Wednesday, January 30, 2008

San Jose's Traditional Tope

I’m not sure what I expected but ever since I read about San Jose’s Traditional Tope (horse parade) I was determined to attend. The event takes place every year on the 26th of December. Perfect I figured, since we had no plans for Christmas.

Since I wanted to avoid driving downtown and possible huge crowds with no idea where to park, we decided to ride the bus into San Jose. The scheduled start time for the parade happened to be noon. Like typical Americans, we thought we should be early to get a good spot on the parade route. We drove to the Flores mall and left our car. After asking 3 bus drivers if they were driving past La Sabana Parque and having all 3 drivers say yes but passengers tell us no, we finally felt confident we chose the correct bus when a large group of people carrying tiny plastic stools and small coolers jumped on our bus 3 stops later. We arrived downtown even earlier than planned sometime before 11AM.

After grabbing a huge orange juice from the AM/PM, we found a spot on the road right next to the rope and approximately 4 blocks from La Sabana Park which the papers claimed was the beginning spot of the parade. So, picture us camped out on a blanket next to a roped off area of Paseo Colon (a major thoroughfare downtown San Jose) waiting for the start of some strange parade with buses and other traffic flying by us missing our feet sometimes by what seemed like less than 12 inches. The diesel fumes were starting to choke us when the police finally blocked the entire street to all traffic.

Hooray, the parade must be starting, right? People started filling in the gaps around us. Vendors of all sorts were yelling or ringing bells to draw attention to their products- everything from homemade chips to sunglasses (but no drinks!). We felt like the only parents not buying something for our kid. Strange because I really thought we were getting away from consumerism by moving to Costa Rica! Most kids had an icee in one hand and a bag of chips in the other. The mother next to us bought her toddler a cowboy hat and a tiny horse on a stick. I finally caved and gave Azure some coins to buy an ice cream bar.

Anyway, around 1pm I began getting anxious for the darn parade to start! For the past two hours, we had been watching the comings and goings of the BCR (Bank Costa Rica) parade organizers. They were trying to line up groups of cowboys with a banner in front of them declaring their title. One block down, a semi-truck blasting bass oriented dance music sat ready to pull a float with scantily clad girls advertising one of the local beers(see photo). Family men of all sorts ogled the women and snapped pictures. I just couldn’t wait for the thing to pass us.

Finally, the groups of horses began to move. Only the more they moved the more crowded the area became. The organizers weren’t doing a good job of pacing the riders so more and more headed forward until there was no where for them to go. The horses began to spook. Then one of them pooped next to us and started to prance around in the mess. The next thing you know, we were sprayed in horse dung.
We decided to move back to the sidewalk and immediately a family behind us moved forward. Why would they put themselves in jeopardy? At that point I thought for sure someone would be stampeded and then the real disaster would start.

After another 15 minutes we decided to move down the street toward the park thinking we would avoid the peril. Only to have several riders jump the curb and come directly toward us! Wow! We knew we had a enough and headed back toward the bus stop. I do admit if we ever go back to that parade, the safest area seems to be directly across from La Sabana park but I think we encountered enough excitement to last a few years. Maybe if we have company we’ll take them to enjoy the fiasco!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Long Break

I never intended to stop writing this blog. It just became more difficult while Azure enjoyed her “summer break”. She’s back in classes now so I will continue updating this blog. First I will try to catch everyone up on all our excitement over break and then I will fit back into a regular groove again.

My next entry will cover the San Jose Tope. Then I have updates to the ditch story and the leaf cutter ants. Also, we explored more of Costa Rica during a visit my Mom and brother made earlier this month. So, I do have plenty of stories to tell.

For now, I’ll leave you with a photo taken Christmas Eve. Our Christmas here in Costa Rica turned out to be peaceful but slightly boring. We’re so used to spending Christmas with my enormous family that it seemed odd to be on our own this year. I guess the most important thing for us happened to be that Santa found our new home. It could have been disastrous otherwise because Patrick and I didn’t do much Christmas shopping (we didn’t get each other anything since we don’t need anything and only bought 3 small things for Azure). Since imports are taxed heavily, we designed wrapped file cards for Azure which described her future presents to be purchased while in Florida next trip. It all turned out ok…