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Viva la Costa!

With 4/17ths of the transformational experience out of the way and the ghosts of Eric Petersen, the Balanced Scorecard and National Cranberry safely buried for all time, a large contingent of intrepid janviers ventured down to a small and idyllic country in Central America – the Rich Coast, Costa Rica. Leadership was provided by our wonderful tour-guide, Carlos Hernandez, who took it upon himself to organize this trip to his native land for his HBS colleagues. Carlos put a great deal of work into the complex logistics of the trip, and did a great job. Thanks Carlos!

Courtesy of Continental Airways, the lifelong friends ventured southwards, some sampling the delights of Newark on the way, others stopping off in Houston for a one-hour opportunity to eat at Taco Bell and observe the clearly greater body-mass of the local populace.

The HBS party converged on the immigration counters at the airport of the capital, San Jose, representing a significant influx of positive NPV into the country. However, such boring details were lost on most of the group, who were rightly more preoccupied with reaching the hotel and finding the nearest pub. All that is, except for a certain Kikka Hanazawa, who decided that it was time to use her credit line (believed to be roughly equivalent to the GDP of a small country) to lease a convertible for her personal use. On hearing that the supply curve for leased convertibles in the country was, well, nonexistent, she expressed outrage. However, given that her BATNA was a taxi – how unbecoming for an HBS student – she was able to establish a ZOPA with National Car Rental in the form of a large Mitsubishi landcruiser, henceforth known as the `Kikkamobile’.

As the crowd arrived at the hotel in San Jose, it transpired that there was some inaccurate information concerning the supply/demand situation for rooms, resulting in some significant M&A activity in the lifelong friends’ room allocation. A full-scale diplomatic incident seemed imminent. But Carlos, unruffled by this, pre-empted his excellent performance in the Negotiations class and managed to clinch a deal.

Day 1 involved a trip to the Poas volcano, a beautiful spot with a bright green lake and sulphur spewing all over the place. The mountain was shrouded in cloud but the patient were rewarded with a amazing view of one of the world’s biggest craters. An excellent late-lunch followed at a restaurant nearby. That evening was an opportunity to explore the various San Jose nightspots. A more intrepid segment of the group teamed up to carry out a field study in the more interesting parts of the evening entertainment and hospitality sector. Tatiana Cohen was clearly moved by the experience, and prompted the Hanazawa credit line to provide some direct federal aid.
After a couple of hours sleep on Day 2 it was time to head for the Caribbean side to do some whitewater rafting. Two groups paddled down the Reventazon river through some spectacular rainforest. Many amphibian battles followed, and, despite the best efforts of Section H, the Section K squad showed characteristic ruthlessness and emerged on top – sending a clear and present signal to Section J concerning future interactions in the Negotiations class. To my knowledge, Section I were, unsurprisingly, absent from the contest.
Day 3 saw the whole group head for the Arenal volcano, one of the largest active volcanoes in Central America. That afternoon, HBS met the hot springs at Tabacon, just down from the volcano, an opportunity for us all to sip margaritas in a hot bath – and for me to evaluate my net gain of body fat during Term 1. The day was rounded off with a great pool party, arranged by the trip’s Grand Storyteller, M.Choo and Master of Ceremonies K.Varma. The group was joined by a random pharmacist from California, who was subsequently subjected to a full-scale inquisition from the women in the HBS party concerning his career aspirations, potential net worth and private life. Who knows what became of the unsuspecting young man – psychologically crushed by the experience?

On Day 4, a Section I/K splinter group riding in the Kikkamobile decided to take on the Costa Rican rainforest, on horseback. Mira Lee showed her equestrian pedigree as she led the group in a full-scale gallop through rivers and ravines. As beginners, we were given amazing leeway to get up speed that would never have been allowed in the US. This was in spite of the presence of two mal-coordinated British guys who showed little ability to influence the direction of their horses.
Meanwhile, the rest of the group had headed for the beach part of the trip, on the Pacific coast. The married segment headed for matrimonial bliss at Tamarindo, near the Nicaraguan border, while the remainder headed for Punta Leona, further South. At this point, an interesting insight resulted into the relative comfort thresholds of HBS students. The complex at Punta Leona had been extensively marketed prior to the trip as a place to be `at one with nature’. Set in beautiful rainforest with an excellent beach and pool complex, plus margaritas at a steep discount, it clearly lived up to its billing. However, there were some who seemed a little surprised that yes, this is a rainforest, and yes, there are insects here. This splinter group decided to move down the road to the Los Suenos Marriott resort in Jaco, complete no doubt with bidet facilities and a high pesticide count in the immediate atmosphere. Now, I know it’s hard giving up the corporate life and living in 5-star hotels at the company’s expense, but on the other hand the place seemed to be uniquely populated by pensioners from Florida – wearing quaint little name-cards just like our very own Exec. Eds. Everyone was happy though, which is the main thing.

There then followed plenty of beach frolicking and ecotourism, not least the canopy tours, which saw the protagonists swinging from elevated platforms in the rainforest – not an activity for the fainthearted. Excursions to join the Marriotteers were also organized. Toto Narayan showed a particular keenness to inject large amounts of capital into the casino there. Some of the guys also immersed themselves in the culture by making worthwhile liaisons with local ladies. Perhaps the high point was the group dinner at which a pair from the virtually married segment of the group announced their up-shift to the officially soon-to-be-married segment, with Michael Holt and Tiana Bowles announcing their engagement. On that happy note, it was almost time to wind up the trip and head home. One last night in San Jose was spent at a monastery with commanding views of the city, where, interestingly for a monastery, the group sipped Pi¤a Coladas, listened to choral music and had a slap-up meal. Viva la Costa!

May 21, 2001
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