Monday, July 21, 2008

My Shameful Geography

I wonder if one of the reasons I sometimes find it difficult to create a realistic setting is my shameful lack of knowledge when it comes to world geography. In my defense, I was taught no geography in grade school or high school. None.

The first course I had the opportunity to take was in college--taught by a lovely Hungarian man named Ferencz Kallay. Ferencz knew that my father was Hungarian, and he would chide me daily for not being able to speak what he considered my native tongue. He would also shake his head at me when I displayed my ignorance, which I did with appalling regularity.

"Yoolia," he would sigh, shaking his head. And then he would go on to tell us some fascinating geography-related tale, such as the one in which he insisted that when JFK made his famous "Ich Bin Ein Berliner" speech, the people of Berlin were secretly laughing, because in the context of their daily language he was saying "I am a donut."

Ferencz would tell us these stories and solemnly look at us through his round spectacles and wonder why we, his American students, didn't know more by the time we got to college. I wonder that, too. Sure, there are people with amazing knowledge of geography, but shouldn't we all have a pretty good feeling for the important places on maps?

I use myself as an example--and as a guinea pig. I found a random geography test online and took it, and I present myself shamefacedly now with my results: I got a 33%. I was hoping for better, but I'll bet Ferencz Kallay, who is now in heaven, is shaking his head at me and saying, "How could you expect more? You never study."

What I ask now is that you redeem the reputation of American schools. I can't do it--go on without me. Take the quiz and share your results, and meanwhile I'll download some maps.
click here for the quiz (created by Pam Robinson, posted on Growabrain).

8 comments:

Terry Odell said...

Not the Blue ones! (Anyone old enough to remember Trivial Pursuit, the original edition, will know what I'm talking about.) I get lost in elevators. Cars only go one direction: straight ahead. Geography quiz. Too scary for a Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday). I remember learning all the countries in Africa in Jr. Hi. In 1961. I think they've changed since then.

Julia Buckley said...

Hahaha. I know what you mean, Terry! I could memorize things TEMPORARILY, but I don't seem to have a map memory. And mountain ranges? Not a strength.

Auntie Knickers said...

I'm not sure which quiz you took, I took the #7 Geography and got 71% for a C. Not as good a score as I would have wished. My problems were in the nature of how many countries bordered another, things being east or west of other things, and a 6 degree difference in the coldest temp. recorded in Antarctica -- which I consider really trivial trivia. Guess I'll have to spend more time looking at the atlases.

Julia Buckley said...

Yeah, you're right. It probably wasn't the fairest quiz ever. Still, I had a far more glamorous image of myself as a worldly person who would know the answers to those questions. But 71 is great, considering that some were just plain unfair.

Julia Buckley said...

And yes, it is quiz number 7--I thought the link went straight to the quiz. SOrry!

jwhit said...

Well, I did just awful! And I love geography! I swear some of her answers are plain wrong, too. Greenland is an island, but it's second to Australia, also known as an Island Continent. [not everyone probably got all the same questions, so you may not have gotten this one]

I may try this one again.

katherine kallay adams said...

Dear Julia,
This is the second time I've tried to post a comment, hope it works this time! For some unknown reason, I just googled my father's name and your lovely article came up. I am Dr. Ferencz Kallay's daughter...how nice to see you write about him. Yes, I can absolutely hear him reprimanding you for not studying enough. Imagine being raised by him! I heard that all my life! I appreciate your warm memories of my dad. It's just been 14 years that he passed away, which is hard to believe. If you live in the Chicago are, you might be close to my brother, Tom Kallay. If you'd like I will put you in touch with him. Feel free to e mail me at kallayadams@yahoo.com. Thanks for your lovely article.
Katherine Kallay Adams

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