Day 2. The way in San Jose

Published: March 15th 2011
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Dear all!

So, day 2 in Costa Rica, and I thought instead of a diary for my stay I'd give blogging a go, in order to make the amusement more widely available. It will be irregular and disordered and not comprehensive but hopefully enjoyable!

After only 24 hours in Bath, I was off to Heathrow, for 15 hours of flights. The most interesting feature of doing so was the sheer sarcastic, depressed contemptuousness of the pilot and cabin crew of my flight from New York to San Jose. After the Continental flight into New York, such breaking of the rules of the forced-smile school of customer service seemed almost immoral. San Jose airport welcoms visitors with a banner 'welcome to the happiest country in the world' (a bit misleading because apparently it has the highest wellbeing in proportion to environmental footprint of any country) - it turned out to be a rum advert.

However, the hostel and office of i to i operations are in Alajuela, Costa Rica's second city yet largely a dormitory town for people going to work in San Jose - though if it is sleepy, it is only in the sense of that drowsiness of sitting in a bar on a cool evening with no clocks in sight and truly content to let tomorrow take care of itself. The city is laid out as a grid on a flat plane in a huge open valley. Look down a road in any direction and distant mountains raise their heads between the vendors' stalls - in the evening you can see orange specks sparkle at the foot of their colossal blue. Much of the day has been spent eating fresh mango, papaya and pineapple - the music not only at my hostel but on most street corners seems stuck on bob marley, abba and similar. People are friendly and some suggest the kind of tolerance that is not merely putting-up-with but actively respects difference (without which one loses solidarity about the similarities too). Even the anti-diarrheal I bought today is cherry flavoured... Costa Rica does seem even on paper to have a lot going for it - for example the highest biodiversity in the world, more species per 10000kmsqr than Europe and the US put together. Today makes me think of a great Al-Ghazali quote: 'nobody ever elbowed past each other to see the sky'.

Off to my rural village tomorrow to meet my host family. One of my hosts is the school's cook - a promising development!


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