So, here is the story of me getting lost in a forest. I happen to think it is a good story and it nearly brought tears to a Moldovan colleague because he was laughing so hard. I think probably because he, more than anyone, could actually picture what it must have been like for me and for the people who were roped into my adventure.
It was a beautiful crisp clear Sunday morning and I had hours to roam in the Moldovan countryside. I was tagging along with a church having an overnight “camp out” in the country. I had been informed by the host of the camp/school that just outside the compound was a forest of public lands and beyond that wagon trails/dirt roads into village after village. BLISS!
I headed up and through the forest, taking note of landmarks (sparse would be generous in describing the signage along the trails). I broke through and headed through farmland and vineyards! I kept my bearings well and found my way back to the place where I exited the forest. I was so energized, yet relaxed, and had plenty of time so I meandered through the forest. At about 1:20 minutes into my run I thought I should start finding my way back so that when I really wanted to get back, it wouldn’t be a problem. I noticed that I kept going over the same trails, but none seemed to lead back the way I came. Hmm, that’s strange. No matter, it is a beautiful day and I’m still having fun.
Then it all started looking familiar, and I was going in circles, but no trail was the right way out. I kept thinking that I must be close, but I just got so turned around. So I went back out to the forest of the exit point – it took a while to find that place but I found it. Then I thought I found the first trail I was on when I entered. Then I saw the marker I noted when I passed it – or thought it was the marker. I took it out of the forest – hmm, not quite right. then I started exploring different trails all over the forest and realized just how large that forest is! But I was bummed because I really wanted to run all over that magical place, but I didn’t have enough water or food and I really had to get back to the camp. Perhaps some of you understand how magnificent it is to be surrounded by deep, quiet forest all by yourself. Absolutely mesmerizing.
But I was lost. Seriously lost. I didn’t panic, but started praying for help. I asked God to tell my colleague (only one person was expecting me back) not to worry. He told me later that he didn’t get the message. I began to (over-) spiritualize the event. So this is what it may feel to be lost, I mean really lost, as if this event were a metaphor for being spiritually lost. I thought to myself, “I really must keep this in mind when dealing with others who may also be lost”. Whatever. I was just getting a little nutty about being lost.
Going around in circles wasn’t getting me anywhere, so I headed out and around the forest. I knew from the host’s description and from the trail the way up the hill before entering the forest, that there was buggy trail around the outside of it, and that should lead me around, remembering to keep the forest on the one side, I should get back – right? By this time, I had been out for about 3 hours, out of water, my only serving of gel chews were long gone, and the battery in my Garmin was shot as well. True adventure!
So the path I was on led away from the forest and into a village. We’re talking barely a village – a few houses on a hillside. So I trotted through, and tried to make some gestures with a peasant woman who looks like she belongs in a world that existed 120 years ago. She wasn’t interested. What was I expecting anyway? Dressed in running gear carrying a water bottle? That would be funny to see!
I went down the path and spotted a car on a side path. Kept going. Stopped. A car! Went back. DUH! A young man was in his car listening to music. I “talked” to him (he knows no English). Miming being lost. HA! The only word I knew was “Orhei” the name of the town that was “near” the camp. I didn’t know the name of the place I was staying or where it was. He made gestures of how to get there. Yeah, right. I pointed to the car, then to him, made driving motions, then pointed to myself. He nodded and held up five fingers (five minutes?). Understanding! Yes! A young woman dressed in denim jeans (his sister?) with a young girl (his niece?) and an old peasant woman (his mother?) piled in the car. I started saying thank you in every language I knew. They asked me if I spoke Italian. No, only gratzie!
So he meandered his way through the paths and then we came to a paved road. He pulled over and said “Orhei” while pointing forward. I was to get out. They were headed somewhere else. At least I know I’m headed in the right direction! I walk/jogged up the road, waving down passing cars. Finally one stopped. Another family, dress clothes hanging up – headed to a wedding? “Orhei“? I asked. They nodded, so I got in. A few minutes later, after a bend in the road, I noticed a sign and a turn-off that I recognized from the trip up to the camp, but we were now headed away from it. OK! Stop! I need to get out here! There was a bit of confusion, as I had said “Orhei“, but I insisted. Whew! I know where I am! I don’t really remember how far away I am, but I know I can get there… I think.
So, with the energy of hope, I started running again. The road seemed straightforward. I saw a van pull up to a church. Perhaps it is the students from the school at the camp. Do you speak English? Yes! I need to go back to the camp. It’s right up the road. Twenty minutes later and five hours after I began my morning run in the woods, I passed through the gate. Thrilled! Exhilarated! Adventure endorphins! What a great story! Lost in a forest! Hitchhiking! Made it back on time and in one piece! That is the best part!