Travels with My Aunt 2
The next morning was Sunday and sunny. Which I thought odd, for rainy season. By the end of the week I had observed that “rainy season” in Costa Rica apparently means something like “constant rain and fog in the mountains, and rain everywhere else only between 3-9 p.m.” But at the time I was a novice.
I peeked around the curtain, which was making a half-hearted effort at keeping out the sun, and saw . . . the back of the house . . . and the top of the orange tree . . . and the mountains . . . and a church, whose bells were joyfully calling people to worship. It occurred to me that maybe after a while those bells, which were probably only exquisite-sounding to someone like me who didn’t hear them every day, might have had the general feel of a school bell telling kids to sit down and be quiet, after a while. But I, for one, was going to enjoy them.
Auntie Susan, Sarita and I were going to church, too, but not the one with bells. Not the one Auntie Susan and Sarita normally go to, either, it turned out. I had been getting all geared up to attend a lively Latin American service where I understood one- to two-thirds of what was going on and didn’t know any of the songs, but I’ve done that before, so I was kind of looking forward to it. However, my two hostesses had long wanted to visit one of the international (i.e., English-speaking) churches in the city, as one of their colleagues will soon be attending there and they wanted to check it out. I provided an excellent excuse.
The church surprised me by seeming both familiar and totally out of place. After leaving the highway, we meandered up a dirt road, past people staring at us from the windows and doors of their corrugated tin shacks, and into a parking lot at the crest of the hill that was better-paved than any of the roads I think I encountered on the entire trip. In the middle of the parking lot, as if it had landed their like a UFO, was a modern, North-American-style church building, surrounded by potted plants—and some unpotted ones surrounding the perimeter of that parking lot.
Walking inside, I felt like I had not left the States at all. But I had—I knew I had. I had just spent over eight hours on a plane the day before, hadn’t I? Plus it was October and I was actually warm, instead of pulling out sweaters. I spent the morning in a state of cognitive dissonance, wrestling even more with my feelings of the night before. If I wanted this vacation to be convenient and comfortable and all about me, why was I so cranky about the North-American-ness of this service? Not to mention that I was supposed to be worshipping God with these people He had made to be my brothers and sisters (whether I knew them or not). It was, in a way, irrelevant what my preference was. The point was—well, God. What was my problem?
After church we got in the car and drove up one of the mountains, even though it had begun raining up there (according to the Law of Rainy Season), just in case we might be able to see a good view of San Jose from up there. I'll let you decide whether or not we did.
Upon descending again, Sarita steered us to a steakhouse for lunch. I was famished, but I think even if I hadn’t been, I would have wolfed down that meal, in spite of its enormity. If David and Emmylou had been there, they could tell you about it in much more descriptive detail than I. But let me put it this way. Only once in my life have I had a meal that was so delicious that it made me cry. (I’ve had plenty of meals that were so spicy they made me cry, and they were good, too, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) This meal was a close second.
The rain was coming down fairly uncompromisingly even in the lowlands when we got out of the restaurant, but we set off for Cartago after that anyway. I’m not sure how a Catholic country can have something like a “most Catholic city,” but apparently in Costa Rica, Cartago is it. The basilica was packed with people at mass when we got there, so Auntie Susan and I scurried with our umbrellas from the car to the doorways and peered in at various angles for a while, before heading back to the house for supper.
Auntie Susan said I was going to the clinic with her at Carpio the next morning, and that we needed to leave by 7. I was okay with the timing, since my body-clock was still two hours off. But I was nervous about the clinic and English classes.