San José; or, a Tipping Point

After a completely (I’m not exaggerating) magical time on Ometepe, it was time to return to Costa Rica. Martina had a flight to Cuba in a couple of days, and I decided to travel with her rather than cross the border alone. Border crossing on your own is very much possible and would not have been too much of a problem for me, I’m sure. But, if you have the option to do it with a companion, it’s much better. Especially if that companion is a fluent Spanish speaker.

From Moyogalpa, we took a 9:00 am ferry to San Jorge. A man at the dock on Moyogalpa arranged us a shared taxi with another couple straight from San Jorge to the border for only $3, which was a very good deal. We were able to cut out the bus or taxi ride to Rivas and the bus from Rivas to the border. It was perhaps a little more money, but not much, and saved us a lot of time and effort.

Once at the border, you have to pay a bank fee of $2 each at a random window before you go to the passport checker. Once you are at the passport checker (I’m not sure what exactly to call this person) you have to pay another $4 each. This is done EXCLUSIVELY in UNITED STATES DOLLARS which is one of the most absurd things I have ever heard. In addition, THEY DO NOT HAVE ANY, I REPEAT ANY CHANGE. I’m not sure what the banks that control this situation think is going to happen if they expect everyone to pay in a currency that doesn’t belong to the country and then not provide any way of getting change. I only had a $100 bill for the $8 transaction, and the passport man just gave me a pained look and then came back with a bunch of twenties saying that I would have to just give him the $20 because he couldn’t provide the $12 dollars of change.

This is what one would call a scam.

And not even a scam from the passport guy. I think he honestly felt bad about not being able to give me change. Rather, I think that the banks, in not providing the appropriate currency for change force more money out of travelers than is actually necessary. A big scam.

Luckily, Martina, thinking on her feet, managed to find the change by exchanging on the twenties for a combination of colones, cordobas and dollars from one of the many merchants outside the border crossing. With that, we managed to pay the goddamn bullshit “exit fee” without loosing the extra $12 dollars, which is what it costs to stay in a hotel for a night in San José, for perspective.

Once we were through the border, we were assaulted by all the people working for various bus services. We were initially offered a bus ride to San José for $20, but a British girl who was standing with us became outraged at the price, and after hearing her bitch about it for a while, the bus guy brought the price down to $12. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, as they say. I was glad there was someone else around to complain for me, though, because it general I don’t like become enraged. It got us a cheaper ticket, and that was great.

The five hour bus ride to San José was peaceful enough. I watched the beautiful countryside roll by. The yellow grasses that meet the green volcano cloud forests and bright blue sky are really striking as you move through. We eventually got to see the Pacific Ocean again, one last time as the sun went down. From here on out, I would only watch the sun rise over the ocean.

Martina and I said goodbye, and I moved on to a work away for the week. I was helping a man put up advertisements around the city to fill/rent the rooms in his house. San José is not the most beautiful city in the world, but it is certainly the wealthiest place in Costa Rica. It’s also surprisingly cold. It’s elevation is something like 3500 feet, which is not nothing. The sun is extremely hot and strong during the day, and the nights are very cold.

For me, the only thing I really wanted to do there was use the climbing gym, which I did after completing my three hours of advertising work with David. The work was actually really good. I was outside, getting exercise, practicing a little Spanish, and seeing a lot of the city that I would not have seen otherwise.



Our second day out, David took me up one of the mountains outside Santa Marta where there are a bunch of wind turbines and a viewpoint. We took the bus to a certain point and then an über before walking the rest of the way up. The über driver’s car was an automatic sedan that didn’t quite have the torque or horsepower to get up the incredible steep hill, but it somehow happened. The viewpoint was actually amazing. It was so strange to find CEDARS AND PINES growing at the top of the mountain. It makes sense, though because we were certainly at an elevation where those trees grow, but the smell. The smell was amazing and totally displaced in Costa Rica. I suddenly felt as though I was at home with the cold air and the smell of pine. But I was still it Costa Rica.


I am not halfway through my travels here. While I was in San José, I received the news that I was not accepted into graduate school and I am once more alone in my travels. It was a bit of a tough week for me for these reasons, especially because San José is not exactly a place to forget your troubles. It’s loud and intense and not always clean despite also having some really interesting mountains and history. By Friday I was ready to leave the city, without question. But while I was there, I had many realizations about how much I have changed in these past six weeks. More than I could have even imagined. The tipping point of these changes happened with my rejection for graduate school in combination with the other desires that have arisen in my time here.

I find myself once again awash in uncertainty, the normal state of being that I sometimes forget it ever-present. The good news is that I am currently in a place that fosters a culture of “going with the flow” and considers “being lazy” a good thing. I don’t particularly like being lazy, but I do appreciate some time to be kind to myself, and allow myself to reopen to the many possibilities that uncertainty brings.



2 responses to “San José; or, a Tipping Point”

  1. The way you pick up jobs in foreign countries reminds me of Josh’s travels. Sorry about graduate school but remember although the academics tell you how important the “right school” is – as a wise older brother told me if not going to Harvard which seems to keep all its graduates employed – the little letters are all you need to open doors and then it is your quality of work.


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