Do you ever get lost?
OK, I can confess I have been “lost” occasionally. More often I lose my car in the car park of a major shopping centre! But I am talking about getting lost when you are away from your home region.
I told both of these stories today to a friend, and we had a good laugh about it.
I have been fortunate to have lived and worked in China and South Korea. While in China I usually had a Chinese speaker with me, it was not so in South Korea. The classes I taught were at night, and my students were working during the day, so I was often alone all day, and being a bit of an explorer, I was often out and about in territory I was unfamiliar with.
I learned to note my surroundings, to look for things/places I would remember. I seldom got lost during my travels, though there are a couple of stories for later.
One day in South Korea, near the end of my time there, three students (female, married, mothers in their 30s) came to take me to the Hanok Village in Jeonju. When I got into the car, the driver was concerned as she did not know the way. I offered to direct the driver, as the two passengers did not seem to know. (These ladies had lived in this city for most of their lives and I had been there for three months.)
I sat beside the driver and happily offered directions. One road was beside a river, and I told her she should turn left at a corner where there was a huge illuminated phone number on the roof. I jokingly said I knew the phone number. The three of them looked at me in amazement but laughed when I said it was 22222222! Yes, I was right! We soon found the Hanok Village too, thanks to my directions. One husband teased them all – for they had lived there for so long and didn’t know the way.
China – I was not lost!
A student phoned me to invite me to lunch with her family the following Sunday. Of course, I accepted and was at the gate of the university when they arrived to pick me up. The student was in the back seat, her mother was driving, and a man was in the front passenger seat. She introduced me to her mother, but not the man. When I asked who he was, she shrugged. It appears that the mother was lost and asked a random man to show her the way. He got out further along the road, and we continued, though the mother told her daughter that she didn’t know the way to the city of Keqiao, where they lived.
I told them I knew the way, though initially, they couldn’t understand how an Australian woman would know. (I taught in Keqiao, every week for over a year, and though I always had a driver, I was aware of my surroundings).
The mother was most impressed and when we arrived at the family home, she told the other members of the family how clever I was!
I remember too, that the mother wanted her daughter to tell me that they were not rich. Really? As we drove into the gated upmarket-looking complex and drove up to their 6 story home, I was not convinced. Nor was I convinced when I met the entire family; mother, father and the three children. I learned father had paid off officials so that they could have more than one child, as was the government rules. Father had wanted a son. Their first child was a girl, as was the second, and at substantial cost, the wanted son arrived! They may not have been rich, but they certainly had considerable funds to do what they did.
This family, too, was impressed with my skills of direction.