Day One. Chicago to San Jose. 30 degrees to 75 degrees.
Annie, Áine and myself, met with Brian and Maggie after checking in to the Southwest International flights desk at Midway Airport. The Galls, from Columbus Ohio, were there ahead of us and already some of our fans had gathered at the gate. We were all excited to see this new destination and the idea that it was all on Central Time and a flight south made everything almost routine and not some exotic place. We had lunch and then headed to get our seats on the plane. The whole crew was there and we spent some time talking excitedly about the trip. I went to the desk to check the stroller for the gate. The lady at the desk struggled a bit with the computer to get the proper tags, affixed them to the stroller and then we took our place in the line. Annie, who is one for detail, has a big red bag that goes over the stroller when it is brought to the gate. “That tag should be on the bag”, she said to me. “Annie, these guys are smart enough to look on the stroller and check the tag,” I said. We were already entering the plane. “I am pretty sure it will get lost,” Annie said. “I know what I am doing, relax,” I said. “We are going to Costa Rica!”
The plane took off and we were soon above the clouds, heading south. The winter gray was 10,000 feet below us and the setting sun was cheerful. I settled into my chair and took a nap while Aine played with Annie. We came down into Houston, which was 60 degrees and raining. Still 60 degrees is a lot better than 30 degrees. “Halfway there,” I said to our group as we deplaned. I waited for the stroller. No stroller. I talked to the flight attendant. “Did it have a white tag on it?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered and it was tagged to San Jose Airport in Costa Rica. “Don’t worry,” they probably are just transferring it to the next flight.” I came up to Annie and Áine, empty handed.
“Uh, huh,” Annie said, which is wifespeak for “You should have listened and obeyed my every order and we would now have a stroller.” “They say it will head on down to Costa Rica,” I said. “Nothing to worry about.”
We got on board the flight to San Jose and were quickly on our way. Climbing above the rain clouds, we headed across the Gulf of Mexico. Looking out the window, I could see storm clouds in the distance. Huge thunderheads, chock full of lightning, that flashed as if some sort of huge video game was being played. One cloud would light up and then another, and it was fun to watch. For that meant that it was warm weather and we were quickly escaping to a week’s worth. We flew past Nicaragua and soon it was time to get ready for landing in Costa Rica. The flight crew handed out the immigration and custom forms. The forms were printed in a tiny type that I gave the forms to Annie. She filled them out and we soon landed. I stood at the gate, expecting to pick up the stroller. Soon a red bag was handed up and I triumphantly carried it over to Annie, with a “See, I told you so” look on my face. Annie looked at the bag and I quickly realized that it was not our stroller. I trudged back to the gate, where a family was gesticulating to a ground crewman at the gate. “Um, I think this belongs to you,” I said. The father, gave me a look and then without taking the stroller out of the red bag went up the ramp. I waited until everyone was off the plane. The land crewman came back to the gate and shrugged his shoulders. No stroller. So we went to pick up the luggage and soon all the bags were accounted for--except the stroller. It was now around midnight and so, our group was heading for the exit while I stood next to a Southwest attendant. She had a fairly good command of English and so, for the next half hour, I had to explain what the stroller looked like, where we were coming from. I handed over the itinerary of our group to her along with my name and phone number. No one was left in the baggage area except me, Annie, Áine and Brian and Maggie, who were kind enough to hang behind for moral support. We finally got to the exit where everyone else was waiting. With them was a man in his mid-40’s, wearing combat boots and waving the Costa Rican flag. “Welcome to Costa Rica!” he yelled. He introduced himself as Julio and proceeded to line us all up for our first group shot in Costa Rica. We were tired, but pretty amused as Julio had us all line up and heading for the bus. The bus turned out to be just big enough for 21 people and it had a luggage rack on top. We all were amazed to see that this seemed to be a regular mode of travel in Costa Rica. The luggage was all passed up to Julio who was now on top of the bus. For all of us, it was pretty bizarre. Here it was, past midnight, wear are in our winter clothes in the warm weather and Julio and the driver are lugging 50 lb pieces of luggage on top of the Partridge family bus. Some of our group jumped in and assisted handing up the baggage while the rest of us took pictures of the whole affair. Everyone found it pretty humorous!
Soon, we were on the bus and Julio gave us some quick lessons in Costa Rican etiquette. “Pura Vida is what we say in Costa Rica,” Julio said. “It means that life is good, we love life.” He then taught us how to respond to gracias (thank you) in Spanish. “We do not say ‘de nada’ here,” Julio explained. “De nada means “It’s nothing.” We say ‘Con mucho gusto!’ which means ‘with much pleasure’ and is much more polite!” He made us repeat the phrases. Julio had other bits of advice, such as the roads in Costa Rica being fairly bumpy. “Yes, you get a free car massage here in Costa Rica!” Julio said. Then he gave us a quick lesson about the Costa Rican flag and kept us very entertained until we reached our first hotel, the Barcelo San Jose Palacio. It was now close to 1 a.m., but the staff was waiting for us, with beautiful glasses of watermelon juice, which were extremely refreshing. In each room, there was assembled a welcome bag of Costa Rican coffee and little cakes with “Switchback” on them. We all quickly got to sleep in anticipation of our journey.
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Click here to read Day 2