Sanra and the great divides

October 31st, 2021

There's no such thing as abatement of grief. It doesn't lift, or leave; nor does time hold any punches or soften any blows. It is, and that's all. That's everything --or more precisely, that's half of everything. There's the loss, and then there's the enduring beauty and glory of what was, and they stand against each other like brick walls, one dark, one light. Perhaps they grind each other down, in some miniscule measure imperceptible to observation. Perhaps some vine or root takes hold and forces its way through, slowly cracking into either side. Perhaps the pressure of one wall against the other builds into explosion, births singularity, devours all.

There's no abatement, but there are, in some moments, calm, the only thing like reprieve. In calm moments I can remember correctly, maybe even think. I'm calm sometimes with Nikki by my side, or walking through a shady jungle glade. I'm calmer over coffee, counterintuitive as it would seem, and certainly while writing, those times when I can breach the gates of banal emotive nothingness. But nothing calms me as consistently, as quickly, as driving. Just this side of recklessly; the price for flinching focus is disaster, unequivocal, immediate, and very physical. My machine --my master's, rather, still his just as much as I am-- is beautiful, capable to meet and pleased with the challenge. It drinks down the road in long, deep draughts and feels refreshed, not parched, in those rare moments of pause.

So I drive. Hemmed here and there by the local hysteria1, true, I'm nevertheless freed in the sheer beauty of the ride, the endless tiny roadside attractions, and of course, the most laid-back traffic police in existence.

Sunday's jaunt was after the local farmer's market, and so undertaken with a trunkload of mangoes, papaya, pineapple, guavas, avocadoes, and little bunches of basil tied up like bridal bouquets. The sky was bright azure, serene, for the first time in weeks devoid of looming stormclouds. Puriscal, the thought came, to take the winding mountain route to that misty townlet tucked into the hills, where we first brought Chimichurri when he was but a wee duckling, or Turrialba, where master fastened his girls with anklebells and marched us through the sidestreets. But I remembered there was somewhere else I'd meant to point the motor towards: San Rafael, for no particular reason other than to document some local weird I'd noticed flying by the windows the last time I'd tried to get lost, that way. A photobait town sign in seventies-chic lettering at what passes for the place's center lovingly shortens it: "Sanra". Whether the extra four letters were a problem of mumbling or money I've no idea.

There's not much to distinguish the place from any other square-with-church-and-soccer-field-adjacent 'round these parts. The corrugated steel roofs, the hole in the wall fruit and vegetable vendors, the languid people leaning against the walls and each other, smiling, working through their daily sundries, much the same as anywhere else. Past the giant mural (elaborated by an enthusiastic if strikingly unskilled hand) of a bumble-wasp gleefully proffering exhaust manifolds for the umpteenth spare parts store, and leaving the decrepit station for a train I'm fairly certain hasn't run in years, I start to slow down, scanning. "it's somewhere up here...not yet..." and then I see the slope on the left that leads into an almost-intersection.

Not too unexpected, is it, an intersection while out on a drive --but mind that "almost". Where the perpendicular road ought to join the main, there's a trench, several feet wide by a few more deep, running the entire length of the would-be meeting of the twain. No signs, no warnings, in fact there's turning arrows marked in perfectly fresh paint on the asphalt; left or right, take your pick, get your conveyance eaten up right nicely. What's more, it was clearly designed this way, all straight edges and carefully laid concrete. It's not an accident, it's not the world's most uniform pothole, it's just...Sanra, I guess.




The road (which one? The main one, just pick one; if it's not the right one, it'll soon end in ruts and rocks and you'll have to turn around anyway) weaves through some scattered barrios, the buildings a little squatter, the sidewalks, when there are any, a little less forgiving to the folks who push on down the line in flip-flops, strollers and soccer balls often in tow. And then, as though an invisible field surrounding the highway and the few kilometers to either side sliced into Sanra's sprawl and wiped out all that fell on the wrong side, the landscape simply stops.


Instead: vast concrete walls and gates, guard-posts, razor ribbon. The two sides look similar but the tenants seem to think they're not. The left side of the road is a prison, and the right is a condominium development.

On the left, people are brought in by force of arms; on the right, people pay to enter. What's the difference? Bezzle for re-education flows through the left side of the street, while bezzle for they never educated in the first place flows through the right. They're about as "safe", one as the other, with their identical approaches to security theatre and their misguided notions of exclusivity. "But the people living on the right side of the street can get out." Can they? In what sense, that they can physically move their asses from the "house" lockbox to the "car" lockbox and then into the "burger" lockbox, all on the same credit terms, while their clucker tells them which way to go and how much better the people in 2B looked posing with their cud?


Maybe that's the kind of difference the people living on the left would care about. Maybe that's the kind of difference they've given up. The people on the right are certainly getting close enough to signal that the difference's not all that worth preserving.


  1. Costa Rica has a driving curfew nominally related to "the global pandemic", a rather transparent ploy to somehow address the overabundance of cars on the road while pandering to the old bitty safety & morality lobby. Supposedly, this means that the evil virus has less of a chance to spread. Practically, it means no driving after 9pm, or on two (changing!) days of the week depending on license plate terminals. []

2 Responses to “Sanra and the great divides”

  1. Diana Coman says:

    I keep thinking I saw that sort of "road ending" somewhere else in CR (although as usual, I didn't have my camera with me or it didn't occur to me to take a picture of it). I can't recall where exactly but I did wonder if it was some sort of "oh well, it should have merged into the next road but... it didn't fit, so whatever" or some sort of "this is automated road deploy and it ends like that whether it connects or not to the next road". At any rate, to my eye, it was on the same level with not selling bus tickets at the end stop for love nor money. Possibly part of the pura vida, too, there is some level of serenity involved in being totally unconcerned with such lowly things as ...functionality.

    • hanbot says:

      Haha, quite. I do wonder what the folks cobble-cannibalize together to get over the trench when they need to (assuming they ever perceive the need to; probably there's a goat trail on the other side that serves "just as well" or somesuch). And actually, upon expressing such wonder, it suddenly makes a little more sense that I've seen so many people parked on their balconies in rocking chairs, or with barcaloungers pulled up to the side of the road to watch traffic. Literal cliffhangers everywhere!

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