. I saw a sign for an English language school that also had an internet café inside. Full of hope, we climbed a flight of wide, whitewashed stairs to it's entrance.

Inside a black hispanic man with a button down shirt helped us make phone calls and use the internet. After seven calls to car rental places, it was clear that there wasn't a single rental car company in the city of Limón. We were surprised, as this was the biggest city on the East Coast of the country. This meant we had to go all the way back to the capital city of San José just to get a car.

We'd made a list of all the things we wanted to do. There were beach towns, volcanoes, swimming, and stops in rural villages. And, we also made a list of things we didn't want to do. And, that list was a short one. It had only one thing on it—we didn't want to be in San José again.

But, we agreed that this was part of the adventure. Our helpful new friend brought us outside and hailed a privately owned car that was willing to act as a taxi and drive us to the bus station. We had less than thirty minutes to get to the station, figure out how to buy tickets, find our bus, and get ourselves on it.

We made it with plenty of time to spare—you can get a lot done in five minutes. And, sitting and waiting five minutes for a bus to leave can feel like an eternity of pain.

Our second bus of the day was comfortable and clean with an expensive sounding stereo system. The audio was crisp and clear without being loud, which meant that I got a very good presentation of Bob Marley's Legends album not once, not twice, but three ear–raping times during the trip.

There are only a few kinds of music that I really can't stand at all. Sure, there are the usual—untalented local bands, lo–fi, experimental jazz. But, the worst of all is reggae. I don't know what it is, but the music grates against me. The musicians always seem proficient. The recordings are great more often than not. And, the sentiments expressed align quite near my own—peace, unity, social justice. Yet, every time I hear the music my body reacts like an angry cat. Hairs stand up on end and I'm ready to kill—ready to kill anything with dreadlocks or red, yellow, and green stripes; ready to kill hippies. I don't want to feel this way. I want to appreciate and enjoy all kinds of music.

So, the bus trip turned out to be a lesson in patience. As the album played—over and over—I just told myself to breathe. I relaxed and let the peaceful syncopated clank of the guitar lull me into sleep where I could dream about dry shoes, actual towels, clean beds, and any music but this.


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