Friday, March 19, 2010

The Geography Quiz

Lo and Behold! I have found the holy grail of intellectual redemption! We have all heard tell of a mythical country of people who are, in fact, worse at geography than Americans. Fear not, my brothers and sisters! For I have been diligently searching the globe for these elusive people of legend. Today, I believe I have found them!

To be fair, this hypothesis is only using my experience thus far with Korean children. But still, at 11 years old I knew what continent I lived on.

It started out innocently enough. I asked what the capital of China was, thinking that this would be an easy one. I mean its right there. They stared at me blankly for a while until I got the impression that what they were having trouble with was the concept of a 'capital city'. So, I gave some examples and asked an easy one to start us off - what is the capital of South Korea? I figured at worse they would guess the only city they knew - Seoul - and we would be on track.

Again the blank faces. I decided this was too tough a concept for them and told them that Seoul was, in fact, the capital of S. Korea and Beijing was the capital of China. I went for more general geography next - what are the names of the continents? Since continent was one of their vocabulary words I knew they understood what I was talking about. But between the nine of them they couldn't come up with a single one.

Most people would let it go at this but I, apparently, lack what most would call 'self preservation instincts' and I pressed on.

What is the continent we are on now? I asked, thinking surely they would know that at least. More blank faces. I was wracking my brain trying to see what about this they didn't get when one little girl raised her hand and said 'Asia?'

I was all over that poor girl like - excuse the expression - white on rice. I was so excited I'm pretty sure I shouted at her; something nonsensical like 'YES! ASIA! YES!' and gave her overly exaggerated thumbs up. But that was the last glimmer of hope in an otherwise dark afternoon. I tried to get them to name other continents and, when that failed, I tried to get them to name other countries in Asia. Fail. They got the concept, I think, because they were shouting out names of countries, just not the right ones. Unless Canada, the US and Madagascar all moved and forgot to give me their forwarding addresses.

Towards the end of this discussion, when I was fruitlessly trying to get them to understand that the US was in North America, not Asia, they started shouting out a word that sounded like 'EYE-ti'. Once one of them started on it the rest shouted it too, until they were all saying it. Obviously, they thought it was a place in or near America (although with these guys that could mean anyplace from here to Jupiter) but I couldn't understand what they were trying to say. Then they all started flopping themselves about, moaning and saying things like "its where many people die"(direct quote).

Wondering why I've never heard of this mysterious land where people die and are apparently unable to control their bodily movements I have them spell it out for me.



  1. Emily - this is HILARIOUS! In Haitian Creole, the name of the country is pronounced: Ay-i-ti. Those kids aren't so dumb.....

    Love your posts, keep 'em coming!

    Love you, miss you,


  2. I've heard "Ay-i-ti" before but its nothing like what these kids were saying

  3. Emily,

    I've been reading pretty religiously, and this actually made me laugh out loud. Sounds like you're having a fantastic time, and I wish you all the best. Eat some octopus for me!


  4. Thanks Christine! I'm glad you like it! I can't bring myself to eat the octopi because they are just so darn cute in their little tanks. I want to buy one and keep it as a pet. I'll ask if I can feed one for you!