San Jose

It was our last day in Costa Rica and I'd saved the capital, San Jose, for last. That morning, we woke up, grabbed some McDonald's for breakfast and wifi, and caught the bus into downtown.

The whole experience was trippy for me. I don't know if my sister really caught on to how many memories I was reliving just while riding the bus. I was definitely in my own little world.

The bus stopped at its usual spot by la caja which is just a big, boxy, concrete government building that has lots of bus stops around it. From there I oriented myself and we headed for the national theater

I'd been to the cafe inside the theater only once in my time in Costa Rica. Funny enough, my first visit there was also towards the end of my time living in San Jose, when it felt necessary to go do something with the one roommate you got along with because you both knew this would be the functional end of your friendship.

I ordered some latté and Andrea got a white hot chocolate or something. The coffee was good but our server was so not about indulging us. I ended up getting out of my seat to ask what the pastry options were. If I remember, we got some sort of delicious cake (which should not be a surprise since we're Pinedas).

Do you ever feel like you don't look like yourself in a photo? That's what this is for me.

We took a tour of the theater shortly after our mid morning treat. Fun fact: the theater is a to-scale smaller replica of the national opera in Paris. At least the inside is. I'm going to majorly plonk* right now and tell you that I love that I saw the original theater one summer and sat in a concert in the replica not three months later.

But I digress.

Auditions for something were happening as we were taking our tour so we got to sit in the dark and watch dancers be amazing. We reminisced about high school theater auditions and rehearsals and how we miss it all (OK not all of it).

I know this photo is pretentious. I don't care.

I was antsy to show Andrea my neighborhood and host home, so we jumped on the bus my expired instinct told me to take. Sadly, my instincts had us take the express bus which meant we got off pretty far away from where we should have. Andrea was a total trooper. It was hot, there was a World Cup game about to start, and here I was forcing her to walk all over an area even I hardly remembered when we could have just taken the correct bus or a taxi!

We eventually reached my host university, Universidad Veritas. A bit had changed around the campus, but I took Andrea all the way up the stairs to where I took my Spanish class and explained to her the details of what the food court area used to look like (did I mention she was a trooper?) and then took her to see where I learned how to Latin dance.

All the furniture would be pushed aside and we'd get to dancing. I miss those days and what it did for my waist.

My host home is literally around the corner from the university, so I took Andrea to go see it. I hadn't contacted my host mom, who I'll now refer to as my mama tica, so she had no idea I was coming over. I had no idea if she was home or on vacation. I knocked on the door and...she was there!

Outside my bedroom window!

I had to jog her memory a little bit about who I was. It's completely understandable: she hosts one to four students each semester, so she has lots of names to remember and forget.

Anyway, I showed Andrea my room, which looked almost the same. She saw the kitchen where my roommate Devin and I once ate cold leftover lasagna after a night out at the bar. I'll never forget that she called my pairing of lasagna and orange juice "gnarly."

I knew I had totally interrupted her day, so I took a quick photo with her and said goodbye. It was time to go back to the home bar of study abroad: Los Pros.

The bar's technically named Los Profesionales but us milens (translation: millennials) dialed it back to Los Pros. Now, the place has changed significantly over the last three years, but luckily, Edgar, the owner has not. He comes across tons of people, loads of students every semester, that I was sure he wouldn't remember me. Maybe he didn't. As I remember it, I don't think he knew my name, but he remembered my face thanks to -- wait for it -- Facebook. So did the main bartender, Monica, who is now all sleeved out and fab as ever.

I ordered my study abroad usual: rum with pineapple juice and Andrea finally got to try the Costa Rican beer. I'm talking about Imperial. I'm not a beer girl so I won't pretend to know how to describe the taste, but Andrea said it was like a Corona, but better.

I'm getting off topic! The point was to tell you that my drink was basically rum with a splash of juice.

Edgar had hooked it up as usual.

We needed to go souvenir shopping before sundown, so we sadly said our goodbyes to Edgar and jumped on the bus back into the city. We got to the mercado artesanal and had a ball picking out all the things. I bought huaraches as a consolation for not being able to replace my beloved purse. Andrea bought herself a backpack and we spent all our colones except for enough to buy airport food the next day.

The dark came too quickly and we headed back by bus to our friend Monika's for dinner. She took us to see her parents, who knew Andrea and I before we had memories. We picked up Monika's daughter Dani from school and grabbed a final dinner at a local spot with awesome fried food and a cool environment. (Legit almost just typed in Spanish...what is my brain?!)

Before I knew it, the trip had come and gone and it was time to give back all the joys vacation lends you. We turned the car in, ate a ridiculously overpriced lunch, and sat in the terminal to watch Costa Rica play the Netherlands in the World Cup. The game went to a shoot out that CR just wasn't able to win. That part was sad. It helped distract me from the sadness of leaving.

I'm trying so hard not to get all philosophical and lofty so I'll just say this: I felt like I got to go home for a little bit, and I'm thankful I was able to share it with Andrea. Study abroad can feel unreal. It can feel like you fell asleep for a semester and only dreamed you saw and ate and did what you did. Going back and sharing it with someone who only interacted with my experience via Facebook photos solidified that I did do this. It was real.

And that is cool.
♥ A

*Plonk: the travel equivalent of name dropping. Origin: Barbara Gausewitz

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