Now that I’ve started to settle down here in San Jose, I have begun to make the transition from taking in my new surroundings to making it more like home. In fact, today I had one of my first errands to run. The hotel shampoo and conditioner that I packed for the first few days was empty and I needed to buy full-sized bottles for the duration of my stay here. And I must add that I certainly hope they last for the entire duration of my stay because the price was not what my normally thrifty self would have wanted. Having been pleasantly surprised by the low cost of food, taxi rides, and many other goods and services, I was surprised when my receipt for a bottle of shampoo and conditioner as well as a bottle of sunscreen came with the hefty price tag of 18,500 colones, or almost $40. While searching the internet for tips on packing, it seemed to be common advice to avoid packing full-sized toiletries in order to avoid weighing down your suitcase, but in retrospect I wish I had known that this is not always the case. For anyone looking to travel for extended periods of time, I would recommend looking into the price of toiletries at your destination in order to decide whether or not to purchase them at home prior to travel.
As far as traveling to the super market, I felt like I was well equipped with the small amount of knowledge and skill necessary for a successful taxi trip. I knew to ask the driver “¿tiene maría?” so that I wouldn’t be over-charged for the ride and that I was going to “Automercado”, the name of the super market. When the driver repeated the name back to me for clarity and we started driving, I figured that all had gone smoothly. However, a while later, I noticed that we were going in a direction other than what I expected (don’t worry Mom, I wasn’t kidnapped). At first I thought that the driver may have been taking us to a different Automercado so the cost of the ride would be higher, but I soon recognized that we were in downtown San Jose near the Central Market. The taxi driver thought I said “Al mercado” instead of “Automercado”, as the two sound very similar, especially in my mediocre Spanish. In the end we had to drive a few extra miles, but the misunderstanding was cleared up easily. On the way out, the driver offered the advice to write down the destination next time to avoid confusion. At first, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t flawlessly execute my first taxi trip, but I realized that it’s simply unrealistic to expect myself to get by without confusion as if I were a local or someone who was fluent in the language. Carrying around a piece of paper with my destination written on it may make it obvious that I don’t know exactly what I’m doing, but it’s just a part of the learning process.
One final thing I learned today on my imperfect super market run is that having a general sense of direction isn’t always enough in a new place. After I made my purchase, Brenda and I decided to try to walk to downtown San Jose since the taxi ride came out to be a little more than we expected. Having remembered the direction that we came from, we ventured off hoping to see something familiar. After many blocks of walking with purpose, we were eventually guessing rather than knowing. The confidence that came with the purposeful walking didn’t end up being enough to successfully navigate us down empty streets with no indication of nearing our destination. Although we saw some familiar buildings, we decided to get a taxi home. Just as it may take some practice to successfully communicate with taxi drivers among other locals, it may also take some time and some unexpected adventures in unfamiliar places in order to really get to know San Jose.
Today may not have been the smoothest shampoo run in my twenty years, but after sharing the tale of my several mishaps, I must emphasize that that isn’t the point of this story. More important than the fact that it wasn’t easy was the fact that despite a few unexpected turns (literally), we never got frustrated or overwhelmed by the situation. Living in a new country that you really don’t know much about comes with challenges, and being able to embrace the situation helps immensely. Back home, I would’ve remained bitter about the money I spent and I would’ve been terrified to be wandering streets in a city that I didn’t know. Being in a country known for a more relaxed lifestyle for only six days, I have already seen changes in myself and how I react to situations as they come up. Here in the land of Pura Vida, I am learning not to get angry over things that I can’t change and that a mistake or setback isn’t the end of the world. When you truly embrace the little bumps in the road as learning experiences, you allow yourself to stop feeling the frustration and anger that we so often give into when every little thing you plan on doesn’t turn out perfectly.