Thursday’s Wall Street Journal had one of the best articles I’ve read so far on the address system here in Costa Rica.
Here’s my own personal version:
I recently had to call DHL in order to give them my new address and redirect a delayed package that was going to the hotel. When the woman asked me for my new address, I paused and said, “can I give you a tracking number for another package that has my new address?” The woman agreed and once she opened up that tracking number, she understood why and said, “oh thank goodness you gave me the tracking number, I never would have understood the address if I hadn’t seen it”. It’s not just that my address is in Spanish, but that it’s so bizarre and different from anything you’d ever see in the States.
My address is like all other addresses here – instead of using street numbers and names, it uses a point of reference (in my case, a nearby hotel) and then it’s xx meters south and xx meters west of the hotel. Most of the houses also have names – like: Casa del Sol, or Casa Blanca. However, just to add to the problems that already exist here with the current address system, no one in town seems to know where my house is when I give them the name! I even went to the post office and asked them if they knew where it was but no…they did not. On a scratch piece of paper, I drew them a map and am hoping the mail carrier will figure out where I live if and when I receive mail.
Of course, to add to the address problems, I’m now terrified of being stung by a scorpion and not knowing if I’m allergic to them. A friend tells me that I need to find the local number for the Tamarindo police and not to bother with calling 911 since they would be coming from a far distance. Of course, either way, I have no idea how to explain to them where I’m calling from since there’s no address. I just have to hope that all the points of reference I can use will work if I ever have an emergency situation. And hopefully, I’m not allergic and all that happens is my tongue goes numb and the site where the stinger went in hurts. But in the meantime, I’ll look for that local number to the police station.