Mango Verde Hostel
We arrived in Alajuela that afternoon, and, on my own for communication for the first time, I once again relished the joys of being able to pronounce the local language. I instructed the taxi driver to take us to the Mango Verde Hostel. He tried to convince us to go to a different hotel (taxi drivers are often in the pockets of certain local hotels). I said no. When we arrived at our hostel, he drove by slowly and said, “It’s closed” and started to drive us to his hotel. This is a common trick that I have heard about. Some drivers have been known to take tourists to abandoned buildings and tell them that that’s where their hostel used to be but it closed down. We insisted that our hostel was not closed and made him stop. It was, of course, still perfectly operational, although we were informed by a guest that the proprietor had gone out and would be back in about thirty minutes. The taxi driver was waiting and watching us, so we went into a shop across the street until he went away. Then we walked down the street and found a restaurant to have lunch in and wait until the owner came back and could let us in.
After lunch, we returned to the hostel and secured a room for our last night. The hostel was quite nice inside, with a courtyard and hammocks, but we didn’t want to hang out there all afternoon. Since the town’s only attraction was the international airport that was about a mile away, we had nothing to do. So we asked our hostel lady for directions to the mall, with the intention of watching the new Simpsons movie. We walked to the mall but discovered that unfortunately, Los Simpsones was only in Spanish. So we hung out in the bookstore at the mall and walked around town a bit until it was time to eat supper.
Our final hunt for a meal culminated at a lovely little restaurant with no written menu, but a patient proprietor who sat down at our table and laid out all the options very carefully. We were the only people in the restaurant. The typical plate of meat, rice and beans, etc, was preceded by a delicious chicken and potato soup that we hadn’t had before. There seemed to be two kinds of potatoes in the soup and we asked what the weird kind was. It was plantain. (In our defense, it tasted totally different from the fried plantains we had been eating.) The typical plate was followed up by two little plastic containers of rice pudding, delivered on a tray by a cute little boy. At the end of the repast, we thanked our host for the delicious dinner and told him we were returning to the U.S. the next day. He then revealed that he had lived in Jacksonville, Florida for a few years and worked on a Spanish language radio show, “because, you know, my voice,” he said proudly. He did indeed have a very good voice.
The next morning, we had tres leches and a mango for breakfast (as one ought not stay at the Mango Verde hostel without eating a giant mango). When the church bells struck ten, we reluctantly disentangled ourselves from the sunny hammocks, and shared a cab to airport with some other travelers from the hostel. We used up our last colones at the airport on a bag of organic Costa Rican coffee.
Although we won’t miss the exhaust fumes and excruciating bus rides, it was a fabulous trip and we were quite depressed to leave and return to our normal life. But here we are again, and many sets of 14 days will pass, but it won’t occur to me to write 16 pages about any of it. So that is the joy of traveling really, it makes you pay attention to what is happening, what you are experiencing and seeing. Nothing is a blur.