I’m not sure I should be calling this trip a vacation, tbh. Here’s how it’s gone so far:

Day One (Tuesday): arrived.

Day Two (Wednesday): went to the dentist. To my pleasure, the dentist said she didn’t want to do five crowns. Two, definitely; two others, she would prefer to do a partial crown (an onlay) and save as much of the tooth as possible; the fifth, she felt could just be filled like an ordinary cavity. Oh, but also, there was another cavity that needed filling. (My CA dentist had told me that, my FL dentist hadn’t mentioned it.) So the new plan: two crowns; two partial crowns; two fillings. And did I want a night guard to help with my TMJ? And a cleaning? Yes, I did. To both.

Day Three (Thursday): went to the dentist. Ugh, it was grueling. I mean, I always expected it to be grueling, but… yeah. It was grueling. Surprise: it is really uncomfortable to lie still on your back for hours and hours. Hey, ‘ya think that’s why the FL dentist wanted to take months to do this job? But also, while they’re drilling, they’re spraying water in your mouth, and while the tech is suctioning it out, some of it is going down your throat. Fine for forty minutes. But after four hours, I thought I was going to explode. I had to get them to stop for bathroom breaks for me three times! By the time I was headed back to the hotel, I felt like I never wanted to eat or drink again.

A little bad news: one of the teeth that she thought she could do a partial crown on was worse than she expected, so it turned into three crowns. And some potential bad news: two teeth were borderline for root canals. She told me if it was painful at all when the novocaine wore off, they’d want to do them, but we’d wait and see before deciding. My last three dentists have been warning me about those teeth maybe needing root canals, so it wasn’t unexpected, but it wasn’t thrilling, either.

Day Four (Friday): went to the dentist. Not grueling! Got my teeth cleaned, and the two cavities filled and all was fine, especially because those borderline root canal teeth weren’t hurting at all, so I’d dodged that bullet, yay! Getting the cavities filled was interesting, too — she asked if I wanted novocaine, and I asked her if I needed it. She shrugged and said, we could see, and if it hurts, we’ll do it. It didn’t hurt at all. It really made me wonder how many times dentists just use novocaine automatically. I haven’t had a lot of fillings but getting the novocaine shot has always been the most painful part. This wasn’t painful at all.

Up to this point, end of Day Four, all of my food had been either breakfast at the hotel (Costa Rican food — a delicious fruit starter with pineapple, banana, papaya, and watermelon, followed by scrambled eggs and either an empanada or a tamale or something similar) or UberEats. Good UberEats — poke bowls, a spicy chicken bowl, a crunchy Thai bowl — yes, I like bowls — but still, not very… vacation-y? Not that I’ve ever once ordered from UberEats at home, but when I’m on vacation, I would much rather go out and see places than eat my meals in my hotel room.

But I’m staying at one of the hotels recommended by the dentist, and it’s extremely delightfully low effort: the dentist tells the hotel where I’m supposed to be and when, the hotel arranges for someone to take me there and then picks me up when I’m done. The hotel itself is terrific, but it’s in the suburbs — it’s a place for peaceful recuperation after misery, not a place for taking great walks. Literally, they recommend that you hire an Uber even to go to the nearest restaurant because the streets are not pedestrian friendly — narrow, winding, hilly, blind corners, and traffic. Obviously, I could hire said Uber, and go to that restaurant or somewhere else, but my dental visit days did not leave me so inclined.

Friday afternoon, though, I was ready for lunch and still in San Jose, so I texted the hotel and asked if I could get picked up a little later, maybe in an hour or an hour and a half? My pick up driver that day was actually the owner of the hotel, and he said sure, so I wandered down the very urban street to the nearby shopping mall.

When I say “very urban street,” I am not meaning ghetto or city center, I am meaning the kind of street that runs next to a highway, with some big chain-type stores, all with parking out front. Basically I was strolling by a bunch of parking lots. Car-friendly, not people friendly. The mall had an Outback Steakhouse on one corner, a Starbucks in the center. You could figure out pretty quickly, of course, that it was not American — all the signs are in Spanish — but San Jose is not the charming, exotic city of anyone’s vacation dreams. At least not the parts of it that I’ve seen. It’s a real city, not a destination city.

But it also had a seafood restaurant with a menu out front, seats outside, a note on the bottom of the menu that mentioned allergies, and a friendly waitress. Their speciality: ceviche. We had a little discussion of gluten, and she started showing me through the menu, but it was, of course, all in Spanish. And it was 2PM, I was hungry, so I pointed to the trio of ceviches, said “Your choice, pick the good ones,” and handed back the menu with a smile.

She brought me back the above and told me what they were: on the far left, the “typical” ceviche with sea bass; in the middle, her personal favorite, a spicy mango ceviche with tuna; and on the right, a Caribbean version with coconut milk, red onion, and lime. Also chips, made of taro root and plantain, I think.

It looked great to me, so I was delighted, but the table next to me — well, the three men seated there — immediately started hassling the waitress. They were speaking Spanish, and it was obviously friendly, but also dramatic. I didn’t understand a word so after a little bit, I looked away and started eating. It seemed like the waitress knew them, she was arguing and laughing with them. Like I said, completely friendly, and probably none of my business.

Except it was my business, because a few minutes later, she brought me another bowl of ceviche. Their argument had been about her ceviche choices for me. The one man did not agree that she’d picked the best one. In his opinion, the best one was the one with passionflower juice. He’d ordered me an extra bowl, so that I could try it out. I think he said that it was a Peruvian ceviche. I’m not sure which one it was on the menu, but he was right, it was the best of a very, very delicious set of ceviches. (Edited to add: and really a delightful moment for me, experiencing the generosity of friendly strangers — I was seriously charmed.) 

That has been, however, my ONLY vacation experience on this trip so far. Well, apart from swimming in the very lovely pool, which I have done every day. Oh, and eating breakfast every morning with a fellow traveler, who’s making a solo move to Costa Rica when she retires in two months and is spending her days managing those details. So I guess a little more vacation than I was thinking, but still, so far the dentist has very much outweighed any sense of exploration and adventure.

You know what, though? That is very much okay with me. I have always had a “do ALL the things” mentality about vacations. I want to take advantage of the opportunity to see everything I can, do everything I can. But I’m finding this hotel relaxing and peaceful. When not at the dentist, I’ve been working, writing, learning, reading, doing all the things I usually do in my life, just doing them in a truly lovely place. Well, most of the things I usually do in my life. I obviously miss Miss Sunshine (“absolutely adorable,” according to Jamie, so doing well!) and being able to cook my own meals. Otherwise, though — I might make it home from this vacation without having touched the sands of Costa Rica, but I suspect I will finally have finished the Master Wellness Coach certification. How long have I been working on it? Since the end of February, I think. It’ll be good to be done. As long as I’m also happy with my teeth and have swum every day, I’ll call that a win.

the pool

It’s the rainy season, now, too, so every afternoon has been torrential rain. Really impressive torrential rain! I thought it would be like Florida storms, over in twenty minutes, but not so much. I won’t swim if it’s thundering, but I swam in the dark and the rain two nights ago and it was so, so peaceful and lovely. I remember wondering during my last night swim in my own pool if I would ever get to have that experience again. Answer: yes.

Life is good. Dental “vacations”, also good.