Just A Set of Coordinates

Written by a Cafe 1040 Student

This program has been so beneficial in teaching us very practical skills we can use for the rest of our lives. One of my favorite skills they have given us is the ability to not merely survive, but to thrive long-term overseas. So with that in mind, they are striving to remove any and all blades of grass that might lie between us and the hole that would prevent a successful putt. We have been told, “By the time you finish this program, you will be able to be dropped anywhere in the world and thrive.” Well I sure got my practice in that this past week!

A week before the trip, we sat down for a trip brief that would prepare us for the upcoming week. We were shown a set of coordinates and instructed to find our way there. Our group of seven was divided into two travel teams, and before I knew it I was revealed as the trip leader of one of those. It was my job to get my crew from base town to those coordinates. I was elated! I love leading and this was a perfect opportunity for me to walk in that. I went to a cyber cafe later that week to discover that the coordinates were to a house located in the mountains of this country several hundreds of miles away. I researched trains, buses, and taxis to find the most economical route as well as backups. I had to prepare a travel proposal with prices and times for my team to present to the staff in charge of this trip. 

After he okayed my plan, we began our travel. I was confident of our trek because there were bus routes online that laid everything out. However, the only portion of the trip I was uncertain about was the final leg of the trip. After we got off our final mode of public transportation, we looked around at this little town taking it all in. This was no big city with an elaborate system of taxis racing through the streets. This was one of those backcountry towns with a few stoplights. As I contemplated our next move, I looked down at the map I had printed that showed our short fifteen minute route by car to the house we longed to see. Within a minute or two, we saw a small taxi down the street. It was essentially a moped with a cart welded to the back. They are used to transport all sorts of things: watermelons, onions, mint, and sometimes people! We flagged him down and tried to explain to him where we were headed by pointing at our map. He nodded his head and told us to hop in the back. We quickly took off down the street and I attempted to follow along on our map to ensure he was headed in the right direction. No sooner had we started did he pull off into the cobblestone streets of a neighborhood zipping between apartments and small shops; we were definitely not on my route anymore.

We sat back, enjoyed the fresh air, and decided to make the best of the moment! As we were meandering our way through the intricate system of neighborhoods, we got all sorts of waves from the neighbors as they saw three crazy Westerners riding through their streets.

Finally we jumped back on a road and began to follow the curve of the mountain. You could see down in the valley little pockets of houses that were their own unique villages. After a twenty-minute ride, the moped cut off and our kind driver motioned that we were here.

I looked around and realized at that moment all of my trust was in him; I had no idea whether or not we actually were in the right place. We jumped out and began walking around this tiny village. The driver pointed down an alleyway as if that was our new home.

We walked down this narrow set of steps passing a donkey loaded down with propane tanks. Once we made it to the door he had pointed to, we realized it was locked and chained as if it hadn’t been opened in years. I had a feeling we were in the wrong village. Then out of nowhere a herd of six goats rounds the corner and passes us....only in North Africa!

The other team had left before us and therefore was already at the final destination, so I called them for some help. They were with a local, so I handed the phone to our driver and the two of them hashed out the differences in our locations. He hung up and headed back up the stairs, so we followed him and jumped back in the taxi.

We proceeded back down the road for about five minutes and then stopped again. We were all confused why the moped shut off on the side of a mountain. Our driver looked back at us and then pointed into the valley a few hundred feet down...we were amazed. Down along the river was the rest of our group with a guide waving back up at us. Somehow the two had figured out where along this river they both were. Before we knew it, our driver cranked the moped and drove away.

We had our goal in sight, now it was just a matter of getting to them. I called one of the guys down there to discuss the best way of descending the mountain down to them. With great joy, he informed me that the guide had sprinted up the mountain to come find us. No sooner had I hung up did an energetic, young local pop his head around a boulder. We introduced ourselves and then he proceeded to lead us down the mountain to the rest of our group. After about ten hours of traveling, we had finally made it!

This was quite the travel experience! It was not something I had done before, but it gave me the confidence I need to realize that I can in fact find my way to a random set of coordinates. It may take me a while. I may not go the most direct route. I may make more wrong turns than right ones. But with a little determination, perseverance, and humility in trusting the locals, I believe that I could eventually make my way to just about anywhere in the world. Now that’s a skill I won’t forget!