Interesting Public Art in Alajuela

On 6-lane boulevard between Walmart & City Mall (mall behind trees & billboards) is this contemporary art.
A metal man pushing a red metal wheel?   Concentric Circles with philosophical meaning? 
Or just something to break up the monotony of occasional bumper to bumper traffic along here?
Alajuela, Costa Rica

I photographed this Monday after Spanish Class and my bus ride to Alajuela, picking up a package at Aeropost, taking taxi to Walmart, then walking the half mile to the City Mall for lunch and a couple of items in shopping. I usually ignore this particular public art, but somehow it struck me today. On this same boulevard past the Mall is a red letter “a” (the little A) and the word “Alajuela” under it, which reminds me of the large red letters in Juan Santamaria Park spelling out “Alajuela” and that someone is trying to coordinate at least some of their public art. Interesting!    ~Charlie


Aerial Video of Atenas
And back in Atenas, someone flew over Atenas in plane or helicopter at different times of day with video of the roof tops of central Atenas. Nothing is labeled or explained so not a very useful video, but if you want to see Atenas from the air:
I guess anyone can put something on youtube.

And in the right column on this blog page is a link to the most current Atenas PR Video I highly recommend!  

Disgustingly Like the States (Christmas before Halloween!)

Walmart (photo) and other stores started Christmas promotion in October!

Like in so many developing nations, it is the commercial world that is most “up to date” or more “developed” or shows more “progress.” That has mixed advantages and disadvantages. Like Alajuela’s infrastructure (especially streets) is simply not ready for the biggest mall in the country! And the majority of the people cannot afford the expensive stores. It still amazes me how much the rest of the world hates the USA and yet copies it! Or should I say allows U.S. businesses to come in and change the local culture. Interesting to note that all 15 or 20 Burger Kings in Costa Rica have closed. Nada! Some investor was probably losing money. Yet all the McDonald’s and KFC’s seem to do well even with multiple Latin American fried chicken competitors opposite KFC. Likewise Coke & Pepsi do well, while some big or expensive stores depend greatly on expats along with the growing rich among Ticos. I think that will be the case of the new City Mall. Catch the quote below by a North American:

We’re not going to persuade people in the developing world to go without, but neither can we afford a planet on which everyone lives like an American. Billions more people living in suburbs and driving SUVs to shopping malls is a recipe for planetary suicide. We can’t even afford to continue that way of life ourselves.~Alex Steffen

Today’s Alajuela Adventures

I travel by bus to our province’s capital every week or two, mainly for Aerocasillas & Walmart. Here’s today’s story with phone pix:

Iglesia Bautista 1946, Alajuela
I got the 9 AM bus to Alajuela ($1.43) and it got there in 30 minutes, the fastest time yet! Walking from the Alajuela bus terminal to Aerocasillas, as always, I saw for the first time the Baptist Church of Alajuela. I have walked by it before without noticing the small “Iglesia Bautista 1946” sign. It was started when I was just 6 years old! I know it is the date because we don’t use house numbers here! It is behind and overshadowed by the Alajuela Cathedral pictured in my January 15 post

Aerocasillas Alajuela Office

From the bus station to Aerocasillas (the blue sign on gray building) is an 11 block walk or as they say here, “about 1100 meters” or actually “oncecientos metres.” Today I had one letter, a check from the sale of my dining room table and chairs, finally! So worth the trip! Then this afternoon when I got home I received notice via email that a package will be ready for me to pick up tomorrow. Grrr! Maybe I go tomorrow or maybe next week! ! It is the replacement blades for my electric razor that I couldn’t find here. Oh well! Another adventure!

Then around the corner from Aerocasillas are two of my favorite landmarks and the cab stand:

Church of the Agony, Alajuela

La Bohemia Rock Bar across the street from Church of the Agony

Cab Stand at Church of the Agony – $3 to Walmart – All official taxis are red!
Maybe I’ll show a photo of the Walmart sometime, but it is just a big box! Today I walked across the street from Walmart to a new modern strip center with several nice restaurants. I chose Mexican, Taconteinto. It was very good and very expensive!
Then another cab back to the bus station where I just barely caught it as leaving and packed full. The first time I have had to stand all the way to Atenas, well, nearly all the way. Between La Garita and Atenas our bus broke down and we all had to stand on the side of the road at a partly covered bus stop for 20+ minutes waiting for a replacement bus to pick us up. We were all patient. “These things happen!” People don’t get bent out of shape when things go wrong here. Everyone just visited or used their cell phones. And 20-30 minutes for a replacement bus is actually pretty quick!
Waiting for a replacement bus on the western edge of La Garita. 

What’s Different About Costa Rica? And My Buses…

So what is really so different from the U.S. about Costa Rica, note these interesting habits, traditions, & weird facts from an article in The Costa Rica News, one of the online English newspapers here. Just click the link above – It’s worth the time! We are different!


Here I’m waiting in line to board a bus to Atenas from Alajuela. 23 km, 15 miles.
Buses go everywhere cheaply, just don’t be in a hurry! This one is $1.43 USD,
or 715 Colones, and as a “collectivo” making local stops, takes about 45 minutes.
Nice vehicles, made in China, window for air & curtain to shield the sunshine.
One trip I had a large package and driver put it under the bus at no extra charge.

If I go to Alajuela to pick up mail at Aerocasillas or shop at Walmart, that is one day’s activity, usually just one or two things accomplished per day. That trip is usually a half day or more if I eat lunch in Alajuela. San Jose trips can take longer and I have combined the two cities for most of a day. Below is photo of bus schedule in Atenas for Alajuela & San Jose. I have this printed and on my refrigerator to check for when the next bus leaves:

Bus Schedule from Atenas to San Jose & Alajuela.
First column is Mon-Fri, Second Saturdays & Holidays, Third Sundays
Most buses are packed full to standing room only.
The most popular way to travel.

Su Espacio -Your Space

Su Espacio is located in that corner building by the white pickup.
It is across the street from our only gas station in town which is part of
the largest Super Mercado, Coopeatenas – an important intersection for me!

The Spanish words Su Espacio mean “Your Space” in English and is the name of the community center where I had my second Spanish lesson today, located in the building pictured above across from the closest super market for me and the only gas station in town also owned by the super market. Like in small-towns in the States, there are sometimes monopolies by one person or company, though Coopeatenas is technically a cooperative owned by local farmers. 

“Your Space” could also be the theme for my first bus ride yesterday. I walked the 8 or 9 blocks to the bus terminal in Atenas and waited in line for the Alajuela Bus. It was packed with people standing. The 25 to 30 mile ride cost about $1.50 with multiple stops along the highway with people getting on and off. In the city of Alajuela, second largest city in Costa Rica and home of the San Jose International Airport, I get off at their bus terminal in central district and catch a taxi ($2) to Aero Casillas to deliver my last paperwork to make my Miami address work here. It was a notarized form from the U.S. Post Office saying I give Aero Casillas permission to receive and deliver U.S. Mail. One package and two letters are still in Customs waiting for this document before they will release the items. Thus I could not pick them up yesterday. A very nice clerk, the only one to speak English, said she would email me when the mail was released and ready for pickup, possibly by Friday. So I may make another bus trip soon! While in town I took a taxi ($2 again) to Walmart where I ate lunch and checked out the store aisle by aisle. It is pretty much the way I remember it from the August visit. I bought only 4 items: 2 cereals, a big towel, and ice cream on a stick, plus lunch in their cafeteria with typical Tico food. I had fish, rice and guacamole! Weird combo, I know!
After class this morning, I walked back to the apartment first so I could use my bathroom. The water line to Atenas from Grecia is broken, so no water in town meaning public bathrooms don’t work like the one at Su Espacio! Our apartments have a deep well and pump, so we always have water except from 10 PM to 4 AM when they let the pump cool off. Then I walked back up the hill to town to look at a house for rent and eat lunch. La Trilla (my plan) was closed with no water as was Antano. But fortunately the owners of La Caretta have a friend that stores water and they were still operating. I had a chicken casado (plate lunch) and met a couple from Iowa – snow birds! I then went by Coopeatenas and got three cardboard boxes for my move upstairs tomorrow. My friends from the August trip, Mark and Tina are moving to Panama tomorrow to try out that country for four months. I’m getting their 3rd floor end unit with better view, more air flow, more privacy, screens on windows, two balconies and no millipedes!  🙂 I’m literally and figuratively moving up in the apartments! And some of Phons family members are getting my downstairs apartment tomorrow night. 
So I am packing the rest of today, plus friends are picking up me, Mark and Tina for Wednesday night church. I had quit going on Wednesday night in the States, but will start again here since that is the English service each week. I’ll normally walk, but Mark and Tina wanted to be picked up because they are going to finish their yard sale at the church. Me and some of the apartment neighbors have already bought a lot of their stuff. I got the printer, desk chair, bath mats and plastic coat hangers, all at garage sale prices! I let the ladies have the kitchen stuff. The younger couple from Switzerland was so excited to find the muffin tin. It is funny to watch American and European expats function in this culture!
In addition to learning basic Spanish, I’m learning local ways to say things. Only older people still say Buenos Dias, Buenas Tardes, and Buenas Noches. Most just say “Buenas” regardless what time of day it is. So I’m learning to do that. When asked how you are (Como esta usted) and you are just “so so,” as we say in English, you say “mas o menos” which is how Rudy the caretaker answered me today. That is opposed to saying “bien” (good) or “muy bien” (very good). And the teenager on the bus yesterday saw a friend, did a fist bump and said “mae” which is like “hey dude.” This is fun! And everyone is very friendly here, maybe like small towns everywhere. A good place to be and no regular tourists because we don’t have tourist sights here. 
For those few, if any, readers who live in Atenas or are familiar with it, I should add that the rental house I looked at today is where the famous Kay of “Kay’s Gringo Postres” lives and I got to meet her and her husband Tom. They have  been here 7 years, but health issues have caused them to move back to the states near their son in Phoenix which is why the house is about to be available. It was a fun visit and would be a good deal financially and space-wise, but simply not as nice as the apartments. So we will see what happens. A younger couple from Texas bought their restaurant and still operate it under the same name. I haven’t eaten there yet because it is a further walk, but I will soon! Well, got to start packing!