Finding Your Way Back Home

Sign post to the world in Punta Arenas, Chile

Many of us take having an address for granted.  We all know the obvious formula: house number, street name, town or city name, state, zip code,  country (when it differs from our own).  But what may not be obvious is the fact that fewer places in  world are so “perfectly aligned” than we think. I’ve lived in numerous urban places where  addresses, (both of homes and businesses, I should add) are based not on street names and numbers but on cardinal directions and a known landmark.  Little does it matter whether that landmark still  exists.  The neighborhood continues to exist  around that communal knowledge.

An address in Costa Rica, for example, can go  something like this:  Barrio San Antonio de Escazu, de la escuela, 150 metros al sur, mano izquierda. (Loosely translated into: Neighborhood San Antonio Escazu, 150 meters south of the school on  the left hand side.)  So the imperative here is that,  #1, you know your landmarks, and #2 you know which direction the sun sets in your town.

Many Latin American towns and cities that sit beside large natural landmarks will use them as directional references.  A location that you search for could be “arriba” or “abajo”, meaning up or down.

There are similarities in our current home.  One might find their searched for location based on neighborhood name (e.g. Electronic Junction is a section of the town we live in) or building name (Penta Menaka), but the most confusing thing I’ve found is the lack of continuity in the naming of what, I for one, would consider the same place.

For example, when flying to this city you would land in Cochin International Airport.  When doing a flight destination search you would type in Kochi.  If I understand the nomenclature correctly, the modern name for the city formerly called Cochin is Kochi, however many people call it Ernakulam.  The civic body governing the city is called the Corporation of Cochin.  Now, that clarifies things.

Part of the problem is that most English names in Kerala are transliterations from Malayalam, the wonderful “loopy” (even its spelling is a palindrome) language of the state.  So there is the Malayalam name (Alappuzha), then the Anglicized name (Alleppey), that is spelled out phonetically on signage.  But phonetics can be a tricky thing.

Take the town of Kumily, where Cardamom County is located. During the drive there from Cochin, there is an amusing variety of spelling on the official signage telling you the remaining distance to your destination:

Kummily; Kummilly; Kumily; Kumilly; Kummaly; Kummally; Kummili; Kummilli; Kumili; Kumilli; Kummali; Kummalli; Cummily; Cummilly; Cumily; Cumilly; Cummaly; Cummally; Cummili; Cummilli; Cumili; Cumilli; Cummali; and Cummalli.

Do sign-makers here have a sense of humor, or what? Come and see for yourself.

2 thoughts on “Finding Your Way Back Home

  1. Pingback: Really? « Raxa Collective

  2. Pingback: Our Gang, Thevara (About The Clever One) « Raxa Collective

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