It was nice to see Dr. Henry and Adrian Dix back on the podium. It’s been a while — since Thursday, in fact, that we got a live update. There’s something so incredibly calming about the way those two present themselves, and their messages. I suppose it helps that they’re reporting good news. The numbers locally are slightly higher than a week ago, but still nominal. No new deaths since Friday. Green data all across Canada today. Might I add, across the country, the new-cases numbers from yesterday and today (+379, +344), are the lowest since March 22nd… when they were heading very quickly in the other direction.
I don’t get stressed watching these reports any more; very calming… very sophisticated… very cultured. Here in Canada, we might take this sort of demeanour for granted… but elsewhere… you don’t have to look too far to see the way different cultures approach things.
Yeah, you know, I was going to write about the cultural differences, between here and south of the border, but perhaps that particular topic has already gotten enough attention from me. I get it. You get it… cultural thing or not, let’s talk about something else.
Like maybe a little follow-up to a post from a couple of days ago, where I mentioned San José, Costa Rica. I spent a fair bit of time down there at the turn of the century, and it was quite an experience. You don’t have to travel far in this world to collide with significant cultural differences, and as per my usual rant of not being ok with “that’s just the way it is”, that place certainly offerers plenty of opportunity to scratch your head in disbelief.
The first thing is… this is the place that U2 had in mind when they wrote “Where The Streets Have No Name”. The streets, literally, have no names. Destinations are defined by landmarks… like the government office whose official address included the words “behind the papaya/watermelon/cantaloupe stand”. Another one was “200 metres east of the bridge, north 300 metres, left at the Alcoholics Anonymous 100 metres, yellow house”. McDonalds, mango trees, large boulders, Antonio’s house, and, on one occasion, “where the bank used to be” — all parts of official addresses.
Interestingly, at some point, someone decided to try numbering some streets… they did some of “downtown”, but the plan seems like it was ultimately abandoned… and nobody uses the street numbers. Why is that, you might be wondering…
Like every other Latin American city, town or village… you will find, right in the middle, the Central Plaza. From there… avenues that run east-west, and streets that run north-south, nicely numbered. So far so good, right? Except… in San José, the avenues north of the plaza are the odd numbers, and those south of the plaza are the even numbers. Want to go from 5ᵗʰ Ave. to 6ᵗʰ Ave? That’s a 6-block walk. And to keep things ridiculously consistent, same with the streets. West of the plaza, even numbers… east of the plaza, odd numbers. A walk from 12ᵗʰ St. to 13ᵗʰ St. will be a very nice 13-block walk. Back in school, you may have asked the teacher… like, teacher, when am I ever going to use trig in the real world? Well, if you’re a kid in San José, there’s an answer to that. Typical word problem…. If Carlito is walking east on 1st Ave, and he just crossed 14ᵗʰ St, and Juanita is walking west on 4ᵗʰ Ave. and just crossed 11tᵗʰ St, who will reach the Central Plaza first? Well, if you take the cosine of the angle formed by (1,14) and then take the tangent of (4,11) and then… oh, wait… more important point… if the question is, “When/where will they meet?”, and you throw into the mix the fact that one of them got lost and asked for directions, then the answer is… “never”. Because for some reason, the friendly people in San José don’t really like to say “I don’t know”. So when you ask for directions, you will always be given directions… very confidently, with specific instructions and finger pointing. And often, they will be completely wrong, the result of someone just making it up because they don’t want to admit they don’t know. I guess there’s another relevant U2 song that applies to that place… “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. I guess it’s a cultural thing.
It reminds me the time there that we went to the beach; me and a couple of friends. It was a “Beautiful Day” (yeah, U2 song), and the beach was quite packed. Curiously, nobody was in the water. And, there was no lifeguard… the lifeguard stand was empty, but had a red flag. Weird… the water looked pretty calm, with “Every Breaking Wave” (U2, of course) but not a single person in there. To hell with it, we thought… we’ll take the risk of these one-foot waves. We went into the water… it was warm and amazing, and we spent a long time in there. A few people looked our way, but nobody else came in, and nobody said a thing. We eventually left, packed our stuff, and found a nice beach-side restaurant for nachos and beer. I was the only one who spoke fluent Spanish, so I was the one who did most of the talking with the waiter… who asked where we were from, etc. I asked him about the beach — so beautiful, calm water… how come nobody was swimming? Oh… he said… yeah, this morning a whole bunch of sharks were spotted in the water. Oh. Yeah… great, thank you. You'd think one of the thousand people on the beach might have said something. I guess it’s a cultural thing.
Actually, same trip — we went snorkelling… this was a few days later, and the shark thing was still on our minds… but the tour guide/captain assured me, where we were going — no sharks. I wasn’t comfortable with the whole thing… I really had no “Desire” to go… but a group of people wanted to go… so, ok, let’s go. We went out in this guy’s boat… put on the equipment and went in. Some jumped in, others lowered themselves in… and somehow, I managed to scrape my leg on the way into the water. It was bleeding, a tiny bit. OK, I thought, there’s no way I should in the water if there’s any chance of a shark nearby. But the captain was adamant… no no, no problem, don’t worry, it’s fine. I vehemently disagreed, but he really said I should go in. Then I said something like, hey buddy… you’re going to get paid either way. The full price, even if we don’t all go in the water. Ooohhh, ok, yes sir… yes, maybe you shouldn’t go in the water. Yeah, thanks man. I guess it’s a cultural thing.
There’s plenty to learn from other cultures… and if you want to go somewhere cool, “I Will Follow”, but certainly one thing I’ve learned over the years, having travelled to many interesting places… I’m always happy to come home. With Or Without You.