I’m merciless when it comes to booking flights. I have no concern for future Eva — even relish her pain — if it means that she will have a few more hours in the chosen destination. Will she enjoy them? Probably not. Or maybe she will, but in the fragile way you enjoy things when you’ve slept 3 hours the night before. Everything is beautiful, but in a sharp way that might make you cry if you look too hard. I know this about myself, and I continue to book 5 a.m. flights. Whatever.
Anyway, that’s how Cano and I came to be at the Austin airport at 3:30 a.m., waiting in a twisting snake of a line for check-in at the United desk. The line barely moved in 45 minutes, and by the time we had almost decided to give up, since we would surely miss our flight, we received a text that our flight had been cancelled anyway, due to weather.
We waited out the line, rescheduled for that night, and then returned to Cano’s friend’s apartment to sleep all day. We work up at 2 p.m., disoriented and a little grumpy. I ran to the park and back, and then we went to juiceland before heading back to the airport. There was no line this time, but apparently there was still bad weather, because our flight kept getting pushed back and pushed back — until what was supposed to be a 10 p.m. flight finally started boarding at 1 a.m.
Eventually we made it onto the plane. The kind check-in man had given me the last first-class seat — a very exciting thing for a grad student! — and it turned out to be the very first seat on the first row. I sat next to a Canadian surfer, who educated me on Great Lakes surf culture and told me in great detail about his ex-wife. He then proceeded to eat a full meal at 2 in the morning and drink three glasses of red wine. I wanted to join, but I could barely keep my eyes open long enough to scan the aisle for the snack cart.
We landed a little after 4 in the morning, and our Airbnb host kindly picked us up. We were unsure if he had stayed up all night tracking our flight, or if he had woken up early to come get us. 4 a.m. is ambiguous like that.
Our Airbnb turned out to be a room in an apartment complex that looked a little like a spaceship from the outside. Like all the other houses in the city, it was surrounded by a high fence and every balcony was caged in. On the inside, everything was cream-colored and clean, with a lot of art made of soda can tabs.
We woke up at 10 the next day and spent a long time out on the porch eating a breakfast of pineapple slices and tiny tea cookies. Our host gave us all sorts of maps and advice on where to go when, but we decided to have a calm day and just go to the park. Our house was right next to La Sabana Metropolitan Park, a huge rectangular park in the middle of San Jose. We walked over at 11:30 or so, and spent a pleasant hour walking around.
The park was such a happy place. Everywhere you looked, people were picnicking or walking their dogs or playing soccer. There was a little pond in the center, surrounded by aging, moss-covered sculptures of birds and other animals. My favorite was a giant set of concrete whale bones, the ribcage of which created a perfect place to sit and read.
After the park, we headed to the Hilton hotel in the center of town and watched the sun set over the city before dinner.
For dinner that night, we went to a seafood restaurant called La Princesa, where I realized two things: first, that I retained absolutely nothing from three years of high school Spanish, and second, that I was not going to be vegan this week. We ordered plantains with beans and guacamole for a started, and then three separate entrees, plus beer.
The next day we took a tour bus to a coffee plantation, where I learned that coffee’s stimulant properties were first discovered by a monk whose goats ate the berries and started acting crazy, and then up to a park on the side of a volcano called La Paz Waterfall Park. The waterfalls were beautiful — we saw four of them, their white foam cascading into a darkly flowing river.
On our last day in San Jose, I had big plans of taking a walking tour, and then visiting the botanical gardens in nearby Cartago. But after missing the walking tour in the morning — apparently it left at 9 and not at 10 as we had thought — we decided to take it easy and just walk around the city that day. We ended up at the Pre-Columbian Jade Museum, where we spent a couple of hours wandering the four floors full of little sculptures that watched us everywhere we went.
When we returned home that night, we packed our bags and our Airbnb host shuttled us up to a Doubletree hotel, where we would begin the working part of the trip: shadowing a group of scientists collecting caterpillars at La Selva Biological Station.