Plane Spotting

Today I have another story from my Costa Rica travels. Forgive me, longtime readers, but I have to get all these stories out and written down.


While I was visiting San Jose, I had a chance to meet not only with coworkers at my own company, but some fairly high level representatives from local suppliers.

Which is to say, I was treated to some really expensive dinners by some fairly wealthy people by Costa Rican standards.

These were city folks from San Jose. The more advanced and sophisticated type.

In all of those conversations, it always became clear how proud Costa Ricans are of their heritage, and the talk would lead to stories about Costa Rica, both personal and historical.

And multiple times, over a cold glass of Cas, I heard a similar tale.

These business people in expensive suits would laughingly tell me how, on the weekends, people will pile their kids in the car and drive out to the airport. Cars park along the runways, just outside the chain link fence, and Costa Ricans spend the afternoon watching airplanes land and take off.

“They even sell ice cream!” they would say with a shade of embarrassment, and then say “well, it’s mostly the people from Alajuela that watch the planes.”

By the standards of San Jose, Alajuela is seen as farm country and the people from Alajuela are considered bumpkins.

So the implication is that only the rural folks watch planes.

But then, to a person, every time I heard this story, the speaker would finally admit “so, yeah…my dad used to take me out there too. We’d be out there with all of our family and neighbors. I used to love it, it’s a great memory.”

Then they’d also admit they had taken their own kids out to watch planes too.

Because it turns out watching airplanes is really less about being a bumpkin versus being a city sophisticate, and more about the spirit of community. It is families spending time together. It is friends and neighbors taking a break from working hard to simply feel the joy of watching modern airplanes landing and taking off.

“In Mexico, they’ve even built seats like football stands,” one guy told me, as if to say that while Costa Ricans enjoy the show, they don’t make it a permanent thing.

I smiled. Such a simple joy I heard as these stories were told. To me this is a prime example of how Costa Ricans look at life.

They may not have a lot of money.

They may work very hard.

They may have seen a lot of hardship in their lives.

They may have to ride a bus belching diesel for several hours to get to their job.

They may lament too much or too little rain.

But they never forget the simple joy of ice cream and airplanes.

That, my friends, is the heart of the Costa Rican philosophy of pura vida.

And that’s what I take home with me in my heart.

I told my coworker that after a week, I’m a little bit Tico now, too.

I’ll never watch an airplane again without remembering their kindness.

Photo caption by photographer: “Douglas DC-8-63(AF)…San Jose Juan Santamaria International airport”

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Today’s Theme Thursday is: community

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  • Mom

    Do you remember our airport plane viewing trips. No ice cream that I remember.

    • Karen Fayeth

      Mum – No? I don’t remember? Was that in ABQ?

      I was a Tico all this time and didn’t know it. LOL!!

  • brian miller

    that is really cool…we used to go watch the planes when we lived in NC…before we had kids…and there were several that would go do the same and sit out off the end of the runway at the fence…ha…it is really cool…and yeah it was about community then too…cool story…happy TT

    • Karen Fayeth

      Hi Brian – I guess I’m learning that watching planes is pretty common (even in my own family!).

      Rock on!

  • she writes

    I like the philosophy! Lovely.

  • Kris

    It’s GREAT to get the these stories out and written down. This is history, the sum totals of our lives and memories. I loved it!

    As an aside, we have been known to take the car out to the local airport with the kids and watch the planes arrive and depart, it’s a real treat. In summer, we go over to the other side of the airport and lounge on the beach and watch the planes come in.

    • Karen Fayeth

      Kris – Oh wow, I’ve see photos of that beach where the planes come rolling in. I can’t begin to imagine what that’s like to be right under a landing plane. WOW!

  • Grace

    I know what you mean…during weekends and vacations, people here go for a walk and biking the trails, of natures, away from the city life. I enjoyed your share today and reminded me that simple joys make us happy ~

    • Karen Fayeth

      Hi Grace – I think getting out of the city on the weekends helps keep us sane. And that sense of belonging to community too.

      Thanks for dropping by and happy TT.

  • Kodjo Deynoo

    “But they never forget the simple joy of ice cream and airplanes.” This part says it all and carries so much meaning

  • Leovi

    A nice adventure in Costa Rica, a beautiful country.

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