One of the things I am starting to love about living in a small town is how everybody knows each other. I used to be generally baffled when I would tell people I came from Canada and people here, completely earnestly, would turn around and say:
“I have a friend from Canada, Katherine Martynsky, do you know her?”.
I used to always joke and say “Oh you mean Kat! She lives just around the corner from me!”, but as Latin Americans struggle with sarcasm that almost never ended in my favour. The other day though I found myself in a taxi in Managua talking to the driver whose mother lives in Somoto.
“Oh really” I said “What’s her name? Maybe I know her….”.
When people ask me where I live here, they ask me not where I live but with whom I live. I’ll say I live with Doña Aura, and if that person doesn’t happen to know exactly who that is, someone else, shamelessly overhearing the conversation, will butt in with a “the women who works at the bank whose ex-husband was the cousin of Daniel who used to work in administration at the mayors office”. Oh yeah, of course. If they ask where the house is, I will generally say its two blocks south of the bus station and a block east. Or 5 houses over from that great Carne Asada place that is open late.
So when I walked into the kitchen the other day to ask what the address is so that my mother could send me a care package (chocolate) there ensued one of the funniest fights I have witnessed thus.
“From the hotel Bambi,” Doña Aura starts, motioning me to write it down, “one block west, 45 paces north”.
“No Mami,” the daughter yells from her bedroom, obviously eavesdropping on the conversation, ” its one block east and the third house south”.
“No, south is that way” Doña Aura says, pointing roughly with her hand towards the east.
“No its not”, the son Joel says, emerging from his bedroom to join in the conversation, “it’s that way’ he says, pointing in the opposite direction. At this point I stop being able to understand the Spanish through all the yelling. One of the cousins grabs his iphone and races outside, opening the compass to figure out the directions. The son and the mom have agreed on where the sun rises but are now debating if the sun rises in the west and sets in the east or vice versa and the daughter keeps on insisting that its better to just say 3 houses to the south because using paces is “too inaccurate”.
“No no no” the aunt Silvia quips in finally “why don’t you just say the address is two blocks east from the bus station, south one block the third house”.
At this point the other German volunteer, Malin, and I are holding onto our stomachs and laughing at the obvious confusion the question has created.
“But how do you guys get mail then?” Malin asks.
The answer, it turns out, is obvious. The mail man is Dona Auras older sisters first boyfriends cousin. He doesn’t need street signs or numbers. The address is simple. It is the house where Dona Aura lives.