93. Off To The Big City... But Why?!

Wednesday 8/17- If you’ve been reading along for a while, you know that we rarely drive up to the San Jose area (the city/the capital) unless we absolutely have to. Usually these “absolutely have to” occasions are when we need to go to the airport, but today we had to head up to the city for a different reason. Also, as many of you know, I am a US Army Veteran and have some lingering medical issues from a deployment in 2007. These are issues that have been getting thrown around by lots of different parts of the system for many years, and all of a sudden a couple of weeks ago I got a call saying I HAD to have 2 particular appointments within the next 3 weeks. If I didn’t make and attend these appointments, they would reject my claim. One of these 2 appointments was with a specific Doctor in the city, but they gave me the option of finding a doctor locally for the other appointment, which was for a very specific test that needs specialty medical equipment to complete. Well, not only did I not have a clue where I could find a doctor nearby who could perform these tests for me, getting an appointment within the next 3 weeks would be impossible (some people wait months and months for necessary surgeries- medical things down here just don’t happen fast!) After a lot of coordinating with several different representatives from the VA (one of whom was not pleasant at all and really should be fired from her job for giving bad information and not being very friendly about it) I was able to get both appointments scheduled fairly close together in San Jose both on the same day. One was right away in the morning and the other was in the afternoon, so we’d have to drive up there a day early and stay a day later, but at least they weren’t several days apart. Plus, I was able to coordinate these appointments right before we would have had to go up to the airport for our next border run, anyway, so we ended up with just a few extra days away from home, and not having to make the 7+ hour round trip drive twice. While this whole situation was a pain in the butt, it really could have been worse.

So, here we are on Wednesday. I worked in the morning and we drove up to the city in the afternoon. This may have been the first time that we drove up to San Jose in the afternoon, and it was an easy drive, as it always is (it seems like driving into the city there is always less traffic than coming back home from the city). We made it to the hotel before dark, which was good since we didn’t really know where we were going.

Once at the hotel we relaxed for the rest of the evening. One thing that we noticed during our drive today was that you can really notice the change in the weather. It was still pretty warm and you can feel the sun’s power on your skin, but the air is definitely drier and it feels less tropical and muggy. We always knew that Uvita and the coast are more humid than the Central Valley, but we could really notice the change during today’s drive.

Thursday 8/18-
My first appointment was not quite in the heart of down-town, but it was close enough to downtown that parking could be next to impossible, and Ramie didn’t want to try driving in this area, so we did the smart thing and scheduled an Uber pickup for this morning. Not only would it be less stressful for both of us, it would also give Ramie the chance to be a passenger and look around more instead of having to concentrate on driving. As mentioned in earlier posts, driving here in Costa Rica is an “experience” to say the least. The roads are poorly marked with no signage, narrow, there is usually a lot of traffic, and sometimes it's difficult to determine if Google Maps is actually accurate and you should turn where it tells you to turn (there may not even be a road to turn onto) so it can be a bit stressful at times. 

 We anticipated rush hour traffic would be pretty bad, so we planned plenty of extra time. Wouldn’t you know it, traffic was bad, but we got to the appointment plenty early anyway. We waited around in the office waiting area for over 20 minutes and we didn’t see any other patients come through. I eventually had my appointment and Ramie continued to wait (3 people came in while I was in my apt. he said). 

Ramie had the waiting room to himself most the time and at least it had A/C

My appointment lasted about an hour and the doctor spoke excellent English. It turns out that he has been working with US Veterans who live in Costa Rica for about 20 years now. That was quite a surprise to me since up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a clue that the VA had any connections outside of the US. Too bad he wasn’t a regular doctor that I could go see if I needed to, he only worked with particular types of claim appointments. When I was done, we got an Uber back to the hotel. Well, that wasn’t so bad. We had a couple of hours to just hang out at the hotel until it was time to go to the next appointment, so that’s exactly what we did.

The afternoon appointment was less than a mile away, so we decided to walk there (that was one of the reasons we decided to book this hotel).

Again, we left early enough that if we got lost, I would still be able to make it to the appointment on time. Fortunately, it was an easy walk and we made it there, once again, with time to spare. This was a fairly large hospital (large for down here, I’d say it would be on the small side for a US hospital) and it took a little while to figure out where exactly I had to go for this appointment. Eventually we made it there, waited in a waiting room full of people this time, and eventually I got called for my turn. The nurse that I was working with during this appointment spoke hardly any English, so that made it somewhat of a challenge. Fortunately this was a breathing test that I had performed many times back in MN so I knew for the most part what to do and could just follow along with her prompting on when to breathe in and when to breathe out. This process didn’t take long at all, and I think I surprised Ramie when I was back in the waiting room and ready to go less than 15 minutes after I was called in.

I haven’t it mentioned yet, but I have to- Ramie was an integral part of getting all of the logistics for this trip set up. Between several very busy weeks of work and all of the round and round coordination with the VA reps in actually getting the appointments set up, I just didn’t have time to coordinate the rest of this. I sent the appointment information to Ramie and he researched where these appointments were actually taking place, figured out the best hotel to stay at, scheduled the Uber, and all of the other logistics involved in the trip. All I had to do was show up and follow him. I am so grateful to have this kind of support from him while I am trying to keep all of my juggling balls in the air. 

Oh, one other funny thing from today. Ramie got a text message from Paola, the dog sitter, saying that Breeze was really moping around and not eating her food. She was wondering if there is anything she could do to make Breeze feel better. We told her that unfortunately this is just how Breeze is- a daddy’s girl- and she would eventually eat when she got hungry enough. We got another message back later saying that she was able to coax Breeze into eating her food using some goat’s milk cheese that she was making at the time. Of course, Breeze loves her people food!

This is a normal thing for Breeze to lay by the door every time Ramie leaves, she just waits at the door for him to come back

Friday 8/19- Today we had a free day to explore the city. In all of our trips to Costa Rica and now living here for over a year, we have never taken a day to just explore the city. There are so many places to see and things to do if you know where to go and are comfortable driving there (or get an Uber- that helps with being nervous about driving). Well, I’m sorry to report that we didn’t go do or see any of those cool things. What did we do instead? We went shopping. Yeah yeah, I know- how lame, right? While there may have been much more interesting things to do, we have been talking for months about checking out more of the home and furniture stores in the city, checking out Price Smart (which is like their version of Costco), and doing some price comparison on some items that are on our wish list that either we haven’t been able to find or have been too expensive where we have found them. We spent a good majority of the day driving around the city checking out some stores on our list, and what I will tell you is this: Driving in San Jose is stressful! Of course, Ramie does all of the driving, but I’m the navigator with Google Maps up on the phone, trying to compare the map on the screen to the roads we are driving on, looking for and comparing landmarks because roads aren’t marked, and trying to figure out which roads are one-way, and which are just so narrow that they look like they should be one-way, but aren’t. The other thing that makes driving difficult is that the roads are like spaghetti, all twisting and turning, circling back to where you were and then ending up somewhere else. With all of this going on, there is also the main toll-road highway running through the middle of it making it impossible to get from one side of the highway to the other without a detour. Are we having fun yet?! After going up and down this toll highway a few times, we got sick of paying to just get off at the next exit, so we switched the settings on google to “avoid tolls” and bring us through the neighborhoods. This wasn’t really any less stressful and may have taken a little bit longer overall, but we got to drive through and see some of the non-tourist neighborhoods that are in the area. It was definitely different from driving through the commercial areas and very different from driving through the neighborhoods in and around Uvita. All part of the adventure, you know!

So, at the end of the day, was our shopping day worth it? I’d say so! We picked up a few items that we wanted or needed, we satisfied our curiosity about some of the stores that we always wanted to check out, and we felt that it was a productive use of a “free” day in San Jose.

Of all the driving around the city we did today we only had 3 incidents.

#1 I messed up and sent Ramie the wrong way down a one-way once, which he noticed almost immediately and got turned around before any other traffic was in sight.

#2 We didn't realize that to exit the parking at the mall you had to pay inside the mall at a kiosk. We assumed you pay at the gate when you leave. There we are, holding up a line of cars at the exit and no way to get out or back up. Ramie pushed the help button and of course they only spoke Spanish so Ramie tried to tell them we messed up and we didn't know. The next thing we know the gate opened and we just decided to say F-it and drove away. Criminals, no. Dumb gringos, maybe!! LOL

#3 While we trying to make a left turn in a confusing series of parking lots and the little roads that connect them in between, some guy who was driving way to fast swerved around a car in the street that was also trying to make a turn, and ended up coming straight at us. While both Ramie & the guy in the other car slammed on their brakes and stopped with enough room between us, the guy (who apparently was in quite a hurry) made not so friendly use of his horn, and followed it up with some also probably not so friendly language and a shaking fist. In turn, Ramie also made use of the horn, but just smiled nicely and waved at the guy. Seriously dude, just slow down, we’re not driving in a Nascar race!

Thankfully, no accidents and we made it back to the hotel to decompress and enjoyed a drink (at the fun color changing bar top) from all the stressful driving. 

Also, neither one of us have ever cared for driving in the big city even back home, so this really does raise our stress levels anyway (it's not just here!). We gravitate toward small towns for a reason!  Unfortunately- no pictures of the drive either, there was just way too much going on to try to take pictures at the same time!

That’s enough adventure for one day, tomorrow we fly to Guatemala, stay tuned!

Pura Vida 


  1. Adventures in the big city. You are very lucky to be able to get Dr. Visits attached to the Va. I sure hope that service down there is just as good as being back in the states
    Nothing really exciting going on back here other than very cold weather with a little snow thrown in. Two weeks and we will be in Mazatlan sucking down a cerveza and Mother Nature will make sure that time will be full of more snow to shovel!
    Edie is putting together some Fettuccine for us so I am being summoned to help in some fashion. Happy New Year to you two and Breeze also! Take care and be safe!

  2. We were honestly shocked when we found out that this Dr. helps US Vets. We didnt think that there was any hope for that here so its great to know that Dana has an option if she needs to be seen again for anything.
    All that snow you've been getting sure is pretty, boy is it a lot this year! Its been a long time since I've seen snow like that. I certainly do not miss the subzero weather though. You have a great time in Mazatlan (even though its been cut short this year). I hope the Fettuccine was delicious. Happy New Years to you and Edie also!


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