Hear my cry, O God; give heed to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
What a day. Today, being Monday, I thought I would pop down to Mitcham to start my seven-week tenure at the Commonside Community Development Trust. Our London advisor, John Delorey, accompanied me so as to meet my sponsors. We caught a Circle/District line from Sloane Square train to Victoria, and from there took a Victoria line train to the Northern line, which we rode all the way down to Morden (I always think of this). You can trace our path on this tube map. That was the simple part.
Then, following the instructions from one of my sponsors, we caught bus 118 which could take us to within a 5 minute walk of Commonside. Here are bus maps). But when we got on the bus, we had no idea where to get off, so we asked the bus driver to drop us near the post code my sponsor had given us. He dropped us off what turned out to be two miles from our destination, and we wandered around begging people to help us. The Post Office was closed for renovations and no phone books made themselves evident in phone booths. None of the people we asked could help, however, because they had never heard of Commonside Community Development Trust. Finally we went to an Internet cafe, looked up the address, got back on another bus 118, and asked the driver if he could tell us when we were near that address. He had never heard of that street, but another fellow on the bus had. He told us when to get off (now I cannot remember where…maybe it was Rowan Road) and how to get to that road, and after that we quickly found it.
My experiences at Commonside could fill a whole nother blog. Suffice it to say my sponsors, who look ridiculously similar, seemed nice enough; but I felt completely at a loss as to what I could do for them. I have no clue what they thought of me, but I felt completely inept and unprepared for what they wanted… One of the ladies walked me around, showed me a tiny bit of the area, and introduced me to various people at three different places. My sponsors are so busy, yet much of my project would require talking to them. They cannot get their trustees together to talk about some basic branding stuff for at least a month, and that is really the start of my project. I came thinking they would want me to help redesign brochures, and left today thinking I would be totally useless and more in the way than anything else.
At about 4:00, maybe 4:15, I finally couldn’t handle being useless there any longer, and so set out on my way home. It took me almost two hours. When I stepped outside, the drizzling rain dismayed me a bit because I hadn’t worn my waterproof coat. For the following section, take bus numbers in stride: I saw a lot of them today and can hardly remember any of them. I made my way to a bus station, caught bus 152, and got off to catch the 118. Time passed; I waited and shivered. Finally, after much tube and bus route consulting I decided that I should have stayed on the 152, which stopped at Colliers Wood. However, the 118 would take me to Morden or the 255 would drop me at Stockwell. The 255 pulled up and I, by then frozen in my thin khakis, got on out of sheer desperation. That ride reinforced what I’d always known in my head: the maps have no bearing on reality, and busses take a long time to get places. Almost an hour later I misread a sign and got off in the middle of nowhere-I-wanted-to-be and felt like crying. Instead I walked through the rain for a long time, just walking down the road lugging my laptop and my camera, and finally found a tube station — Clapham South, on the Northern line. So I got on a train, suddenly thought I had picked the wrong direction, got off, and it left. Then I realized I had picked the right direction after all, so I got on the next train and made my way back to Stockwell, then to the Victoria line and Victoria station, and from there to Sloane Square and a random bus that stopped near the IES building. Only I got off the bus too early because I didn’t want to go by the building, so I finished my day walking back to the building in the rain.
My group members are gone. I’m not sure what I’ll do for dinner. I am very tired and very, very dismayed at my crappy performance on London’s fantastic public transportation system. I don’t know what I can do for my sponsors; they have huge hopes and dreams and only a few organization members. What a long, horrible, tiring day. I had hoped for better – perhaps something that didn’t make me feeling like laying down and crying – on my first day of “work.” Sometimes I think it would be much easier to be a little kid and just have people tell you exactly what, when, and how to do your tasks.