Friday, May 20, 2005

Learning Geography the Easy Way

We had to take the Family Atlas (which to us is like a Family Bible) down from the bookshelf, as Tim has been floating around in the Dead Sea in Jordan this week.

Andrew is getting to be quite the expert in geography, given that in the last five months his dad has been to Moscow, Paris (twice), Iran and now Jordan. Next week, the whole family will travel to Germany for our spring break. Andrew apparently has put his geographic expertise to good use, showing his class where America was on the globe, and earning a house point in the process.

(Note for my American readers who haven’t read Harry Potter: In some British schools, classes are divided up into “Houses.” The term originates from boarding school, where Houses correlated to what dorm the students lived in. As there are no dorms in Andrew’s school, Houses are just a way to have the students compete against each other. I will report back when I find out what the Winning House gets at the end of the year.)

I’ve always been pretty good at American geography, but I really nailed down the Fly-Over Territory-- the region of the U.S. between the East Coast and the West Coast-- in 1988. That summer, I accompanied my brother on a road trip from Colorado to Pennsylvania. Sure, it might have been quicker and easier to nail down the difference between Kansas and Missouri by using some memorization techniques, but then I would have never seen the World’s Largest Prairie Dog in Kansas or taken a helicopter ride around the St. Louis Arch in Missouri.

Likewise, now that I’ve lived in London for more than six years, I’m a superstar when it comes to European geography. I can tell you where Andorra is (between France and Spain) and I’ve been to 2/3 of the Benelux region (Belgium and the Netherlands). We will complete the Benelux triumvirate when we drive through Luxembourg on the way to Germany.

With this trip, I will be able to add two more countries to my list of foreign countries visited, bringing my grand total to 14*. Tim’s total will be 18**, Andrew’s total will be 10***, and Nicholas’ total will be eight****. I think that’s a fairly impressive statistic for an American family, given that only 18% of U.S. adults hold a passport.

Yes, Germany is an unusual choice for a family vacation. I met a German man in the park today who even seemed flummoxed by our choice of destination. “Really?” he asked. “You’re going to Germany for holiday?? Not many people do.”

At the time, Nicholas was running away after a football, so I didn’t have time to explain that this was how my family learns geography.

*United States, Canada, Ireland, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Morocco, Finland, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany
**Add to my list: Switzerland, Russia, Iran and Jordan.
***Andrew visited Morocco and Finland before Nicholas was born, so add those to the list below.
****Great Britain, United States, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany.


Michelle Mitchell said...

I came across this website allows you to keep track of where you have travelled to and where you would like to go

Im not sure how good it is as i havent had much chance to check it out yet. So many place to go, so many things to see.

Enjoy Germany! I have been to Berlin and Munich and really enjoyed both.

Laura said...

Being Dutch I 'hated the Germans and Germany'. Until I decided to live there (always in for a challenge..) and had a great time.

Stunning scenery, especially in the South. I love England and the Brits but there is something that gets my back up everytime, all the time and you may have the same as a foreigner.

England is dirty and there is so much that just doesn't work (Cardiff 's roof at the FA Cup Final being a typical example...). You won't see any of that in Germany. Clean, reliable, consistent. Great for holidays!

Have a great time!