Seven days after we arrived here in Alajuela, Costa Rica, I finally tracked down a place to take classes. Taking classes in a new place is one of the very best ways to get to know people and feel like we’re actually a part of something, and, in this case really living in Costa Rica. Whenever we would move in the states, I would always enroll Lydian in new dance and gymnastics classes, which seemed to facilitate the process of making friends both for her and for me and John. This is important when you’re moving around often. Language barriers in foreign countries can pose issues if we don’t actively try to get involved and the easiest way to get involved is to take classes and learn something new.
The place that I found is called the MindBody Zone and it’s located just down the street from the Pizza Hut in downtown Alajuela across from the Central Cemetery (Cementerio Centro). Location in Costa Rica is one of the most challenging things about being here, at least so far. Streets are only sporadically given names and many businesses have one name/description listed on one side of their building and additional names/descriptions given on the other side(s). For example, the MindBody Zone has a big sign that says “Centro de Yoga” that juts out into the street along which one of our buses travels. On the other side of the building, the actual name of the business is on the building itself, but it doesn’t say anything on the outside of the building about the other classes offered by the business (like martial arts, dance, and aerials).
To get from our little yellow home on Calle Vargas to Centro Cementerio, we have to walk down the hill about 1.25 miles. This isn’t a big deal, unless it’s raining heavily (which it often is, because it is the Costa Rica rainy season). In the rain, we have to take our umbrellas, which is uncomfortable and inconvenient, but still do-able. There is no sidewalk on Calle Vargas and people drive at excessive speeds, taking unnecessary risks, but I’m getting used to these hazards.
There are people walking up and down the street all day calmly letting cars veer around them at 80+ miles per hour. A little old lady was making her way up the hill yesterday with a cane, for example. I regularly see kids riding their bikes down the street as cars steer around them so close that they could rip the kid’s arm off (or worse). I haven’t yet seen an accident or a dead body, but there’s still time. We still have two and a half months left here.
Needless to say, the walk from out house to the intersection at the bottom of the hill is always a little bit of an adventure. The lack of sidewalks in this area could be a problem if we were living in Costa Rica with kids that were really young, but Lydian just hugs the shoulder and follows our lead. There is a bus that goes up and down the hill, but I believe it only goes up and down the street four times a day every two hours (I’m not sure if it runs on time or not). The bus stops are actually yellow stripes of paint on the road itself. We spent an hour or so looking for a “bus stop” on Calle Vargas one day, with no luck because there aren’t any. Just the yellow stripes on the street weathering away in the Costa Rican rain.
Near the bottom of the hill, we turn right and walk about 100 meters and there is a bus station on the left hand side of the road. (As an aside, 100 meters is the basic unit of measure for Costa Rican streets. When someone says a place is 100 meters away, it’s like saying the place is only “about a block” away in U.S.-speak.) After we get to the bus stop (which actually looks like a bus stop), we wait a variable length of time; usually between 0 and 30 minutes.
Once we get on the bus, it takes about 15 minutes to get to the downtown bus station (the final stop), which is near the Central Cemetery in Alajuela.
On our first day trying to find the MindBody Zone, we finally hailed a taxi to locate the Pizza Hut and the Cementerio Centro. It’s only a few blocks from the central station, but it was raining heavily on the day we made our way there the first time. Unfortunately it was also Costa Rican Mother’s Day (August 15th), which is the third most important holiday the country celebrates after Christmas and Easter, so the MindBody Zone was closed.
The next day, I called the place and left a shamefully poor message in broken Spanish. Later that day, a lady called and spoke to me in hesitating English and we were able to make it to our first yoga class that night.