This is the fourth year that I have driven across the mountains to this conference out in the desert: twice from Universe City and now twice from Gone West. I also came once for a job interview for a job I didn't get.
(I ran into one of the interviewers later, and he said, "You and another person were both equally qualified, but she seemed more excited about living in Sunny Ski Town." Which was probably true, since I like visiting small towns like this, but I don't think I would want to live here, at least not at this point in my life. Also, I noticed that all of the employees of the potential employer wore khaki, flowy clothing and no makeup (they were all women), and while I understand the impulse to wear whatever you want because your clients are poor, I disagree with it on principle. I think dressing professionally shows respect for the people you work with, and everyone deserves that. Also, I love me some mascara. And the job was less interesting than what i do now, and it paid even less than the dismal pay I received in the non-real lawyer job i worked when i lived in Gone West before. Enthusiasm was hard to summon.)
So this is my fifth visit to this town, and I am starting to have a sense for where things are. I can find my way to downtown. I can find the shortcut to downtown. I can find my way to the ritzy shopping area (it is a resort town, after all).
Two friends and I went camping out in the woods on Wednesday night, and they followed me on the alternative route out of the woods, on little forest roads badly marked with numbers. I drove unhesitatingly, guided by a glance at the map and a lot of instinct.
"We have a theory," my friends said when we stopped just before the main road to consult on whether to stop in town for tea, "that your survival instincts are better because of living in Africa."
But the truth is that I just have a good visual memory and a good sense of direction. My experiences in Rwanda and other countries only help in that they make me a little more fearless about getting lost. Is there a rebel army occupying a place I could accidentally drive into? No? Then who cares if we get lost?
When I lived in Universe City, this conference was a chance to stop at my favorite tea place, but now I walk to it every weekend in Gone West, and last week they opened a branch in Universe City. I stopped here anyway, for an iced coconut Assam latte and for a cardamom roll that is available nowhere else.
Now I am looking in the guidebook for a good hike, somewhere to take in the warm, dry air and the sunshine that has already left me with a tan line on my arm from yesterday. I love visiting this town, and I love seeing my Universe City coworkers as the conference, but I'm glad that when I start back over the mountains this afternoon, I will be driving back to Gone West.