Originally the capital this little city is getting a good scrub up, taking advantage of an influx of money and development. The main park and the 10 blocks square that surround it are still the focus of most of the commerce and social action but the edges, stretching out to the international airport, are abuzz with the construction of an immense shopping plaza which will sit snuggly beside the last huge mall initiative which still, after a dozen years, begs for some attention from a public which has been ingrained to support small vendors downtown and the many hawkers on the streets.
Newly laid asphalt roads and spiffy new paint on the older government buildings has brought the old center square to life and has become the heartbeat of this sleepy town.
Truly superb food can be found behind the most unassuming doors and the Mercado has some wonderful sodas which serve up mostly local fare. I have been back for only a week and walk every day throughout the market district sharing my $7 lunch budget with either the best fried chicken ever, fish and seafood fare at the marisquedera in the mercado, Mexican at Jalapeño Central, steaks and chops on the edge of town or roast chicken hot off the spit and served with serviettes only.
Belly full, I stretched out to watch the local Alajuela football club scramble for a final spot in the final championship round set for December 20. The local cable channel was broadcasting the game and enthusiasm for a win was running high with everyone in town who had traded their aeropostal gear for the local club sweater. The field an announcer was deafened by the crowd roar and I felt the energy of the night even more pronounced when realized the stadium was only a few blocks away and empty seats were available as evidenced in the stands on TV.
Grabbing taxi in minutes I had purchased a ticket from some very happy guys who were stuck with a no show and sidled my way into a wall of chants and hooting that made me shiver. The available seating was reduced to a sliver of standing space between pairs of youthful elbows and a complete disregard for my status as a senior. For 3 hours I clung to the steel fence at field level and hooed and hawed with the crowds’ cue as the game boisterously ended nil to nil. I have always wanted to say that.
I spent the holiday season here to avoid the noisy crowds on the carribean coast for the 3 weeks of Christmas and was surprised at the constant entertainment and holiday spirit which prevailed without the usual trappings I am used to.
No shopping sprees, no carols on the loudspeakers, save for the very popular “Santas’ coming to town’ and a genuine time of relaxation and good will, with never a mention of the christ child. Great pail playing by the guys on the garbage truck on christmas eve as well as the usual blast of fireworks, brought in from Panama.
Slide Show with captions from Alajuela, Costa Rica December 2013
As abhorrent as I feel about the belligerence in our Canadian hockey leagues, it is nevertheless courageous to witness a player proudly exit the ice oozing a torrent of blood from some unfortunate conflict with the boards or a fist with little fanfare to the crowd. In animated contrast, at my first pro soccer match, an opposition player unwisley chose to writhe in agony from some exaggerated encounter with an Alajuela player directly in front of the dedicated home town cheering section. The resulting lack of sympathy from the referee was amplified by an embarrassing barrage of at least 3 dozen rolls of toilet paper hurled onto his convulsing body. He quickly repaired himself and slid back to his home bench. Given you are expected to buy 4 squares of toilet paper for princely sum at the public toilets it appeared a generous display to the injured player.
Realizing that I should soon make some plans before returning to Punts Uva in January, I prepared to have some dental work done and several day trips organized.
Written and documented in January but due to technical issues, virus for me and the computer and no internet, published in february.