Ten years ago I moved from the East side of San José to Sabana Norte, on the west side. This was a typical day back then. Much has changed for me, but others, I hope, still enjoy such days.
Early Tuesday morning I was awakened by a visitor, the first of its kind in this apartment. It whined, dive bombing, first into one ear and then the other. I finally had to get up to find my mosquito repellent, which I didn’t have, so I dabbed some raid on the rims of my ears.
I did manage to get back to sleep unmolested until 6:30. Then began a busy day. First the local pharmacy where I asked how much my prescription would cost. They only had two of the three and the price was about $30. I decided that for that I could wait in line at the hospital pharmacy where they would be free.
My next errand was to the bank. There was a long line but the kind guard put me up front as is the custom for all possessors of the ciudadano de oro (senior gold cards). There I paid my cable TV and Internet and my phone bill. There I also left my neighbor, Doug, who had walked with me this far, to his business, and I went across the street to catch a bus downtown. Riding the buses is free and easy for me now that I have my new resident’s cédula. The bus driver just registers the cedula in some machine. So much easier than pawing through my purse for change.
First stop the pharmacy in Hospital San Juan de Dios where there were, (surprise!) only about six people in line. The man behind the window took my prescriptions and told me to return tomorrow after 6 a.m.
Within a few minutes I was back at the bus stop where I caught one that would take me right to the Caja building. (Caja is short for Costarricense de Seguro Social, the government run medical insurance and pension programs.
At the door a fellow (wearing a surgical mask to get attention) handed me a flyer. Once again I was in luck and the line was short. I barely had time to peruse the flyer. Both sides were filled with instructions and information about how to avoid the AH1N1 flu or what to do if you think you have it. It was lucky I didn’t have an appointment with President Óscar Arias because it warned me not to embrace, kiss or shake hands with people that I meet, and surely I would be tempted to at least shake his hand. He has been out and about among crowds lately inaugurating the new train service to Heredia, I am sure, shaking lots of hands and giving abrazos. I have just heard that he has the AH1N1 flu.
My chores were completed. I seldom am able to accomplish more than one, let alone three errands in a morning. Now I was thirsty and knew I should not get dehydrated so I stopped
in the nearest place that sold drinks. It was a pasteleria. I had no desire for a pastry, sweet or salty, but I chose one along with a soft drink. I tore off a piece. One bite of the pastry was all I could take; it seemed to be pressed breadcrumbs covered with jelly, sugar and white icing. I left it on the table and walked out. A few feet outside the shop a youngish man was sitting on the sidewalk propped against the wall looking rather hopeless. He wasn’t even begging. I quickly returned to my table and picked up the paper plate holding the discarded dessert and approached the man. He eagerly reached for it and began eating.
Walking towards yet another bus stop I began to feel guilty. How could I give this poor man something so unhealthy for his empty stomach? But I didn’t go back.
I walked a couple of blocks and caught the Sabana Estadio bus across from the Gran Hotel. That would take me to my neighborhood. Getting off (after a pretty bumpy ride), I noted that my own stomach was empty.
The little sidewalk café-soda on the corner of the street where I live had changed hands again and the flyer they put out proclaimed Argentinean food. I sat down and ordered an ejecutivo (fixed price meal) with pork, no rice. What I got was a typical Costa Rican meal. Besides the chop, there were beans, carrots, broccoli and a cabbage salad and too much of everything. It came with a fruit drink. I didn’t finish that either.
The two eager young women behind the counter made the mistake of asking me how it was. I said the vegetables were tasty but overcooked and the beans were undercooked and not tasty. Then I apologized, explaining that I was an extranjera, not a Tica (as if they needed that information).
Walking away, I wondered how Ticos could eat that fare day after day. Then I flashed on people in the U.S. going into McDonalds or Burger King day after day ordering a hamburger and french fries and expecting (and wanting) the same taste they had yesterday. I guess one would call both comfort foods. I was just happy that I had Il Ritorno, an Italian restaurant, when I wanted something familiar and delicious. But today I’ll just go home and have a hot fudge sundae.