48 hours ago I didn't know Maj. I was dimly aware of her existence but we had never met. But I'm glad I did.
A week or so earlier, my friend Tais called me and asked, 'What was it called, the university you'll be going to?'
'The University for Peace.'
'I thought so. My colleague is going there, too. I'll email you her contact info.'
I was surprised. I thought no other Danes had even heard of the university.
'When are you leaving,' Tais asked.
'In the morning.'
'Yeah, she's going to be on the same plane.'
Quite a coincidence.
When I checked in online and had to pick seats, Maj had already emailed me her seat numbers. I wasn't sure how to interpret this. As I didn't know her, I had no idea whether I was supposed to try to get seats next to her or not. Neither of us had really prepared for flying 9+6 hours "with" someone we'd never met so I figured there'd be a slight chance of 15 minutes of smalltalk followed by more than half a day of polite awkwardness which could potentially cripple our relation. I decided to pick some other window seats and then tell Maj that I couldn't make myself get middle (not aisle) seats when I could choose windows.
It turns out Maj is a very nice girl. She studied sociology and political science and has travelled a lot so we have hit it off quite well. At UPEACE she is taking the 'International Law and Settlement of Disputes' MA programme. And when we landed in Newark Liberty International Airport, she had decided to join me on my wacky camera adventure.
Rewind to around a month before takeoff. I wanted a new SLR camera and thought, maybe I could make it from Newark to New York City and buy a camera at B&H (the huge photo store on Manhattan run by orthodox Jews where photo equipment is amazingly cheap) and get back in time for checking in for my connecting flight 5 hours later. And if the first flight was delayed, I could just cancel the whole thing.
Turns out it wasn't that easy.
I had decided on a Canon EOS 60D but B&H didn't have it in stock the week before takeoff. So I decided to order it at Adorama (a competing orthodox-Jewish photo store), have it shipped to my Danish friend Johanne who lives in Brooklyn and then meet up with her, pick up the camera and return to Newark. A good plan except for a few things: Johanne didn't have a phone. And a few hours of delay would screw the plan and I would have a brand new camera stuck in New York. So Johanne and I had to do something very 1998: make an actual appointment.
When Maj and I landed in Newark, the plane was right on time, and Maj told me that even though she had said earlier that she didn't think a few hours in New York was worth it as her first visit to the Big Apple, she had now changed her mind and wanted to come with me. So we shared a car service for $75 and were at the Starbucks on 8th Ave and 16th St just in time to see Johanne lock her bike to a lamp post. The plan had worked! And now we had less than two hours to do a bit of sightseeing. So we took a walk on the West Side High Line and took the train back to the airport with plenty of time to go through security and get to the next flight, and I had a new camera in my bag.
My wonderful friends Meli and Alonso picked us up at the airport and took us out for a beer and food, and then took us to our houses in Ciudad Colón, the town 20 km from San José where the University for Peace is located.
My Year in Costa Rica
I'm studying an MA programme (Media, Peace and Conflict Studies) at the UN mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica 2011-12. This blog is about my experiences here, in and out of school.