Couch Surfing in San Jose, Costa Rica [Day 108]

This entry is part 31 of 34 in the series Latin America Series

San Jose is not a large country so I thought I would check out it’s capital. San Jose was like most major cities in Latin America. Colorful, loud and bustling but a little grimier. It was getting dark and I was trying to find the location of my couch surfing host. He didn’t give me an address through the previous week of correspondence, just a series of directions from landmarks. “Three blocks past the grocery store, can’t miss it, then take a sharp right around the bar next to the bodega and I’m the pink one story house.” I asked him over email, “How do you get mail?” and he said that he asks senders to write these very instructions. I missed the grocery store that you can’t miss, and after I found it I was picking and choosing from the numerous bodegas and bars. I finally found the street with a house donning fading pink paint.

The front gate was shut, and I was unable to reach the doorbell. There was a faint hint that someone might be home, but it could have just as easily been a kitchen light left on. I beeped my horn a couple times and feeling bad about disturbing the neighbors, but realized if things got quiet around San Jose people might start to wondering if something was wrong. I saw some movement in a window, but they weren’t responding to me. I began throwing rocks at their window, feeling like a teenager trying not to wake up the parents of a girl I was courting. No luck. I saw a figure moving through the house, and lights were now turning on, but my taps at the window and horn honking didn’t get their attention. I pointed my bike towards the window and when the figure moved into the living room I started flicking my high beams on and off. He answered the door to see what the strobe light show outside was all about.

A thin, pasty and blond Frenchman opened the door of the house. Orlando, who I had arranged with to stay in the house was not home. The Frenchman was draped loosely in a robe and green briefs. He didn’t seem to believe in the use of the belts that come with robes and that’s why I knew his briefs were green…and tight. I explained to him that I contacted Orlando and was supposed to stay there for the next few days. He was quiet, and nodded. He seemed suspicious of my story, because Orlando hadn’t made him aware of my arrival. He looked over my shoulder at my motorcycle then back at me still in full motorcycle gear with helmet in hand and said, “well ziss is too facked up zoo be made up.” So with a shrug and a swing of his arm he welcomed me into the house with his robe flapping open an shut.

Orlando was studying in San Jose and had three roommates who were college students as well. One was out of town and I was taking his room. His personal affects were thrown around the room and I felt invasive as I arranged them to make room for my bags. As I combed my hair in the shattered bureau mirror I realized the pieces of glass were fresh on the ground. Signs of a short tempered man perhaps. Either way, I moved his belongings back to their original location and awkwardly stacked my gear into a tower.

The guys around the house were preoccupied with classes and personal engagements. Hospitality is like a waitress at a restaurant. Making rounds to freshen up your coffee every five minutes, albeit well intentioned, can grow to be annoying. Just as an over-jealous host may go to inordinate efforts to make you welcomed, again well intentioned, it can leave you on edge. Orlando’s hospitality reached to the point of letting me know where I slept, the wifi password and the location of the toilet. Perfect.

Despite cool temperatures, Orlando was always shirtless, and Frenchy stopped putting on airs for me and wandered the house without the robe and only briefs. Orlando used a vodka bottle for his water bottle that he drank from morning to evening. Frenchy would alway joke, “Zis man iz crahzay! He iz alwayz drinking!”

The center of the city was a couple miles from Orlando’s. I sat perpendicular to traffic, blocking a lane waiting for a gap to form in the endless sea of people that crowded the sidewalk. My chance came and I hopped a high curb. Jenny’s tires skidded into the entrance corridor of a McDonalds, right where I wanted her. There was another motorcycle parked across from me, so I assumed it was ok. The bustling customers were staring as I removed my big red spacesuit, then a security guard told me I couldn’t park there. I pointed to the other motorcycle and asked why not. I am not a bother am I? He talked with the manager and he made the same ruling.

I left without a fuss, but the stir I caused left me a little puzzled. Later on I realized the level of civility I brought to the situation. Launching myself from the street, between a narrow gap of pedestrians onto a sidewalk and into a place of business to park wasn’t incredibly tactful. Especially arguing with security and the owner after the fact. Only a few months ago I was the one looking on at similar acts with wide eyes. I had become a little wilder and a little unruly. Not that San Jose was a bastion of etiquette, but I realized I had to tone things down a bit. I have no Latin American roots, but I felt like there was a kind of transfusion taking place of fiery Latin blood into my veins.

Maybe I was just a jerk though.

Update: Changed references from “San Jose” to “San Salvador”

Update: Changed references from “San Salvador” to “San Jose” and changed title from “El Salvador” to “Costa Rica”

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