The Kindness of Strangers
Three nights ago I landed in Costa Rica and my first morning in San Jose I had dental surgery. I’m to take it easy for a few days and stay out of the sun but i've been holed up on this studio apartment for the last 2 days and I couldn't handle being indoors anymore so today I set out to explore the neighborhood.
September, is the winter season so it rains quite a bit, but i've noticed the showers start around 2pm, continue until about 5 and the its dry until 9pm or so then resumes much louder and with thunder claps in tow. Coming from California where it a welcome change i missed rains distinct smell, but as I would be traveling on foot then bus I needed to be strategic in my timing. At 10am with my raincoat packed in my mini bag pack and nothing else but my wallet and room key I sauntered outside and the fresh and cool air that greeted me was like a hug from someone I really like and hadn't seen in a long time. I kept a small map in the back pocket of my jeans as a last resort in case I got lost. With no cell phone signal I walked on in what I believed to be the direction of the city center.
I didn't have any lofty goals for this excursion, maybe buy a sim card and some soup that wouldn't be too unappealing if eaten cold or at room temperature since that's the extent of my allowed diet these days until my mouth decide to fully heal. Having gained sustenance solely from yoghurt, ice-cream and water since my procedure, it was time to try something different.
Now, my dentist said I should stay out of the sun, but after walking a good 30 minutes and growing weary probably owing to the cocktail of medications i've been taking since the surgery (an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and painkillers) I happened upon a bus stop and immediately and without thinking sat on the bench. I silently decided that if a bus came along within the next 10 minutes I would get on it and go wherever it took me, otherwise I would continue to rest until I saw fit to do otherwise. About 7 minutes later an older woman walked up and sat on the bench next to me. We sat in in silence for a while until I interrupted her quiet thoughts with a 'Permiso senora, sabes si...' asking if she knew if the bus to the Multiplaza stopped here on a Sunday. She said yes but *indecipherable*. I was so confused and embarrassed at my lack of understanding her and was about to say 'ok gracias’ and run away or continue sitting there in silence, but she got up and said she will show me where.
This is why I love to travel, strangers are always so kind to me and at times it's overwhelming - in a good way. I have always felt, since I knew what it meant to feel, like a stranger in the place where I lived, and only when I would leave temporarily would I not feel out of place. Not that I necessarily fit in, but I wouldn't feel as apart and disconnected from everyone else around me. because then everyone else was a stranger to me, not just me to them.
We walked to the corner and crossed over the street and lo and behold she had been directing me just to the opposite corner to wait for that particular bus. I thanked her and began to wait. And wait....and wait.
And so I've been standing here sweating for the last ten minutes and with each minute that passes it seems the sun is burning hotter and hotter heating my face in the process. I raise my right hand to my cheek and am certain it is now swollen, again. I've been using an ice — well really just frozen water in a holey ziplock bag, the one I used to get my toiletries through TSA and that leaks on my shoulder and chest as it melts that works by numbing my face and thereby reducing the swelling and I did use it right before I set out 45 minutes earlier and though it left me with cheeks looking unnaturally (but not clownishly) rosy, it also lessened the slight swelling, but now I had frozen my face for 20 minutes for nothing because my cheek was even more swollen than it had been before I iced it.
But I am not in any pain so I should still be on the safe side, so what if my face isn't looking as it should, vanity is a sin. But this bus refuses to show up. Just when I started thinking 'I wonder if this woman really know what she talking about, 20 minutes
have passed and there is no bus!' she is suddenly at my side with a piece of paper and smiles pointing to it while reassuring me that this is still the bus to take, and I should wait here for it.
A bit shocked, embarrassed that I was silently doubting her and wondering if she had some sort of mind reading powers, I thanked her a bit too profusely and she smiled then turned and walked back towards her bus stop. I continued to wait.
A bus approached, I was to take the Number 2, this was one 242, I stepped forward to the curb to get a closer look and make sure it wasn't my bus but it didn't even pause but seemed to almost pick up speed through the intersection. Hmph, kicking up dust in my eyes. I then registered the two older men that had been sitting in front of the building behind me since I arrived and at this moment one of them spoke out and asked me if I was trying to go to Multiplaza. I said yes and asked 'this bus stops here no?'
'Yes, Yes, right here' was his response, I said a quiet thank you and waited in place for 10 seconds more until I moved towards the building behind me and stood next to it as there was some shade from the awning - why didn't i think of this before? I was so nervous about missing the bus and the woman had placed me in that very spot I didn't think to step away. Also I kept thinking the bus would arrive at any minute and didn't want to take my eye off the road and miss it. What if it only stops if there's someone standing right at the bus stop?
Well, I will never know because it never came. I waited in the semi shade for 10 more minutes until half of the pair of men sitting to my left bid the other farewell and shortly after the one remaining as if continuing a conversation looked up and asked me why I didn't just take a taxi. I wanted to laugh out loud because I never thought of it and he said it almost as a matter of fact like
“girl you've been standing here for an hour...you don't realize the bus not coming?”
'Donde son los taxis?' I asked and he replied that he has one, but those weren't the exact words, I don't remember them particularly but I understood what he said to mean that he has a taxi, but it's not a real taxi but he can take me to Mutiplaza. I asked how much, his price was 2000 colones (this is about $3.50 USD) which sounded fair to me. I agreed, repeating my destination once more to make sure we were both on the same page 'Multiplaza, si?' 'Si multiplalza' he replied.
He pointed to a navy blue sedan on the corner opposite ours, it was a fairly nice car and I didn't get any bad vibe from any of it but I did pause briefly and ask myself 'hmm.. is this quite safe?'
It was the broad daylight on a Sunday no less, the day of the Lord and according to my research Costa Rica is quite a religious nation with 90% of the population identifying as Catholic so surely this good samaritan couldn't have any nefarious designs, at least not relating to his offering me a ride to the Multiplaza for 2000 colones, could he? I reasoned that he wouldn't really dare try to abduct/murder me, besides like I said he was a bit old and at least a foot shorter than me I was certain i'd be able to defend myself, but I really didn't think it would come to that.
He opened the door for me, and trusting my intuition I got in the car - it was clean and nice, the vibe was peaceful and safe, he got in the front and we drove in silence. I remembered the general directions because my dental office was in the same location, we were going the right way so I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery. In about 10 minutes we were there! He pulled right up in front of the plaza and I said thank you, paid him two bills, 1000 colones each and he said thank you have a nice day, I said thank you same for you and happy to have made it in one piece, I skipped into the plaza.
The kindness of strangers. Pura Vida!
In the Multiplaza I walked around for a few hours, I bought a pocket Spanish dictionary which I need terribly as I don't have internet access on my phone. I also bought a pair of socks and then in the end I bought a bottle of soursop yoghurt and a small container of gallo pinto (red beans and rice) which I was able to eat and which was quite tasty cold!
Tomorrow morning I will leave very early and make a second attempt at public transportation. This time i'm going into the city center to my last dental appointment and afterwards I will continue on a little adventure around San Jose.