Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Costa Rican addresses

My Spanish classes are about 700m west and 100m north of the church ... there are no road names in Costa Rica so all addresses are given in coordinates from major buildings - the church is usually a good place to start from or otherwise bank branches, distinctive corner shops like the one owned by the Chinese family in the town know as 'China' locally and supermarkets. The more random location points include mango trees which may or may not still be there or other such like places of interest which are well known to the local man who has lived in the town for years but slightly more tricky for the foreign student. With no road names you count the street blocks in units of 100m - so walking two blocks is 200m etc until you get to long distances which are just classified as 1000m. Confused? Well it gets better because these directions only give corner coordinates so people make judgements about how far along the road the place is in 25m intervals with 50m being halfway between blocks. By now addresses should be crystal clear to anyone (or so the logic goes). Anyway the reason behind the explanation of Costa Rican peculiarities is that the other day I was asked by my friend to give him the address for my Spanish teacher so I told him the address and drew a map as well. What struck me after was a sense of this is not how you normally give addresses or directions but I could not for the life of me think how we manage to navigate our way around cities at home. The Costa Rican system has become so ingrained in me that I had completely forgotten that at home we have street names (a big help) and also to get us from one place to the other!
Since mid-October one of the fun parts of my walk home from Spanish lessons is that I get about 10 minutes of listening to the brass band practice Christmas carols. For the first few times I went home I could not work out why I was humming Jingle Bells later in the evening and then when I found myself trying to remember the words to O Come All ye Faithful it hit me. I hope the band improves a bit by Christmas because at the moment they are not in time at all with each other.
On the subject of Christmas on the 1 November decorations started going up everywhere. The Admin department at UPEACE even closed for the afternoon to put up decorations - tinsel and fake garlands with red bows. The number of houses fully decked out with lights and Father Christmas and fake snow is staggering. Some houses have so many clashing fairy lights flicking on and off I am sure they have induced epilepsy among people passing by. Even with the decorations though something feels a little strange about the weather not being cold....


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