I never had geography in school. I am not sure how that happened exactly, but I hardly noticed. In fact, because I was not at all interested in anything outside my own world, I was thrilled that somehow I had escaped the torture of reading a world map. Honestly, for many of my childhood years, I wasn’t even sure which states were located in which regions in the U.S., so not having to learn countries seemed like an answer to the prayers of my geographically-challenged mind. Once I got to college, as with most things I am not good at, I avoided any classes that might remotely require I learn locations of countries. And except for History, I managed to be successful in this avoidance endeavor.
Of course, later in my life I realized that in my zeal to escape something that was so challenging to me I had in fact handicapped myself further. I have been playing catch up ever since. Teaching the continent song to third graders was the extent of my geographical knowledge for years. I recognize that this is pathetic and that you global thinkers are shuddering, but they say confession is good for the soul, so I am laying it all out there. I was small minded and did not comprehend the effects of my lack of knowledge…until two things collided in my life…the age of the internet, and birthing a daughter who had a heart bigger than mine. Suddenly my lack of knowledge was a determent and I recognized my vision of the world was skewed, small, and simplistic. At this point my child became my teacher and I found Google to be an amazing resource for training my making-up-for-lost-time brain. (Side note: If it had been this easy to SEE into other cultures when I was younger I might have been more interested. Just sayin.)
My geography teacher began by teaching me about South America. She then moved on to the UK. After that she insisted that I learn about the Middle East. She also taught me that Africa is a continent not a country. (You would think that teaching the continent song for so many years I would have known the difference. Geez.) And that each country within the continent has its own government…what can I say? I was a remedial student. I found out that Haiti and the Dominican Republic are next door neighbors on the same island! Who knew?
Then my highly qualified teacher decided I had progressed enough in my knowledge to advance to the next level! She enrolled me in the Master’s program of world geography. So far I have learned about Romania, Moldova (I had to get out the map for that one), Ireland and India. I am proud to say I not only can find these countries on the World Map, but I also know the names of some of the cities (but do not ask me to spell or pronounce them), some of the difficult issues confronting each country, a little bit about the government structure and history, as well as the religious practices of the people there. I am also getting a concentration in international security and natural disasters. My thesis is going to be a study of “How the Prayers of the Mothers of Missionaries Influence World Events.”
My most current assignment came yesterday, when I once again had to get out a map to find Swaziland. My professor continues to try to throw me curves by changing things up. I have determined that this is a way of keeping me continually on my toes, while broadening my knowledge base considerably. For each new assignment she gives me I have to step back and regroup, using my background knowledge and research skills to determine which information is important to know and what is unnecessary. I must tell you that with these tasks comes a certain amount of anxiety, but as I move through this program I am finding that I have what it takes to make these adjustments on the fly and that each new project builds my confidence. I am finding that learning about world geography is not as challenging as I imagined it to be. In fact, I must admit it is kind of fun. Who would have thought? It is my hope that by the end of my one year master’s program my professor will be happy with my progress, that I will have proven myself worthy of graduation, and that the Dean of the university will be pleased with my thesis. 🙂