City Living

Best Seat In The House, or, I Used To Live Here

Hundreds of people show up to the Feria Verde de Aranjuez, an organic farmers’ market that takes place every Saturday at the Aranjuez neighborhood’s sports center (polideportivo). The Feria Verde brings together locally sourced, organic produce, cultural events, live music, and great food. If you go on foot, you’ll likely descend a steep staircase from the old neighborhood to the sports fields. Head to the left, and you’ll find the colorful booths, local artisans showing off their wares, and content consumers swaying to live music. It’s a nice place to be.

If you were to continue across the narrow footbridge that spans Río Torres, you’d find a collection of modest dwellings, most of which have been patched together over the decades with discarded construction materials. Many of the folks at the bottom of the hill live a hardscrabble existence, eking what they can out of selling lottery tickets, guarding vehicles during events, driving someone else’s cab, or taking in some sewing. This is where I first lived when I moved to Costa Rica.

My apartment was a furnished, two-bedroom affair for $250 a month, which I shared with a roommate. The place was small. When I spread my arms, I could touch both living room walls with my palms. One bedroom was barely big enough to house a twin bed; the master suite had a double bed, a nightstand, and a door that led to the “patio.” The patio was a small sink that overlooked the Torres, which was a sewage-laden flowing cesspool.

Still, I liked it. The location is great: go up the stairs and you’re practically in downtown San José. Head up the street and there are restaurants, a cantina, and a shopping center with a grocery store. El Pueblo, a complex of restaurants and nightclubs, is a ten-minute walk away. For a carless fellow in his early 20s, this a great location. I got to know the neighbors, played soccer in the park with the kids, and even the angry, tangle-haired watchdog got to know me and stopped barking when I walked past.

Over time, however, I began to outgrow the apartment. Once I had decided to stay in Costa Rica, I wanted to get my own furniture and have some place where I could actually stretch out. Over the years I moved further and futher from downtown, in search of cool breezes, spacious gardens, quiet nights, and somewhere to call my own.

I remember where I came from. Nostalgia still grips me every time I go to the Feria Verde. Without fail, I stroll over the bridge into my old haunt, remembering the time when I too had the best seat in the house.

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