Buy an umbrella. You will laugh at first. An umbrella? Who am I, Marry Poppins? But it will only take one rainstorm in San José to realize how important an umbrella is. Your expensive, collapsible rain jacket will be useless; the downpour will soak through its nylon fabric. By the time you reach your front door, you’ll feel like you barely survived a shipwreck.
Seek cover. The city is filled with awnings and covered walkways, and you will scramble from one roof to the next in search of dry pavement. But because crowds gather beneath them, you’ll get pushed to the edge of the sidewalk, which is the worst place to stand: The water falls heaviest here, slicked off the edges of roofs and shooting out of drain pipes. When in doubt, just huddle with a group of pedestrians against a storefront, nibble an empanada, and wait.
Disbelieve how loud the rain can be. It pounds the corrugated rooftops, rakes through palm leaves, smashes against pavement, gurgles along the gutters, sizzles down rain chains, smacks into buckets, and roars across the skyline. Then the thunder starts, rumbling slowly over the horizon.
Listen to the thunder. When lightning strikes near your apartment, the crash of cosmic electricity will make you jump off the couch. Hear yourself yelp with surprise. Laugh self-consciously as your pulse returns to normal.
Avoid the puddles. The streets bend in unusual ways, and deluges surge through the gutters, erasing them from sight. At any moment, a bus could charge through the water, raising geysers of brown water. And watch your step—you could fall into one of those trenches, immerse your pant leg, and sprain an ankle.
Wait for buses in the rain. Stand in the open street, because too many people are crammed under the bus stop shelter. Your umbrella will seem hopelessly small. Feel the rain pour all around you, dampening your pant legs and backpack. When you hobble aboard the bus, note how every plastic seat is pooled with water. Wipe the water onto the floor with a cupped hand, then give up and sit down on the droplets.
Shake out your umbrella when you reach the office or your house, then open it completely and leave it on the front stoop to dry. Forget it there almost every day, then curse yourself a few blocks later when it’s too inconvenient to turn around. Get rained on a few minutes later.
Wonder how the sun could shine so bright, and yet the rain could fall so heavily.
Watch your contact lenses fog up. Watch your camera lens fog up. Watch every window and windshield mist over until drivers can barely see where they’re going. Anxiously ponder how anybody can drive in San José traffic while unable to see through the obscured glass and sheets of rain.
Jam three sets of clothes into your backpack—a T-shirt that you can sweat through, a collared shirt you can wear during the day, and running gear.
Forget the word “umbrella.” Say paraguas, even when otherwise speaking in English, because the word just rolls off the tongue. ¡Paraguas!
Accept that your shoes will get wet. Ignore their squeak as you march down the asphalt. Sigh at your shoelaces, which flop heavily over your toe.
Relish hot showers. Once you strip off your dripping outfit, letting the layers clump on the bathroom tile, the steamy stream from your showerhead will soothe you like a thermal bath.
Remember autumn days in the Northeast. Stock up on Turrialba cheese and wheat bread and cans of tomato soup. Dip grilled cheese sandwiches into your soup bowl as you zip up your hoodie. Consider visiting the sports bar down the street and asking to watch an American football game on their TV.
Remember winter. Spend a shocking amount of time watching movies on Netflix. Read shelves full of books. Listen to music mixes on 8Tracks. Wash enormous loads of laundry. Make excessive amounts of coffee and green tea. Snack on plantain chips as you wander from room to room, lost in thought. Finish the bag and wonder where all the plantain chips went.
Get cabin fever. Mix guaro and fruit juice in a glass.
Talk about the weather. When you’ve run out of the usual taxista topics—soccer, crime, women—talk about how much you’re looking forward to the dry season. “Oh, it’s much nicer in December,” the taxista will agree. “But the rainy season mornings are nice.”
Don’t let the rainy season deceive you. Oh, it’s bright and sunny in the morning, and the clouds are puffy and white until noon. But then they condense, darken, and drown out the sky. First come the heavy droplets, pecking the pavement, followed by a light and steamy drizzle. Then the rainfall thickens, the temperature drops, and everything gets murky and gray. Minutes roll into hours, and the rain keeps tumbling down. If you have nowhere to go; if you’re sitting in an ergonomic chair in your office; if you’re lying on a couch in your living room; you will come to love this sight. How much water can the sky actually dump on a single city? And for how long? It will amaze you every time, and sometimes the rain will keep coming long into the night.
Watch the clouds. Notice how they roll over the mountains, like dark gray quilts dragged across the escarpments. First they drape the peaks, the cliffs, the dense forest, then they descend into the valleys, blanketing houses and roads and even nearby electrical lines until your own residential block is murky with fog, and the street lamps are only haloed will-o’-wisps in the early night. Spend entire bus rides watching the clouds crawl over mountain ranges or drift through basins. Watch them change color throughout the day, until they zenith with pink and purple at sunset. Wonder if there’s any sight as beautiful in the world.
Buy a blender. Tentatively fill it with yoghurt, then yoghurt and bananas. Eventually you will stuff the blender with yoghurt, bananas, mangos, pineapple, mixed berries, coconut water, low-sugar fruit juice, hemp seeds, spirulina, soy milk, and ice cubes. Look forward to browsing the supermarket so you can stock up on fruits to liquefy. Wonder why you never owned a blender before. Make milkshakes and hummus. Replace half your meals with blended drinks. Lose some weight. Check yourself out in the mirror. Nod approvingly.
Consider taking a yoga class. But plan on really sticking to it this time.
Start running home from the office. Stuff your phone and work clothes into a garbage bag so that they stay dry, then seal everything into your backpack. Jog up the hill from Barrio Amón, then dodge walkers on the narrow sidewalks. Hopscotch through the crowds of Avenida Central, then pick up speed as you run toward La Sabana Park. The rain will come, and lightning will strike intermittently, but allow the rain to drench you, splash in the puddles, ignore your saturated socks. Flaunt your slicked hair, your grime-streaked face, the brown rivulets that dribble down your leg hair. Fight the rain, then embrace it, then love it. Let it cool your sweating body. Study the ever-morphing sky. Slip between idling cars. Smile to passersby, who look astonished that anyone would run five miles through the cloudburst. Do this every afternoon you can.
Remember that it’s the “green season.” Okay, sure, that’s what the Tourism Ministry calls it—because the “rainy season” doesn’t sound as inviting—but the landscape really is Trees that looked bent over and dead during the dry season gradually flood with life. The shriveled yellow leaves crumble away, replaced by unfurling green buds. Brown lawns grow dense with grass. When September rolls around, and the rain falls heavier than ever, consider that you’ve lived in Costa Rica for a year. You are no longer “new” here. You’ve experienced the rain, you’ve survived, and you’ve come to like it. Your life in Central America is its own sort of green season—misty, soggy, slow, and confined, but also abundant with fresh life, verdant with friends and activity, as invigorating indoors as outdoors. Let the rain fall, and watch everything come alive.