My Magic Crystal Ball

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For anyone contemplating a teaching exchange (or even just a trip to another country on a holiday) one of the most useful toys, er, I mean tools, you can bring with you is a handheld GPS, or Global Positioning System. As an avid 4WDer back in Australia, I’ve been a GPS user for a while, and thanks to the Suzuki 4WD Club and in particular David Rossiter and Burnie Morgan, I actually know how to use my GPS. All those geocaches were not done in vain!

I must say that having the GPS has been a huge help to us, right from the very first day we arrived here in Canada. I loaded in the Canadian maps before we left home, so upon arrival in Canada we just turned it on, gave it a moment to lock onto the satellites, and we’ve always known where we’re going and how we’re getting there. The software for the Canadian maps, unlike the Australian ones, is fully autorouting compliant - meaning that you can enter your desired destination and the GPS will tell you the shortest, fastest way to get there.

Of course, Oakville is a fairly easy place to find your way around. The streets run in a basic North-South/East-West grid pattern, and one you know the few main roads that form the grid it’s pretty hard to get lost. Even so, the GPS was a huge help for the first few weeks as we had to find specific addresses around Oakville and it certainly helped to get my head around “the grid” a lot quicker. Of course, when venturing further afield to downtown Toronto, or Niagara, or Ottawa, or Montreal, or Quebec, or... pretty much anywhere really, it’s been very useful.

I call it my crystal ball. My GPS tells me where I am, how to get to where I want to go, how long it will take to get there (great for answering the “are we there yet?” question from the back seat). It gives me all sorts of interesting information, like speed, altitude, time, etc... Not only that but it tracks where we go, giving us a useful record of our travels all neatly marked out and saved by the Mapsource software.

Whenever we travel interstate back in Australia we often play a little game as we cross state borders. As we approach the border we say something like “NSW, NSW, NSW, NSW... QLD!!!”. As we were flying across the Pacific Ocean on the way over here, I happened to turn the GPS on when we were only 1 degree south of the Equator... So Kate and I sat there going “Southern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere, Southern Hemisphere... Northern Hemisphere!!!!”, as the latitude switched from south to north. We got a few odd looks from the other passengers, but we thought it was funny.
So, if you are an impending exchangee, you might think about adding a GPS to your bag of tricks. You will find it incredibly useful I’m sure. And if you ever get bored there are enough Canadian geocaches listed on to keep you busy for months!

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