Friday, May 29, 2009

On no occasion

I feel like this would be a good post for half way though my stay here or about a week before I fly away. But what can you do?
My second host sister arrived today and we all sat around and chatted while she ate her favorite meal (lengua in tomato sauce with rice) with her favorite dessert (coconut ice cream). My host mom laughed and asked me what I'm going to eat when I go home, what food I miss. I laughed a bit and talked about all my favorite restaurants in Berkeley that I miss.

Lucky House Thai for my Pad Thai, Naan and Curry or House of Curries for Vegetable or Lentil curry with basmati rice (the jury's still out on which restaurant is better), Man Puku for sushi even though I really prefer Miatama on College Avenue, right across from my favorite coffee house with the big purple chairs and just down the street from the Safeway, but is too expensive.
Ooh! Speaking of College Ave, La Mediterranee for lunch special with pomegranate chicken and pilaf, and then down the street for dessert at Ici, the most perfect mixture of French ice cream and Italian gelato.
Or cafe Intermezzo where you go to feel healthy, even though the fresh and delicious salads and sandwiches are roughly twice the size of your head.
Or Annie's diner after a post-final party when you all troop down the early morning streets when the light is brighter and things seem deserted and a thick greasy hamburger with home-fries is the most comfortable thing you can think of, besides the sweatshirt you're wearing, sitting in silence in sun-warmed seats by the big windows, watching Telegraph come alive outside.
Or my taco truck which is parked on the Highway side of Ironworks until 5pm when it moves to the entrance side.
Or the Southside Berkeley Top Dog, on a hot summer day for a brat with relish, a bag of Classic Lays potato chips, and a root beer to be eaten leaning against the wall outside in the shafts of afternoon sun, hot dog in one hand, root beer in the other and the chips hanging off the fingers of one hand for easy access.
Or even Jamba Juice, where they know me and call out my order as I walk in: sixteen-orange-berry-blitz-non-dairy-sorbet-substitute-with-an-energy-boost. You know, for a change.
Even the smells of the other places along Telegraph make me smile. The enticing, amazing smell of the Noah's bagels that I used to love. That cheap fast greasy pizza smell that battles between the competing Fat Slice and Blondie's Pizza places. Or even the slight spice of Chipotle that makes me think of nothing more than mid-term season rewards.

And I won't even get started on my favorite grown-up places on Southside and down by fourth street where Mom and I go when she visits me (because OH! the distance between us grows long!) Or the places in Marin that I love, even as they change, because of the memories. (Marin Brewing Company, The Cantina, Left Bank, I'm looking at you) Or the fancy once-in-a-lifetime places that I love for their glamor and elegance and unattainability like El Paseo in Mill Valley or The Lark Creek Inn in Larkspur.

I mean, that's not really what she was asking. I think she wanted to know more the kind of food that I eat there than I can't eat here, and honestly there's not too much. I'm pretty content generally with whatever food is put in front of me (I just ate tongue for lordssake, though she just popped her head in to tell me that there was more if I wanted it and I really don't think I do. It was delicious I just... don't want more right now...). I don't really miss food so much as the feeling of BEING as I return home.

I love airports. Either the thrill of going or the relief of coming. I love the people, I love slumping myself in those horribly uncomfortable chairs and watching the planes take off. I love being alone in airports with everything I really need and some stuff that I really don't in my bag next to me, with my iPod and notebook and myself. I love knowing that I travel, I am a traveler, I DO traveling. It's independent, it's exciting, it's relaxing and thrilling at the same time.
I love getting on airplanes, sometimes pretending I'm someone fabulously famous in a black and white movie walking up the stairs to get on the airplane, sometimes pretending I'm an international jet-setter, sleek and cool.
And of course the lift that you get when your heart drops and the plane takes off.
I'm sure I love being in the air, I just can't stay awake enough to know.
And landing. Landing is always bittersweet. It's about cement and tire marks and little tiny lights on the tarmak instead of clouds and endless blue. It's always about goodbyes, and it's always the same. The same dirty upholstery, the same magazines with the crossword puzzles half-filled out to which I contributed a word or two, the same parting words from the same in-flight crew in essentially the same uniforms, the same white hallway lit with the same square lights and the same flood of relief and coolness that you get when finally burst free into the airport and join the flood of suits and rolling suitcases, loud families on vacation and a couple vagabonds, just like me, waiting for their next adventure.
And I know that 12 weeks from now, tired and weary, I know I'm going to walk out into that amazing San Francisco air which I swear is the purest. Maybe I'll take the airporter home, which is secretly okay because it means I get to prolong my journey. And I know that when I get off that bus in the dark of Marin county, lit up by the lights of the ferry building, my parents will be leaning against the bumper of the red truck, waiting for me. Or maybe they'll be waiting for me at the airport full of silent smiles and wordless hugs because we're all so filled with an inarticulate, but mutually comprehensible emotion. We'll load my bags on to a trolley and load up the car. Either ride will be punctured with occasional sighs and huge grins. And I won't be able to believe just how amazing my hometown is, especially at night.
No matter which way I come about it, I'll eventually end up home, a pot of pasta e fagioli bubbling on the stove and filling the house with the smell of my mother's love and my grandmother's house.
I'm glad that they painted the kitchen a burnt reddish orange because it always makes me feel like I'm in a warm embrace when it's the only room in the house with lights on.
And I'll take down one of those huge soup bowls with the squiggly rim and marvel as they feel clunky and new in my hands. And the special swirly spoons with the design at the top that is reminiscent of a treble clef that Mom bought just for me because I hate big spoons.
And maybe Dad'll show me the new Bourbon he found or their favorite new wine, or make me a hot toddy and we'll chat about the aroma or the flavor, and then we'll all just sit, even though it's late, filling the silence with smiles.
Finally, tired and overwhelmed, I'll crawl into cool sheets and my fluffy duvet with my favorite pillow that I guard jealously (currently it's one I brought home in my arms from Ireland) and fall asleep, excited to wake up to the clear light of the morning through my blue curtains and look around at the childhood that I brought with me through 8 or 9 houses and know that I'm home.

That's what I can't wait to have, first thing, when I go home.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Particular Merits of Sunday

Sunday is my favorite day.

I generally can't do homework on Sunday, no matter how hard I try. This is probably because Sunday goes a little like this:

I usually wake up at a deliciously late hour, somewhere between 9:30 and 10:15, with the crisp and enticing light of a clear blue sky shining in through my windows. Its almost always one of those mornings where you realize slowly that you are awake, and then squeeze your eyes shut, hoping to be pulled back into the sweet land of sleep, but then, just as slowly, realize that being awake is actually quite lovely.

This particular morning I rolled over and saw my new poster, proudly displayed on my wall, right next to the hook upon which I hang my bag-not-purse and whichever pair of jeans I an airing out from a recent trip to one of my favorite smoke-filled, green and purple-lit bar where they serve rum and coke in a can. Malpaís played the first ever carbon neutral concert in Costa Rica yesterday afternoon. It was pouring when I left the house, pouring when I got downtown, raining when I met up with friends and drizzling when we FINALLY, after a couple of supermarket pit-stops, reached la Plaza de la Democracia outside the fairy-tale castle-like Museo Nacional.
It had cleared up enough that we stowed our umbrellas in favor of snaking through the crowd for a better view. Thanks to the rain, the crowd was pretty thin and we got almost as close as I was when I saw them during Semana U, way back in March. That day, sitting on the water tank beside the library and watching the crowd that filled the entire square and climbed up walls, seated in tree branches, holding on to drain pipes and hanging off every window, balcony and staircase that they could get to in the surrounding buildings, I remember just looking up at the crystal clear blue sky and being overwhelmed by the music and the emotions of the people who cared about the music just as much as I did, and the perfection of the day. Last night I looked up at the sky as it cleared, relishing the few remaining raindrops, watched the mauve clouds race across the dark blue sky, lit up by the green and blue and purple lights that lit up the Museo Nacional like a stage and the swirling lights that highlighted the musicians on the stage that stood opposite. And every once in a while when the stage lights would turn on the audience you could see, as the night went on, that the population of the Plaza swelled with waves of people, all singing along, whipping bandanas over their heads, enraptured. The concert ran for about four hours and afterward, half the crowd trickled out, and everyone else sat in little groups on stairs, benches, walls and railings, all coming down from a wonderful natural high.

I will never forget the entire crowd chanting these two songs, the musicians leaning out to meet the audience, balanced to topple off the stage and into the loving arms of their fans:
Otro Lugar

Ems and I finished the night in one of our favorite bars, where we didn't see any of the friends who we were hoping to see, but did catch a band that self-defined as Manu Chao but was really more Juanes-like, minus the metallic flavor that comes with commercialization.

Needless to say, my Sunday started off with a smile.

The next part of Sunday always involves some sort of delicious meal. My favorite is gallo pinto, the most amazing combination of rice, beans and cilantro, cooked together. Today it included an egg on the side as well. Sometimes it's sausage which tastes oddly like hot dog, but which I've come to love. Twice we've had empanadas, which is essentially a gift of either refried beans or ground beef wrapped lovingly in masa (corn-flour dough?) and fried golden, which, if you eat right off the griddle, drip down your chin and burn your mouth which is totally worth it. Whatever breakfast is, it always seems more flavorful on Sunday mornings, possibly because it follows a delicious sleep or possibly because the kitchen door is open and that lovely blue-sky light is flooding the kitchen.

Sometimes I shower after breakfast on Sundays, sometimes I leave it for later. Eventually I make it back to my bed and pull out my school books. I spread them out deliberately, planning to be incredibly productive so that I can take a break on Monday. But I always turn on my computer to check my email, read my comics and the Sunday Secrets on, provided I have not read them the night before upon my return from a Saturday night adventure. Of course, the internet always leads to chats with various friends. Sunday is always lazy enough to catch up. After this, if there's time, I find my self drawn into some sort of internet pop-news frenzy/Wikipedia vortex/Google "new thing" investigation in which I learn things like the history behind Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, collect images of Art Nouveau which I'm REALLY into right now, discover that American Girl is coming out with a Russian Jewish Immigrant girl whose history, appearance and story were painstakingly researched [] . This portion of Sunday is usually interrupted by lunch because suddenly it's 1:30 or 2 in the afternoon and where is the day going?

Sunday lunch is lovely. In Costa Rica, our big meal is always lunch, which is followed in the evening by a cafecito, or snack with coffee. Sunday lunch is usually quite simple but always fresh and flavorful because my host mom goes to the market on Sunday in the late morning, after a late breakfast. So the avocados are bright green, the vegetables are crisp and the fresca (fresh made fruit juice + sugar + water) is delicious and something wonderful like mango or pineapple. Sunday lunch is with the whole family, because everyone is home; it is, after all, Sunday. And it stretches luxuriously into the afternoon.

Sometimes it's bittersweet. Two of the daughters of my host family study in the United States and one came back last Monday and the next is due Friday. And they're really a close family, teasing each other about this and that. I've said it often, but it amazes me how similar my family and my host family are, so sometimes Sunday lunch is like looking into a memory. Sunday afternoons are always nice times for nostalgic melancholy and reflection as the sky darkens and the smell of rain dances along with the breeze and almost always leads to afternoon skyping with the homestead.

From there, Sunday plods on. If I have no lingering internet duties, I will pull out the guitar and practice a bit before the afternoon rain drowns me out or my hands get sore.

Then I might nap. Que rico (how delicious) is an afternoon nap listening to the lessening rain beating on the tin parts of the roof and against the windows. Or maybe I'll watch a movie or indulge in some online episodes of my favorite TV shows, it is, after all, Sunday and I have all of Monday to do whatever I don't do today. Today I joined my host family to watch Slumdog Millionaire which I loved. The art direction blew me away.

But then it's almost 6 and Sunday is almost gone. Maybe I'll sit for a while and think. Maybe I'll listen to music, maybe I'll head back into the land of the internet. I'll glance once or twice at my forelorn school books, pushed aside long ago and know that they'll stay there until tomorrow.

Somehow it's 8:30 or 9 and time for a cafecito sans the cafe. And then soon I'm too tired to keep my eyes open, exhausted from the day or the week. And just like that, Sunday is over. I curl up under the covers and regret not a minute of my satisfyingly unproductive Sunday

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cosmic messages.

My Google Anayltics site has installed in me a very particular type of ambition.
And that is an ambition to increase my procrastination allotment by blogging more. Because I like the idea that people read this. It gives me warm fuzzies.

now if only I could think of something to blog about...

You see, I've reached the point in my stay here where it feels normal. I've gotten into the swing of things at school, and it's a familiar swing. Fewer things are new, I have found my "ordinary." Everything feels natural and routine. I've even become accustomed to feeling lost and stupid when I can't understand people.

And as so much ordinary, it has come to feel mundane and uninteresting.

But then, every once in a while, something shakes me up a bit. Like Tuesday. Now, I read my horoscope every day, I am highly and oddly superstitious what with all the knocking on wood, tossing spilled salt over my shoulder and keeping to fortuitous routines, and I believe that I'm a little bit psychic. So it's safe to say that I "go in for that sort of thing."
So Tuesday. Tuesday I was walking across campus and I noticed a man on crutches in faded old jeans who was missing a leg. Later I was walking down a hallway and my attention was arrested by a table lying on its side, missing a leg. Then, as I was walking home through the park that night, having missed the bus, I watched a man playing with his dog under a street light. As I passed, the dog stopped and looked up at me and, illuminated in the streetlight, I could see that it only had three legs.

I walked home seriously freaked out for the first time in a long time. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is not. It's something else. A conspiracy maybe?
Well, whatever the universe is trying to tell me has been lost on me. It should speak to me as it would to a five year old, the same as I expect anyone who speaks to me in Spanish to do.

And the worst part was that my horoscope, which I usually regard as a casual guide to extraordinary happenings, was completely unhelpful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Entomology 4 Gringas

I have become like the hunter.

Because in this world, it's all about survival, and in this world, it is self against nature. It is the most timeless theme, man vs. nature, the struggle to conquer or be vanquished. And here in the wild tropics, the theme and the threat are larger than life. So immense is the danger presented by the elements in lands close to the equator, that they have come up with a term that describes the hapless writer's reaction to it: Tropicalization. The sweet siren call of liquid gold sunsets, crystal blue breakers and the saturated green of the rain forest gives way to the cruel extremes of weather and nature. It is a truly perilous journey that I now find myself on, but I can feel myself adapting, out of necessity, out of instinct, out of that clawing, scraping raw desire to live.

Because, after all, it's me against the bugs.

I have developed, through trial and error, methods which limit my interaction with these small enemies. I make sure that as few things as possible cluttering my floor so that my perimeter checks to ferret out corner lurkers and shadow squatters are smooth and quick. I turn lights on before entering rooms and block cracks whenever possible. Luckily the weather has cooled off and I can keep the slatted windows near my ceilings fully closed at all times to limit entry points. I know to look in my sink immediately upon entering the bathroom because there is a centipede that resides in the drain that, unless I'm prepared, tends to startle me (It's actually really funny, he can't quite make it up the sides of the slick sink and so his little legs, of which he really only has 40, work tirelessly to achieve nothing).

My senses have sharpened as well. I know, now, the rustle of the cockroach. I immediately become aware at the slightest buzzing sound. Flies have a particular, familiar buzzing, but there are all manner of new bugs here which I am not familiar with. I can spot an ant on my floor out of the corner of my eye, even though the floor tiles are speckled, and often try to trick me.

I have three different repellent methods of different strengths which I employ to keep bugs out of my bed (which is really the only objective, as I can easily deal with them when I am fully awake during day time): dryer sheets (work well, though not perfectly with mosquitoes), OFF with DEET (work better with mosquitoes), and not showering.

I have learned to live with some, and I think the bigger bugs have come to realize the zero-tolerance policy that is enforced within the confines of my room, and oddly, with cockroaches.

Long have I pondered our repulsion and hatred for cockroaches. To watch one, trapped and still, in a corner during daylight, they aren't threatening or repulsive really. Some are thinner with hard, glowing mahogany shells. Some are fat and striped. All have those long, elegant feelers that gracefully dip and reach. They aren't venomous, and hardly ever bite. We fear spiders because of their danger and their propensity of munch on human flesh. We abhor mosquitoes for their obvious taste for human blood, and also because they make us itch like the dickens. Could the reason we hate cockroaches be solely a societal construction? Could we only hate them because, they eat our trash instead of our flesh and so tend to be found in places that we associate with filth? (Which of course leads to disease-carriers, but so are flies and we don't, generally, shudder at the thought of a fly.) They are big compared to other bugs, but small compared to us. So what exactly is it about these creatures that causes girls to squeal and boys to cringe.
It could be that peculiarly loud skittering sound they make, and ominous indicator of their unseen presence. It could be the sickening sound they make when killed which is too loud to allow their death to pass by casually as it does with so many other bugs. Or it could be the fact that they are FAST little bastards that, the minute they are scared from their disturbed little corner, take off in crazy circles, like a five year-old at the wheel of a Cadillac who can't see the road ahead and who knows WHERE they will end up, except we're all pretty sure it'll be on our bodies somewhere...

And so I'm learning. Learning to stalk, not silently like a jaguar, but with as much scary, ground shaking noise as possibly. Learning to appreciate the smell of roach-killer (as I have become hardened to bug-death by my life among the creatures). Learning to sleep without cocooning myself in my sheets. For the most part...

In other, completely unrelated news: What with the coming of the rains, days here feel like the opposite bend of the season, the one which takes us into the throes of winter. I awoke this morning to the rain, cool and fresh and comforting. And it turned out to be a very good day to listen to The Cure and to delightfully apocalyptic Eastern European romantic music composers.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Two Thursdays ago the choir changed classrooms and I couldn't find the new one. After 10 minutes of wandering campus, that uncomfortable feeling of obvious unfamiliarity started to take over and after 45 minutes I gave up. I was feeling, once again, like I didn't belong, which was frustrating after nearly a month of feeling at home.

So I gave up and stalked home. I got halfway though the park before I gave up on walking home. I threw myself underneath a tree and gave myself up to star gazing and pleading with the cosmos. The lightning bugs danced around through thick ropes of greenery and the bougainvillea bushes and the warm tropical air was sweat and thick and made me think of nothing more that that classic image of New Orleans. Why, I wondered, did I idolize the bohemian culture, but can't seem to feel like I'm living it? I always seem to end up on this side of socially acceptable and distinctly respectable?

I guess someone was listening, or maybe the stars were lined up correctly, because the next day I ran away with the circus.

Let me back up a bit. You see, there are these street-performers, mostly jugglers, who hang out at stop lights and perform in the cross-walk when the light is red. Ems and I sit at our bus stop, which is about 30 feet from a stoplight, and watch them while discussing the awesomeness of juggling. So imagine our surprise when, after an entire day of running errands we collapsed onto the bus and watched a gaggle of them slide into the seats across the aisle from us. It was even cooler, of course, because one of them had an accordion.
(I would like you to please now paint a mental picture of a band of classic bohemian gypsies mixed with a depression-era circus, to the sound of 1920’s accordion and harmonica music that would fit best in black-and-white Paris (or Amélie), with distinct flavorings of Peter Pan and the Moulin Rouge and completely saturated with that fantastic, although elusive concept of wandering artsy (which can obviously only be described with rather quirky coupling of an verb and an adjective, as opposed to the infinitely more conventional coupling of an adverb and a verb.) That’s essentially how I remember the weekend.)
To continue. So what with the circus sitting next to us on the bus and all, Ems got really excited and tried to convince me that if I talk to them, they’ll play something for us on their cool instruments. Actually, it will probably work better if we say it’s her birthday, NO! It’s MAGGIE’S! Maggie! Talk to them even though you are sitting by the window and trying to scrouch as far away from human interaction as possible because you have just spent 2 hours trying on jeans because the only jeans you brought with you to wear are indecently filled with holes and so now you are immensely tired and hungry.
But eventually Ems gave in and asked them herself, in nervous Spanish, where they were going to “play.” By the stoplight, of course, and do we want to come?
Now, I’m not exactly how this exchange went. I think a lot got lost in translation. I’m not sure if they asked US to come along, or if somehow we thought they did and tagged along anyway. I do know that they asked us what we were doing, and we answered honestly: nothing. And so we got off the bus with them? It was a little awkward at first, just randomly deciding to follow them. I was still carrying a bag with two pairs of jeans in it for cripes sake. When they started to set up under a stoplight, we plopped down and strove to look comfortable and natural by conversing casually. (Even though I spent most of the time suppressing nervous giggles.) Stephan was fiddling around on the accordion and David and César brought out the juggling clubs and promptly lit them on fire. Yes fire. Playing with fire is a funny thing. They’d juggle the clubs between them or they’d take three and balance them into a hat or they play like they were going to light someone on fire, getting the flame too close to this one’s back while he wasn’t paying attention or dangerously close to that one’s dreads while he was talking to us. At one point David extinguished his club in a cup of kerosene and these crazy whorls of white steam/smoke erupted up and out of the cup like an explosion of dry ice. I watched it and wished that I’d randomly brought my camera. He looked up and grinned at me “Wow, huh?” (They say “wow” here, but it sounds different. Like it’s more self-conscious of its English origins. Kind of like how I saw “no bueno”)
The stoplight wasn’t doing much for them because it was Labor Day, and in their words the day for “trabajo para taxistas y maravillosos.” (work for taxi drivers and jugglers.) So they told us they were planning on going to do a show downtown and then head to this bar called La Chicharronera. So we said “okay” and continued to follow them.
We walked all the way to downtown San Jose through the back streets, reciting stories, quips and poetry in between bars of accordion music, ringing doorbells and running and other such forms of goofing off in the streets. At one point we stopped in front of a small art-house theater where a line was waiting to get in. The guys set up a small show, jokingly directing traffic around their fire-clubs and jokes, and passing the hat afterward. Ems and I sat off to the side with that kind of smug thrill that I get from being “with the band” as it were.
At one point I looked around and realized we were walking through my favorite part of the city. It’s also probably the most sketchy part too. It’s one end of what is called the “California District” and it’s so cool. It’s bounded on that far side by railroad tracks and at one point there is an antique locomotive just rusting in its house. There are a few dilapidated buildings with artfully broken windows and overgrown grasses. But most of all there are expanses, like I’m talking multiple city blocks, of pure white wall that has been covered with extraordinary graffiti. Every time we bus or taxi through the area I tell Ems that I want to come back on foot and walk around and take pictures and she always tells me that we can do that as long as it’s during the daytime and in a REALLY BIG group. So imagine my glee at finding myself walking through it at 9 pm with a group of locals. We walked by this bar called Raffa’s which is so small that everyone sits outside on the curb. And they are the coolest people too. They’re all in black and safety pins, or plaid flannel and worn jeans and converse. Totally my kind of people. Further down the California district are other bars and music venues. It’s just really hip.
At Raffa’s we were joined by a group of girls who were friends with our jugglers. We found out later that they are all part of the drama department in the University of Costa Rica, where I go, which ends up saying a lot about them. As in they were really cool. (There are a ton of universities in the area, but UCR has a reputation of being the more artsy-hippie school.)
So we all sat down at the fountain in the very middle of the center of San José and the boys started gathering a crowd around. Teasing, cajoling and pushing people into sitting down, which, because of the clownish way they did it, drew more people. They commenced with their routine fire show, the feats of dexterity, the humorous stories all mixed up with perfect improv when it was appropriate. Like then a soaking wet drunk wandered into the middle of the show and they had to entice him out with a fake phone call from a nearby payphone. Or when they drew a crowd member up and made him take off his backpack and David pretended to walk off with it with exaggerated motions while Jason yelled at him that “that’s not for now, we do that later…” They then told the poor bastard that Stephan was going to walk over him juggling fire, and he had to watch while Stephan did a few practice rounds in which he kept dropping the flaming clubs while his friends shouted encouragement. “Good try! You’re doing great! One more time!” It was really cool to watch people we knew, people we’d been interacting with and hanging out with do this entertaining, professional-quality show which was, to all intents and purposes, impromptu.
Finally, the show was over and we headed to La Chicarronera with the girls, walking down the street, laughing and joking as if we’d been friends for AGES. We grabbed a couple of drinks at La Chica, sat on the low stage upon which, one month earlier, I’d watched some of the most awesome break-dancing, under crazy-colored lights and chatted. When the boys showed up we exchanged card tricks and magic. We finished the night singing “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette and “Zombie” by the Cranberries with our new Tica friends in one of the karaoke bars on La Calle, the row of bars that juts off campus. By the time we got in the taxi at 2am we’d been speaking Spanish for 8 hours straight and forgot to switch back to English as we reveled in our new friends and our awesome day.
And that’s about where we thought it would end. The next day was designated for finding a café and studying. We sat for four hours in this café where they make awesome chai tea and Indian food and the walls are yellow and red and the roof is but an awning. When it started to rain, I got distracted and stared out at San José existing around me and the mist-shrouded mountains rising up around it and thought about how cool it was to be sitting, essentially, outside in the rain, but not being cold and not getting wet, with a hot mug of tea. So like Berkeley and so different.
After four hours of studying we started to walk home. We walked instead of taking the bus even though it was kind of raining because I had absolutely no money on me (as per usual) and didn’t really want to borrow MORE money from Ems. But as we got close to the mall, (and Ems stopped at a street vendor to inquire about crocheted bikinis) we ran into on of the jugglers! It was a little awkward, mostly because of our being caught off guard and thus not being able to speak Spanish with much confidence. But he asked us if we were doing anything that night, and when we said no, he said there was a party at his friend’s place in Heredia and if we wanted to come, we could meet them at Raffa’s at 11. We thanked him but didn’t sound hopeful about it. The night before had been draining and after four hours of studying we just couldn’t conceptualize going out. But as we started to walk home, we started to talk about it. Should we go out to cement our friendship with these guys? Or would that be too creepy-soon? Would we seem too pushy?
Long story short we spent four hours discussing it and waffling. Yes, we’re going. We’re only going if we can get MK to come. We’re going even though MK isn’t. Maggie, I asked four online 8 balls and they all said we should go. Well, I checked my horoscope AND yours and it’s not giving me a clear indication. Ems, I don’t want to go to Raffa’s in a taxi, that’s just too uncool. Ems, I have a bad feeling about this. Maggie, I’ve just called the taxi, be outside in 4 minutes. Crud.
I think I just got nervous. I’d gotten ready to go out, so obviously I was planning on going out, but when I got in the taxi apparently, I looked like I was going to be sick. Raffa’s is one of THE coolest bars in San José. It’s in a dangerous enough neighborhood that the tourist welcome mat, so to speak, isn’t really out. It’s more of a place to go and bump into your friends, which is hard to do if you’re a transient gringo and don’t HAVE friends there. I practically DRAGGED her up to the bar because “I really needed a drink” and then we went and leaned against the wall just outside the door, framed with graffiti, trying to construct some sort of semblance of cool. It was around 11 and we couldn’t see them, so we assumed that they’d left. Oh well. That’s cool. No Heredia party tonight. It’s probably for the best. And as long as we’re here, let’s enjoy ourselves and chat. Blend. Eventually a drunk kid came over and wanted some of my drink. I thought it was funny because he was trying to convince us that he’d never tried a Cuba Libre before. (Here they come in cans, already mixed. It’s genius. And it’s also almost as popular as beer.) Then later he told us it was his favorite drink… Anyway, Ems told him we have swine flu and refused to share and then they started talking about places to go in Costa Rica. At one point she leaned over and hissed “I see them. Right. There. No over, leaning on the fence.” We waited, but the douche walked RIGHT past us into the bar and back out again. At that point we figured it was over. Obviously he’d seen us. Obviously he didn’t want to hang out. Obviously we were being creepy desperate.
So we shook off our new “friend,” bought two more Cuba Libres and decided to make the best of it. After all, we had ended up at a way cool bar. We chose a spot off to the side and chatted for a little while longer. FINALLY Jason came over all “hey! You guys made it!” and we were all “yea! Hey, we thought you’d left.” You know how it is when it’s obvious that everyone is lying? Yea. Then it was established that we were, in fact, still in for the party in Heredia. But first we have to wait for David and César who are doing a fire show at Club Latino Rock for one of the bands that was playing.
We ended up waiting outside Raffas, and Ems ended up talking with some drunk guy. Some drunk guy who turned out to be the sopping wet drunk who had wandered through the show the night before. They chatted about his broken life and sang Frank Sinatra and the Mammas and the Papas. Finally the other guys joined us, char smudges on their white collared shirts and big grins, and we headed off, laughing and joking. It’s good to have friends.
In the end, the party didn’t happen, and when I woke up the next morning to a white sky and the sound of the rain on a Sunday morning. The perfect kind of sleepy day to cap off a whirlwind weekend.