Today I embarked on the formidable task of paying each host family individually. Now, going to 11 houses in San Ramón may not seem very challenging. In fact, if it weren't for the Tico him/herself this task would be a simple 2-hour walk. But I know much better than that. There will be drinks. There will be food. There will be long conversations about how my family back home is (followed by the obligatory, "And your family?"). There will be talks about this weekend, next weekend, next year, next decade and so forth. ...in each and every house visit. Last year, with only 5 houses to visit this took about three hours.
As you can imagine, I spent most of the walk to the first house trying to think of culturally appropriate ways of excusing myself in order to continue my rounds. At the first house I visited today, Doña Aleida and I got to talking about all of the above. I asked her if she knew of a bicycle place nearby because I had planned to buy the cheapest one they had today in order to ease my journey, but before I could explain why I needed one she was already leading me down to the garage where her son kept his when he lived there. "Come with me," she said. "He's not going to need this for a long while. Take it! Bring it back when you leave! Sound ok?"
"Mi casa es su casa" is the most common phrase I've heard from the host families. At this rate I have 12 homes in San Ramón, Costa Rica. Now I have a bicycle. Who knows how many I could have had just by introducing the topic at the other houses. The tires are in dire condition, the pedals are clipless, and the full suspension is bouncy, but it's my bike. I rolled back 20 years climbing the hill from her house back into downtown. The air was crisp and I was on a bicycle again. All of a sudden, the impossible route for the day, framed now in the context of my two new wheels, became a possibility and a joy.