Wheels up at 7am means leaving the house at o'dark thirty, and getting up that early always makes me nauseous. My nausea only increased as I got to the airport and realized that although I'd packed only a small carry on suitcase & an overnight bag - intending not to check anything - I'd inadvertently packed that most dangerous of terrorist weapons - a full bottle of Suave Professionals 2 in 1 Plus Shampoo (pH balanced for poor people). Not knowing when or if I'd get to a grocery store once in Costa Rica, I decided to check the bag rather than throwing away the offending liquid. Shortly after checking the bag, and (now disarmed) successfully passing through security, I realized that my print out of the tour-group itinerary, hotel information, and important phone numbers was safely stowed in the outside pocket of my checked suitcase.
I didn't freak out immediately, but when I didn't see the tour guide, or the PCC teacher that I'd expected to be on the same flight (they'd sent out a recommended flight for everyone on the tour to take), my sleep deprived brain got stuck on the notion that I'd bought my ticket for the wrong day and would be showing up in Costa Rica a day early. Now, rationally, I know that this isn't a crisis. I have actually been abroad before - if you've got a credit card and a passport - you're fine. Just take a taxi to the center of town, find a hotel and you're good to go. But waking up at butt-crack of dawn does not predispose me to rational thinking. And my bizarre & recently developed fear of flying* just compounded my anxiety. I spent the next three flights in a state of near panic.
This trip marked my first stop over in Houston.... and man. I'm not sure what I expected... but it sure is a whole different thing out there.
(I don't remember him being this jaunty as a president)
Finally my third flight of the day lands safely in Costa Rica, and after clearing border control and being reunited with my checked bag, I was able to confirm with the itinerary that I did in fact fly on the correct day and merely had to exit the airport and turn right (avoiding the taxi drivers on the left) to find my tour group waiting for me.
Except that they weren't there. The taxi drivers were sure enough on the left - hollering at me to make use of their services... but to the right were only a few assorted tourists - none of whom had heard of the Infinite Forest tour group. Hmmm.... there's a reason why the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has the words "Don't Panic" written across it's front in large friendly letters. Don't panic, don't panic, don'tpanic, don'tpanicdontpanicdontpanic..... and sure enough a mini van drives up and my tour guide, TJ, jumps out of the passenger seat hands me a beer, gives me a warm hug and a kiss on the cheek announcing "Bienvenidos a Costa Rica!" His sister, the PCC Spanish teacher, slides the side door open and greets me in the same Costa Rican style with a hug and kiss on the cheek. I pop open the beer and down half of it in one long gulp, the knot in my stomach finally loosening.
Two of our group were already there (a couple I'll call Jack & Jill), and soon enough the final student (Misty) arrived and we were on our way to the hotel. After a quick, but delicious dinner of beans, rice, chicken, plantains, tropical fruit and juice, we turned in for the night with instructions to load up our day packs with swimsuits, sunscreen, and a change of clothes for the next day's white water rafting adventure! Pura Vida baby, I'm in Costa Rica!
* On a flight a few years ago I was overly tired and every time I nodded off I had the distinct sensation of falling out of the airplane, careening towards the ground. Since that flight I cannot shake that thought or sensation when in the air. No matter how often I tell myself that flying is the safest way to travel, I close my eyes and my inner ear decides to pretend we've fallen out the side of the plane. Window seats are impossible - and at some point I'm going to need to score some Valium or something to get me through my next flight.