Archive for May, 2008

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Today Ily didn’t have to go to work, since it was May Day, International Workers Day, sort of a socialist holiday not celebrated much in the United States. Here, everyone has the day off, except for some restaurants and stores.

We got up late and got ready to go to the La Garita area of Alajuela, to get a plant for Ily’s classroom in La Aurora High School.

We went to the internet first to remail a homework attachment to Ily’s teacher in the University. Then we caught the bus to Alajuela. It was warmer down there than Heredia, as it always is, and quite busy. It didn’t look like a holiday there. The bus went to the airport first, then into the city. Lots of cars on the highway coming from San Jose, less traffic going toward the city.

We went to the end of the bus line in Alajuela, to the main bus yard, Parada Central de los autobuses. We got off and went into a large open bus parking area and asked a bus driver sitting in the middle of it in his bus, where we could find the bus to La Garita. He said under the big mango tree behind him. Our timing was perfect and the bus left about a minute after we got on.

We pulled the cord too late but the driver was nice and stopped for us where there was no stop. We walked back along the road to a house across the road from a nursery, or vivero. Ileana’s friend and former colleague lived in this house, and since it was near the vivero, Ily had arranged for us to visit.

Ily called through the big iron-barred gate to a man working inside. She determined that this was indeed the right house. I watched a huge ant crawling across the iron gate, not only exceptionally large, but colored a beautiful dull-gold, like no ant I’d ever seen. Not really furry either.

Ily’s friend, Nuria, came out and opened the gate for us. The yard around her house was big and spacious, with lots of trees and bushes. Birds sang everywhere. Alajuela is a lot like Hawaii, much more tropical and warm than Heredia, but not really humid. There is more open countryside there, with many small streams running through it. It is so amazingly lush and verdant. Nice to be out of the city for a change.

Inside the house, also quite large, we met the housekeeper, who was doing laundry. A wood burning stove made the kitchen really hot. Something simmered in a pot on top. Nuria added a stick to the fire. Ily said all houses in Costa Rica used to have these stoves. Every restaurant that advertises Cocina Tipica (Typical Cuisine) cooks over wood fire. There are lots of chicken places that feature this as well. They are called Pollo a la Leña. Leña means firewood.

We met Nuria’s mother, a nice, alert lady of 85. Nuria said her mother’s memory is better than hers, and that she relies on her mother to remember phone numbers and such. Her mother grows lettuce hydroponically in the back yard and sells it to a hamburger stand, about 50 heads a month, I think she said. We went to see the hydroponic beds, next to a tall block wall. The other side of the wall was her property too, and she was going to develop that side at some point. I saw a small banana tree with a bunch of bananas growing at about knee level.

After a little while, we left and went over to the vivero to find a plant for Ily’s classroom. There were even more birds singing over there. Ily wanted a small plant that wouldn’t be too heavy to carry on the bus. She wanted an inexpensive plant. She asked me to pick out one from a group sitting on the ground, but the roots had grown through the pots and they couldn’t be moved.

She asked the price of a small plant that looked almost like a bonsai tree, but it was 5000 colones, $10, too much. She finally settled on two pots of ordinary ivy. She thought that would be good in another way, since her students might be less inclined to steal it. She only wanted something green and alive to make her happy in the class.

We took the plants and walked up to the restaurant Ily had taken me to when I first came to Costa Rica last October, Las Delicias de Maiz, a cocina tipica restaurant. I had chicken fajita and she had a chicken quesadilla. The place was packed, with a few gringos in evidence.

We walked to the bus stop afterwards and waited a couple of minutes, then hailed a cab that happened to be passing. He took us to the bus in Alajuela, charged us what seemed like a lot of money for a Costa Rican taxi ride, 2100 colones, about 4.25.

clouds were visible building up over Heredia, and it started to sprinkle just a bit when we disembarked. Lightning and thunder started as we crossed Parque Inmaculada.

Just 20 feet short of our door, it really started to rain. When we got inside, it became a hammering torrential cloudburst. It lasted about a half an hour.


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