I have a lethal combination…

of a terrible sense of direction and believing that I am right most (ok… let’s be honest… ALL) of the time.

This is ok when I’m the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town (where I grew up). The mountain is always there and one can always orientate oneself to the mountain. And let’s be honest (wow, so much honesty flying around today) you can never really get LOST in the Southern Suburbs… All roads lead to Cavendish or the Common. Either way, you’ll be ok. This however does not translate to other places. So, the City Bowl which is just over the hillock from the Southern Suburbs has roads that are more like a bowl of spaghetti to me than a carefully laid out, clear grid system. This is fine for people who still live in the ‘burbs. But I don’t. I’ve been in the City (spaghetti) Bowl for two years and still get lost EVEN THOUGH the mountain is right there.

There's the city bowl and there's the massive Table Mountain.

So, you can only imagine the orientation opticals I have had to face in Oulu. The city is flat. There are no landmarks above eye line and even if they were, they probably wouldn’t help me (see previous paragraph). The sun hardly comes out and when it does it rises in the east and sets in the east, or rises in the west and sets in the west – however you prefer to think about it, it doesn’t really move across the sky much. But, even if could see the sun, I don’t think knowing where east, west, south and/or north were, would help me much.

Flat Oulu and you can't always see that church tower

So, you can see that I am, um, “directionally challenged”. Many people are. That’s not really the problem in and of itself. Those other directionally challenged people invest in map books, GPS systems and ask passers by for directions. The problem arises when I think I know where I am going  but I actually have no idea. More disturbingly is the fact that other people believe my charade and happily follow me until that awkward moment where I confess I have no idea where we are and how to get to where we need to go. But in all sincerity, I really did think we were going the right way. Really, I did.

I blame this ease at fooling others and myself (when it comes to directions, remember, its only directions that I get wrong. Oh and spelling. I’m a shocking spelller) on a musical that I watched over and over as a child (ok, let’s be honest, again… I still watch it now, I have the DVD). There was one particular song that settled deep in my heart …

This has led to many an awkward situation with new friends in Oulu. Believing in my whistle and confident stride, they follow me like lambs to the proverbial slaughter. Many, many, many a time I have gotten friends lost and more recently a friend, following my advice got on the wrong bus and instead of it taking her 15 minutes to get home, it took her almost two hours. Ouch. My only consolidation in each of these cases (including the bus story) is that I was always with these long suffering friends on these, um, “adventures”.

Suffice to say, my secret is now out and no one is ever going to ask me for directions.

It’s probably for the better anyways.


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