Did I know the way to San Jose?

The “thump, thump, thump” from the nightclub up the street was really starting to aggravate me. A younger me would have struck out to find the source of the sound and probably relished the action on the dance floor. But I am now my older self and instead chose to grouse about for a while until realizing that this is how I spend the first night on any trip – – fuming and complaining. I should not travel on the first day of a trip.

Our decision to come to Costa Rica was somewhat impulsive. For several months we had been planning to visit Copper Canyon via the El Chepe train from Chihuahua to Los Mochis followed by a couple weeks at the Sea of Cortez. As time drew near we came to understand that January is not the time to visit Copper Canyon and decided to scrap the plan. The next morning I was going about my day resigned to being in Albuquerque for the entire winter, and found out later that Paula had been conspiring with herself, behind my back, researching other destinations.

It is possible, still, to find travel bargains at the last minute if you don’t mind small amounts of inconvenience. In our case it was cramming seven hours of flying into a sixteen hour travel day. I can’t say whether it is the seven hours of sitting or the nine hours of waiting that is the more difficult challenge.

Aside from the physical stress, I had a couple of psychic shocks due to encountering a future I was hoping I could avoid. Others might think these experiences to be somewhat mundane. The first instance occurred on an escalator at the Atlanta airport. In the course of the ride to the top, three people, almost simultaneously, keyed information into their watches, perhaps text messages or the like. I know people who have these contraptions, of course, but, Luddite that I am, I’ve always considered them to be useless trinkets, never tools people might actually use them to organize their lives.

Okay, that was a throw away rant. Not really serious, nor caring that much. The other event, however, I found really frightening. As we boarded the plane, the gate attended did not take our boarding passes, but only took photographs of our faces and handed us receipts with our names and seat assignments. I wasn’t aware that facial recognition technology was being deployed routinely. Clearly the photograph from our scanned passports were linked with our flight data which allowed for quick linking of images. I wonder, though, to what degree that information is used to track us through our journey.

I cannot say I spent the entire flight pondering this distopian future, fantasizing about _Minority Report_ and _1984_, but I also can not say that I didn’t. We arrived in San Jose late at night. Needless to say the city was dark, as was my mood. After settling into a comfortable bed and giving up my desire for perfect quietude, I found myself waking to a bright day in the tropics. My self concept was a bit like the following photo:

A New Day at Parque Central

During our morning walk, which somehow stretched until sunset, we found that our hotel is in a good location to experience the sights and sounds of San Jose. I wouldn’t describe it as a charming city, but I can say I have taken it off my list of cities I prefer to avoid. The air was cool, with a slight breeze (that intensified over the day) with alternating periods of sunshine and cloudiness.

Paula is writing her blog entry for the day as I type this, and she is much better than I at describing our experience, so I will just mention a few bits.

We visited churches and a cathedral. I will repeat my frequent observation that Catholic churches in Latin America seem be monuments to the Virgin Mary much more that Jesus Christ. Christ is present, of course, but central prominence seems to always go to Mary. I imagine educated people have written knowledgeably about this phenomenon, though I think my intuitive and unsupported notions are probably more accurate. This has to have been an accommodation to the local population by the Spanish occupiers. Jesus could be conceived through immaculate conception, but could not have been born without a Mother.

Here are a couple images of Mary in her places.

Altar at Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced
Altar at Catedral Metropolitano
Altar at Iglesia de Soledad

The churches are immaculately maintained, unlike the general environment of the city. Here are some more images.

Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de Merced
Ceiling of Ig. de Nuestra Senora de Merced
Nuestra Senora de la Merced
Catedral Metropolitano
Iglesia de Soledad

We also toured the Teatro Nacional. This theater was constructed in the late nineteenth century. It is smaller than other national theaters, and could use a facelift of sorts, but it nonetheless has a charming elegance and thoughtful architectural and design flourishes. We hitched a ride with a group of kids who were getting a tour from actors in period costume, playing the parts of the building architect, the President and First Lady of Costa Rica. It was nice to be around youthful energy .

A few images:

Interesting floor tile
Ceiling Mural in Entrance Foyer
Tour guides in period costume

Here are a few more images from the day, in no particular order:

The bottom of this stream was painted with great effect.
Post office in the sun
Line for the Automatic Teller Machines
Albuquerque could use a sign like this (inside joke)
Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Merced
Our lady of General Aviation
Iglesia de Soledad

That’s it for today.