San José, Costa Rica
Calm, relaxed, chill—tranquilo.
I'm staying at the hostel Tranquilo Backpackers here in San José, waiting for Glenn, my brother, to arrive tomorrow evening. The place is slightly overpriced (at US$8 per night for a dorm room), but comfortably enjoyable. The building is an old, spacious, 3-story hardwood floored home that was converted into a hostel over a decade ago. I'm a sucker for free Internet access, and don't mind paying a little more for the room to get the added convenience.
I can't help but wonder what Glenn will think of his first hostel experience. With hot water that actually works, and free pancakes for breakfast, this place sets a pretty nice baseline.
I've got no qualms with San José. As far a capital cities in Central America go, I think this has probably got to be in the top two for my perception of safety. It's not particularly stimulating (architecturally or otherwise), but nestled up in the middle of a mountain range, the temperature is very agreeable, and has been a good spot to hang out for the weekend.
Belize felt like the familiar Caribbean scene, and Costa Rica feels a whole lot like Puerto Rico. It's probably the combination of American surfers, US dollar, and Spanglish that's bringing back these island memories.
I was absorbed in a fun hammock chair (sort of a cloth and wood chair suspended from a rafter) a few evenings ago in Granada, Nicaragua. The courtyard of the hostel was buzzing with the sounds of lounge music and travelers drinking and laughing. I was sitting quietly and contently, mending rips in some clothing while smoking my pipe, when I noticed an American girl starring at me a few feet away.
Perplexed by my pipe and sewing, she entertainingly remarked, "It's amazing—I don't think I've ever seen someone as relaxed and carefree as you in my life." I smiled, we exchanged stories, and offered to fix a large tear in her woven handbag for her. Tranquilo.