Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Where the Streets Have No Name ....and the Houses Have No Numbers

In San Ramon, and most of Costa Rica (except San Jose), the streets have no names and the houses have no numbers. It makes asking directions and finding places comical and a true adventure. Every location is identified as a certain number of meters from a known landmark. In the era of Big Brother, the Costa Rican address system feels protective of your privacy and anonymity but also slow, impractical and difficult.

As an answer to my question for directions, a person will come outside and say something like … go to the big tree and then go 180 meters, make a left and when you see an old man in a chair on his porch go 50 meters and you are there. Also, people use references of store names that have changed years ago and impossible for the novice to know. But of course everyone is really helpful, smiling and friendly.

Police in San Ramon are friends and neighbors and clearly not looking for conflict. They don’t keep their hands on their pistols or look over their shoulders. They can be seen in the park, shaking hands, riding their bicycles and hanging out. Asking the Police for information has led to many fun conversations and developing friendships. Police interaction feels much different and lighter in San Ramon.

Many aspects of life in San Ramon bear little resemblance to my former life. The good news is it’s often filled with more laughs and new friends.