Life gave me lemons...I sliced them for tequila

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On the bus for 3 hours

Flag of Costa Rica  , San José,
Monday, September 7, 2009

Just when I think that I have got this whole Costa Rica thing down, I suffer a setback. "Diane" raved about a little town called Cartago. She expressed that it was a great place to visit and not very far away. I decided that after school I would take the short bus ride there, have lunch and see the sights. When I asked the people at school where to catch the bus they offered to have a taxi guy they trusted take me.

I declined.

The taxi: 5840.00 colones (10 dollars)

The bus: 450 colones (77 cents)

The choice seemed easy.

I found the bus stop without incident. It was in front of McDonald's. I asked a guy which of the three benches I should wait on and he told me that I was in the right place. It was not long before a bus came that said “Cartago.”  (So in my experience, when the bus has the destination on the front you can feel secure in knowing that that is the destination of the bus)

Aqui en Costa Rica no es lo mismo. (It is not the same)

As we rode away from where I had boarded the bus I watched the scenery go from city…to industrial…to green and back to city. I saw a sign:

Cartago…17 km

It was really no help because I am a dumb American and I don’t know the metric system.

I just kept riding.

My plan was to get off when the bus stopped for good.  It did say Cartago on the front so of course the bus would end its route and stop there.

So in retrospect there are several things that I should have paid attention to:

1.       The bus seats were plush and comfy, not like regular city busses but like it was preparation for a longer trip. There was room to stretch. (I got on anyway, anticipating a short ride)What city bus that is going a short way has plush seats?

2.       I should have paid attention when the guy I asked about the bus stared at me extra hard as he was getting off the bus.  He must have known that I was an idiot even before I did. He must have sensed that I was about to make a grave mistake and he wanted to help. I stared back confidently.

I mean…the bus said Cartago! That is where is should end.

I did not get alarmed when the scenery went from city…to quaintly green…to rural. I nodded off and when I woke up we were still riding.

But the bus said Cartago

Eventually I began to get scared. Even in my ignorance of the metric system…I was certain that I had passed the town.  I thought surely we would stop soon.  I mean how far does a city bus go?

Apparently in Costa Rica…really far.

An hour and a half later, we were still riding. I sat in my seat contemplating my next move. At this point the bus was just stopping in random places. I could not just get off. Not only did I not know where the signal was to say I wanted to get off, but it was not like I could just get a taxi back. The system that was being used to determine stops baffled me.

Plus…where the heck was I?

I finally worked up enough nerve to ask someone. Slowly I told them that I needed to know how to get back to San Jose. I let them know that I was lost…scared…confused…and really needed help.  They asked me where I was going and when I said Cartago their eyes got really big. Apparently I was over an hour out of the way.


They told me that the bus would be going back the other way and I should just stay on it. When they were getting off the lady explained to the bus driver what had happened. Though I felt like they were laughing at me, I was glad that I did not have to try to explain the situation.  When we got to the end of the line (a random store with no distinguishable sign that it was a bus stop) the driver told me that I would have to get off that bus and get on another that was leaving earlier.

Bus driver (in Spanish): Stand there for the bus

Me (half in Spanish, one fourth in sign language and one fourth gibberish): Okay so the bus stop is right here…in front of this truck?

Bus Driver: Si

Me (pointing and stomping): No I mean like here. Like I just stand here and it will stop?

Bus Driver: Si

Me (with raised eyebrows and emergency, surprisingly good Spanish): No I mean really? To San Jose?  Just…I mean…stand here…in front of this truck? What?

And then the truck moved

Me (pointing and stomping furiously): Still here? And it’s gonna stop?

Bus Driver (Exasperated sigh): Si Orita

A bus rounded the corner. I put my hand out. It stopped and I got on. I rode an hour and a half back to familiar scenery. I did not know how to let the bus driver know that I wanted to get off, so I just sat at the edge of my seat until someone signaled that they wanted to get off.

The bus stopped

I got off…and found a bar.
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