One step closer to the trip being over and I’m not ready to go home and definitely not ready to go back to San Jose but here we go. We do have a couple of stops in outlying neighborhoods of San Jose.
On the outskirts of San Jose we visited a company working with hardwoods, crafting large wood sculpture, trays, bowls and boxes, key chains and jewelry using even the smallest pieces of left over wood. We had seen many of these items for sale in other shops on our journey. The factory is set amid a lovely garden complete with pond and wooden sculptures on the covered walkways around the pond. A large open-air restaurant and gift shop are adjacent to the work area.
Downstairs women sort the pieces of wood first by quality, size and color. Other women sit behind drills all day long drilling the tiniest of holes in thousands of pieces of wood, mind numbing repetitive work. Upstairs the wood is again sorted by size and color for jewelry, necklaces, bracelets and earrings. Our guide did say the workers have health care benefits, an hourly wage, vacation and a pension. For this they work a long day, 7-6 and do not rotate positions, performing the same task day after long day. The women were socializing as they worked and the factory looked pretty clean but oh my what a job, representative of hundreds of thousands all over the world slaving away to bring us low-cost consumer goods. I think these women had it pretty good in the world of factory work but it was not easy for me to see this side of life in Costa Rica but reminds me to be mindful of what I purchase and appreciate the labor that went into producing it.
We ate lunch here in the outdoor cafeteria with a resident duck wandering from table to table looking for handouts. We did get to meet Julio’s wife and his five-year-old daughter who joined him for lunch; they live nearby in Alajuela and took advantage of him being close enough to visit. His daughter is darling and obviously loves and misses her daddy very much. We thought about how difficult it must be for their family to be separated for such long periods of time. Julio is on the road for two weeks at a time with perhaps only a day at home between trips. I suspect this decreases as the number of tour groups decline but I imagine it still presents difficulties for the young family.
After lunch we drove to the home of a small businesswoman, who designs and crafts one-of-a-kind purses. Yenory has quite a story to tell, she has overcome great adversity to get where she is today. She is gaining international acclaim and recognition for her beautiful creations. The President of Costa Rica buys her purses as do many other Latin American dignitaries and closer to home Michelle Obama. It is a bittersweet tale, as she gains notoriety she is also battling multiple cancers and maintains a positive spirit and energy that we feel right away when meeting her. She is a bright light and we wish her many years of continued success.
It was late afternoon by the time we checked back into the Hotel Balmoral for our last night in Costa Rica. Unfortunately we even got the exact room we had last visit. It is a noisy room with a light shaft outside the window that carries voices and all other noises form adjacent rooms and the smell of exhaust finds it way up from the street to our room through the open fire escape door. This hotel has a fantastic location for visiting the historic center and is right on the pedestrian street, the restaurant is nice as is the lobby and public areas but the room is the least pleasant of all the places we have stayed. Only one more night so no reason to complain but I would definitely look around for another hotel if I were ever to return.
We get organized and repacked for our flight home tomorrow and then meet the group for our farewell dinner. Andres takes us to the University district of San Jose to a Lebanese restaurant. It looks like an interesting area to explore but this is our last night and far away from our hotel. The restaurant is quite nice; we appear to be the only customers though. Dinner is very good and we enjoy seeing a more personal side of Andres. He is quite a young man. Some of our group leaves tomorrow morning at 4:30 a.m. so we make it an early night so they can get a little sleep.