Costa Rica Diary: Flying Into San Jose

by Rachel Creager Ireland

When Kevin and I married, his brother Korey gifted us with airline tickets to wherever we wanted to go. He suggested Paris, which I’m sure would have been a wonderful choice, but our friend Amy Carlson had raved about her travel in Costa Rica, and it was much cheaper to go there, so we chose to stay in the western hemisphere. I had a pocket-size notebook that I decided was perfect for a travel journal, but I only wrote a few entries. It seemed to take so much time, which I could be using to do more stuff, instead of writing about the stuff I’d done. I quit, literally in mid-sentence, on the third day.

This year, several factors converged to make it not only possible, but almost necessary, for us to go back to Costa Rica. Strangely, I knew exactly where my old journal was. (In the pile of miscellanea on my dresser. Why on earth was it there? I have no idea.) I picked it up and began to read to my daughters.

When we arrived in Costa Rica it was so beautiful I almost cried. The city of Alajuela* felt strangely familiar to me, like a place I might have been as a child, too young to remember— only to recognize. Even in the city, the air smells sweet, like flowers. There are brilliant colors everywhere. The buildings are painted in blue, yellow, orange, and green . . . .

Oh, journaling can be magical. This trip, I brought that same little book, and I made a point of writing as much as I could, most days. It didn’t interfere with my being present in the moment; it inspired me to experience everything in more detail, with greater presence. And, like a shaman or hero on a journey, I return to the regular world with gifts for everyone back home, with words and stories to share.

We begin with our arrival.

Well, here we are in Costa Rica again, twelve years later. This time we’re with Pat and Mike [my in-laws] and our two hijas, Rowan, 10, and Kiran, 7. When I wrote the previous pages, I certainly wouldn’t have had the slightest idea of how our lives would unfold from that time.

As the plane descended toward San Jose, I was again struck by the beauty of the mountains, the verdant forests, wisps of clouds floating among the mountain tops. But as I watched the landscape, I was somewhat dismayed at how much of the cloud forest had been cleared. I remembered Memo, our guide in our cave tour on the last trip, who told us that the area around La Fortuna had been mostly forest when he was a boy; but which had, by then, been largely cleared for agriculture.

There’s been a lot of work toward restoring and preserving the forests over the years. The clearing no doubt continues. People have to eat. Money has to be made. (Doesn’t it?) We do the same in the US, but in most places the destruction took place so long ago that nobody remembers what was there before.

So, as I watched the landscape from the window of the jet, I had mixed feelings. I was reassured when I saw turkey vultures circling over the mountains. Despite the destruction, the cycle of life persists. Kevin said that maybe some of those very birds had been in Chase county only a few months ago.

Next entry will be about the city of San Jose.

This is from a different flight than the one I wrote about in this post, but it's the best shot I have of the mountains from the air.

This is from a different flight than the one I wrote about in this post, but it’s the best shot I have of the mountains from the air.

*San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica. Alajuela is the location of the primary international airport, Juan Santamaria International Airport, and is part of the greater San Jose metropolitan area.