When I took my first Spanish class, I learned that the word for address was dirección, and I assumed it was a false cognate, one of those words that looks like the same word in English, but actually has a different meaning. But here in Nicaragua, when you need someone’s address, what you get are the directions. Most streets do not have names that anyone knows, and houses do not have numbers.
When we were helping missionaries fill out their applications, we had to put “addresses” into the computer. They were addresses like “in the Pantanal, turn at the restaurant Las Colinas and go past the Pulpuria Russo, then turn toward the lake and turn right after the ceiba tree. Ask for Carmen Pavón.” The computer kept telling us, “This does not look like a normal address.” Right.
Now that the young people are receiving their calls, they have to write a letter accepting their call and send it to the church Office Building. None of them have ever written or received a letter, because there is no mail delivery in this area. Their calls actually went to the mission office and were delivered to Granada by the mission courier. So we take the young people an envelope and show them how to write a letter and then how to address an envelope. We tell them where the post office is, and we tell them to take some money to buy a stamp. When we mailed letters to our grandchildren, they arrived in the US over the course of 3 ½ to 6 weeks. When Jenny sent us a box in February, it never arrived at the mission post office box.
Today we were invited to Jaime’s home for lunch, and when I asked the address, the conversation was something like this:
I live in the Villa.
Where in the Villa?
Near the house where the Tiburones used to be.
What are the Tiburones?
That was a baseball club.
When I get to the Tiburones, then where is your house?
There is a street from the rotunda, and it is on that street, by a van.
How far from the rotunda?
Four houses. It is white with terra cotta.
Using these directions, we drove into the neighborhood called Villa Sandino and asked someone where the Tiburones used to be. They told us to go to the evangelical church, turn toward the lake, go four blocks, and then turn left. With only one false turn (it was before, not after the church) we found a street with a wide area (a rotunda?) and asked another person, who happened to know Jaime and jumped into our car and took us to a tiny alley that went off the “rotunda.” We parked in the main street and walked in to the 4th house. Direcciones actually work because there are always people out and about that you can ask.
We enjoyed lunch with Jaime’s mother: it was the Nicaraguan version of vegetable soup, with squash, yucca, and some local vegetables called chayote and ayote. No tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, or other familiar veggies. Yummy food and great company. We felt loved.