Thursday, August 12, 2010

No, Not my Address!

Location of San Jose in Costa RicaImage via Wikipedia The one thing you do not want to hear in Costa Rica is the question: “What’s your address?”

Addresses in Costa Rica are basically the directions to your house. Giving someone your address is like writing an essay. For example, my address is San Jose de la Montana, the main road out of Barva, 200 meters before the church, on the right, with the wooden gate. That is what you write on the envelope of you letter, in Spanish. Other addresses are even more involved than that. A couple that Mary and I met at immigration started to give us their address on the back of an envelope. They ran out of paper. We settled for their phone number.

We moved recently, and I do not even know my new address. It has something to do with so many meters passed the two bars and around the bend, the first right. That’s why I got a P.O. Box.

However, this address system, as convoluted as it sounds, is amazingly efficient. I have had to find several people using this address method, and I always found them without a problem. If you can’t find them, then all you have to do is ask once you have gone as far as the address will take you. It seems like all the people in Costa Rica know one another. They even know me, and I do not speak the language very well. An American friend of mine could not quite get to my house using my address. So after he got to my village, he stopped in the grocery store, which also serves as a welcome center, and asked if anyone knew me.

“Si, he is the gringo hombre,” the clerk replied. “He lives back there.”

San Jose, the capitol, is going to spend over a million dollars to put numbers on streets and houses. Taxi drivers love the idea, but will it work for the general public? I’m not so sure. I still think people are going to say, “I live a hundred meters past the Shell station on the right, next to the Dairy Queen.”
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