There are a lot of things that I’m not very good at. Drawing horses, calculating moles in chemistry, and clapping to a beat are all on that list. I am, however, exceptionally good at following a map. If I can find it on a map, I’ll get you there.
A few summers ago my mom and I went for a drive along Lake Ontario to take our dog out where she could be off leash and go swimming. My mom had pointed to the park on the map and I was supposed to navigate. Great, no problem! I looked at the map and found the most direct route. After following my directions for a little while, we veered away from the lake and the road started getting a little rough. We were not lost. I could have provided our location’s exact grid reference. Soon though, we were driving through massive puddles and mud pits, surrounded by swamp. My amazing navigational skills had taken my mom and I off-roading in a Corolla.
Eventually we stopped, deterred by the river running through the road ahead, and turned around. Once we were safely on solid road again we looked at the map. I pointed out where we were, where we had been, and where we were trying to go. It all made perfect sense on the map. As it turns out though, my mom had pointed to the wrong park when she was giving me the instructions. However, with the right gear — either all-terrain or scuba — we would have made it to that park. Anyhow, we did eventually get to our swim spot, we just hit a few bumps along the way.
This leads me to my adventure this week. I was scheduled to attend training with some other native English teachers from my franchise. The training was downtown Seoul and my school had given me a map of the location from their website, all in Korean. I used my amazing detective skills to figure out what subway stop I needed to get to and how to orient the map once I got out of the subway. I even did a satellite image view of the area so I knew what landmarks to look for. There was no way that I was going to be late for this training.
So the morning of the training I woke up early and got to the subway, iPod in hand, ready for my 68-minute rush-hour commute into Seoul. The hour passed surprisingly pleasantly and I even snagged a seat a few minutes into the ride. Equally flawless was my trek from the station to the training site that was marked on the map. I crossed the street in both directions and walked straight, past the church, all the way to the second last building on the block.
When I got there though, there was no office or reception area. I ambled through the hallways until I found two cleaning ladies, who took me to a room, opened the door and ushered me inside. So there I stood, facing a room filled with middle aged Koreans. Neither they nor I had any idea what I was doing there. Fortunately, there was a man in a suit who seemed to understand my mistake and gave me directions to the building, 200 meters down the street, where my training was taking place. So, despite all of my planning and researching and mapping exactly where I was headed, I still had to jog to get to my training on time and I still managed to confuse a lot of people. And that, my friends, is the story of my life.