Thursday, October 25, 2012

Somewhere Along the Grain

Something that literally threw me for a loop when I got here, was how the city is built in an ever-expanding circle. More than half of the main streets are one-way, which can really trip someone up if they aren't from around here. Due to the ever-winding one-way roads and very rare lights where you can make a left, it's not as simple as going "around the block" to get you where you need to go (say, if you just accidentally passed it up). It could take you at least four rights to get you back to Point A.

Although this was the direct cause of my tardiness for most of my appointments the first year, it also helped me to become familiar with my new city in record time. Several people that have lived here all their lives, tell me that I now know Goiânia better than they do!

Image found here.

To compound the issue of trying to find a place for the first time, the way directions given here are quite different than what I'm accustomed to back home. I am used to hearing things like,
"Go north on I-35, until you reach the 290 East exit. Take a right, and go down two lights. Take a left at the light. We are located in the shopping center on the northwest corner of the intersection."
If someone tells me to go "up the street," then I follow the ascending street numbers. I can find new places in a heartbeat. Even if there is someone on the line who may not be good with directions, they typically know which side of the road they are on (N,S,E,W) or in which corner you will find them (NW, SW, SE, NE) — or someone in the office will. That's just how we do things in Austin.

Here, there are a few different challenges to getting directions. One major factor is that not everyone drives, and a good portion of the population buses it to work so they don't really pay attention to the streets, or may only be familiar with the roundabout route that their particular bus takes.

Another issue is that some directions tend to work only if you are [already] somewhat familiar with the area in question. For example, when you hear someone tell you to go up or down the street, they are saying this literally. Physically. Topographically-speaking. If there's a hill, then you apply directions accordingly. Here, Jack & Jill went up the street.

Image found here.

I'll be honest. This confuses the heck out of me. Where I'm from hills have two (or more) easily distinguishable sides, not to mention that to me (with my obviously untrained eye), most streets in Goiania appear to be flat ...and even if there is an incline, it's never just one. Of the roads that are alleged hills here, they seem more wavy than hilly... no definite beginning or end ...or top ...or bottom.

But there was something else about the [disproportionate — as in verging on conspiracy theories] degree of difficulty in getting directions that I wasn't quite able to put my finger on, until it hit me the other night, while watching I, Robot. Dr. Lanning's hologram said perfectly in English, what various secretaries are relaying in Portuguese (more or less).

I'm not asking the right question. Their responses are limited.

I recently played 20 questions with a secretary at a major medical clinic downtown (that's where the really curved & looping one-way roads are found). I tried asking for directions using various landmarks until I found one that she was familiar with. She still didn't answer my question, but I was able to narrow it down to the correct part of town.

{insert maniacal laughter}

Silly tourist! You think a simple street name helps with that?

Due to being built in an ever-expanding circle, the city has several different groups of streets that are split by the main circle ...and pick up on the other side of town. It's funny how no one seems to mention that fact until you've made this discovery all on your own. You're welcome.

My best advice is to buy a map to carry with you, study Google maps at home, and leave about 45 minutes early, until you feel comfortable enough within the maze known as Goiânia. On the upside, it's a good lookin' city, so the view isn't bad no matter where you end up.

Alice in Wonderland Maze by Srulink | source

Happy trails!

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