Pets, Walmart, and Other Things — By Lydian Shipp
Central America Costa Rica North America

Pets, Walmart, and Other Things — By Lydian Shipp

When you look for a bus stop along a road in Alajuela, Costa Rica, this little yellow line is what you look for. These might be in the rest of the country too, we don’t know yet.

This morning, as far as I knew, the original plan was to get up, work on my homework (work, in the case of my parents), work on some Spanish, eat lunch, work some more on my homework and on Spanish, maybe talk to my friends, play my guitar, and whatever else I could do.

Well, that plan didn’t work out.

As we walked out the door, I had already anticipated that today would go by slowly, and at the end of the day, I would think that the little speckles on the wall were absolutely fascinating, like I usually do when I’m tired. But down the hill we went away from our “home,” hoping to find the bus station that we were told was only a little bit of a walk away. We did find it, but with a little bit of help.

We walked up to a little corner store that was only about a block away from our house, thinking that it, might be the bus stop. It did appear that way, after all.

It was, but all the bus stops here are marked by yellow lines on the streets! These yellow lines are everywhere, but you have to keep an eye out for them. We found this out from a fellow named Leslie who offered to drive us in his van to Alajuela because he was going there anyways. We turned this generous offer down because we were wanting to find out how to get into town and back using local transportation. It was nothing against him. He seemed pretty nice, actually.
So we went on. Leslie had told us that the bus stop was about one kilometer down the road at an intersection. Now, I don’t know how to gauge when I’ve walked a kilometer, or two kilometers, or more. When it comes to miles, I usually consider myself pretty good at that. But whenever I hear the word kilometer, I tune out. My thought is usually something along the lines of: “Walk until you find the blah blah blah and then blah blah blah… Okay, got it.” I’m hoping maybe I can actually kind of guess how far a kilometer is by the end of this trip… Maybe.

So we walked. Apparently a kilometer was a long ways, or maybe it was just because it was my first time getting there, it’s hard to tell. We found the intersection. We needed to get ibuprofen, so we went into the gas-station-like store on the corner. We had discovered yet another store with food, medicine, and beauty supplies, relatively close to home. We asked the boy at the counter where the bus stop was, because we hadn’t found it. He took us outside and pointed us to the station, but we still had one more question.

“How much would it cost to get to Alajuela from here?” My mom asked. He had to think about it for a moment, and then he called somebody (I didn’t think you could call bus stations, but maybe here you can.), and told us that it would be 1000 colón (about $1.75) for all three of us. We asked him if we could trade in our US dollars at the shop he was working at for colón. He didn’t think he could, but in the end we were able to.

After I took some ibuprofen and we got the colón, and then we walked to the bus station. It was just across the street. While we were waiting for the bus (it came every thirty minutes) we watched chickens. They were very cute. There was a mama chicken watching over her exploring baby chickens.

We watched these chickens while waiting for the bus.
The cute little chickens that were walking around exploring while we waited for the bus.

The bus ride was pretty uneventful, we sat on the bus, and hoped we were going to the right place, which technically, we weren’t. Where we got off was probably the main bus stop in Alajuela, but it’s hard to tell exactly where we were, because none of the streets are named here.

I derive a certain sense of comfort from knowing the name of the street that I’m on. If I know where I am, I can find my way to just about anywhere with access to a map, easily. No trouble whatsoever. But when there aren’t street names, I just can’t deal with it. My mind begins to run on overdrive.

We asked a lot of bus drivers if they went to Walmart, but none of them did. I knew we should have stayed on the bus since not everybody was getting off the bus… But then again, who knows. Instead, we hailed a taxi. Here, there are legal and illegal taxis. The legal ones are the red ones with the yellow signs on top. All the other ones are illegal.

On the outside, the Walmart in Alajuela appears to be a ginormous, super confusing building filled with clothing, cheese, and people. Turns out, it’s just an average, U.S. sized Walmart. Maybe even a little smaller.

Y’know how Walmarts in the United States claim to have the “lowest prices?” Well, here in Costa Rica, we’re finding that they actually are very expensive to shop at. Today, we bought one thing of soymilk, and two things of rice milk for twenty US dollars, which is a lot of money. We spent 10 dollars on a thing of honey. Tomorrow, we’re going to try the Mega Mart and a Pali, and see if those have lower prices. The Palis are supposed to have lower prices. We found this out from one of the locals here.

Tomorrow’s goal is to get to Alajuela, check out a Pali (I don’t know if that’s a like a line of stores or a type of store yet), and the Mega Mart, maybe get some stuff, and then go from there. I’m guessing the buses might not be running frequently tomorrow because it’s Sunday, but I wouldn’t know these things. YET!

(NOTE: This post was written when I was 12. I edited it in 2017 for grammatical errors and other technical stuff, but maintained the content to preserve my 12-year-old perspective)

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Where the Streets Have No Name — By Jennifer Shipp

Umbrellas Would Be Nice – By Jennifer Shipp

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