Pura Vida

Pura vida: the simple translation is “pure life”…And it is a philosophy of life for the people of Costa Rica.  Pronounced “Poo-rah Vee-dah”, it is an expression of optimism and takes on many meanings depending on its context.  It could mean take it easy, live in the moment, relax, enjoy life, it’s all good…It’s also a philosophy best understood through experience: walking slowly through the colorful roadside market in Manuel Antonio, hearing the quiet song of our guide paying homage to his country, embracing the welcoming smiles of Costa Rican people at every stop, or the first glimpses of a Pacific Ocean sunset.

My introduction to and subsequent acceptance of the pura vida philosophy was immediate upon my arrival to Costa Rica when I realized my luggage had not made the connecting flight from Miami.  Silently kicking myself for not adhering to my usual protocol of traveling with all carry-on luggage, I walked with one of my professors (who, in the spirit of respectful anonymity, I will call Prof J) to the help desk to report my missing luggage.

“Hola.  Puedo ayudarlo?”  asked the young man at the help desk.

Years of high school French came flooding into my brain and it wouldn’t be the first time during the trip when I would open my mouth to respond in Spanish but French would threaten to come out.  I’m sure I looked pained as I stood staring wide-eyed, searching my brain for the Spanish equivalent of what I needed to say.

“Ho-la,” I spit out ungracefully and turned chagrined to Prof J.  He knew our itinerary (as well as Spanish) and would certainly be more effective in coordinating the delivery of my luggage.  After a few moments of conversation and a small bit of paperwork, we discovered my luggage was still in Miami and the gentleman at the help desk efficiently worked with us to get it back to me.

As we stood waiting for the printer to s-l-o-w-l-y churn out the multiple page receipt for my luggage, Prof J turned to me and said, “Pura vida.”

“What does that mean?”

“It is what it is.”

My general annoyance to the situation started to dissipate.  He was right.  I could choose in that moment to spend the next 3 days upset and annoyed or I could relax.  I acknowledged the foresight I had in packing a change of clothes in my carry-on and reminded myself that I was in a warm, welcoming country and not in control of anything except my own response to the situation.

So I accepted it: Pura vida.

WHERE WE STAYED: City Express Hotel

It was a fine hotel for our short stay in San Jose.  An easy drive, 5 minutes from the airport.  The rooms were clean and comfortable.  According to their website (noted below), it costs $98 per night for a double room.  The free breakfast was good as well: toast, eggs, fresh fruit, juices, rice and beans.  The only downside to the hotel stay was the required use of our room key in order to operate the elevator…

Hotel Room

Hotel Room

City Express San José Costa Rica

While I didn’t get a photo of it, the view from my shared room was a side-street view of San Jose and, in the distance, tall spires of a wind farm lined the edges of a far-away hill.

WHERE WE ATE: McDonald’s

Yes.  McDonald’s.

We had arrived in San Jose late at night and, much to the apologetic dismay of our tour hosts, all restaurants had closed.  Except one: McDonalds.  Dropping our luggage at our hotel, we made our way to McDonalds where I ordered the “Tico” Mc-Something Sandwich and enjoyed my first (albeit unauthentic) Costa Rican dish.

Note on a Lesson Well Learned.  My luggage was returned to me 3 days later and I was relieved to have access to clean clothes and flip flops; however, my husband will be happy to hear I had found myself much happier with less.  How easy it was to move between places with only my camera and a backpack of supplies.

Next post: We head to Savegre Valley and go on our first hike!

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