Where in the world is … ?  by Rich Paschall

One of many things that surprises me about “modern” education is the absence of geography as part of the school curriculums. When I’ve asked any young person during the last two decades if they’ve taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same.  “Geography?  What’s that?”

When I was in school, we studied geography.  We had geography books.  The classroom had maps so we could understand where in the world we were and where the rest of the world was.  These were huge maps that rolled up like a window shade.  There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we could study.

Geography courses were our window to the rest of the world, our introduction to other people and cultures. I always found it interesting, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would become.


There were many things about geography that I did not find so interesting.  The topography was lost on someone who lived in an area that is completely flat.  Information about crops and commerce held no delight at the grade school level.  The local currency meant nothing to a boy with a tiny allowance.

Climate was interesting, however, to someone who had experienced the severity of all four seasons.  I could not imagine living somewhere that had a colder climate then we have in winter.  I did imagine that places with warmer weather throughout the year would be great to visit, especially in winter.  Pictures of green mountains or long, sandy beaches fueled my imagination.  I did not think I would ever get to travel much, but the views of great scenery and different types of structures were the joys of my young fantasy vacations.

Lost Dutchman now found

With the news of the world more available than ever, you would think that geography would be an important field of study to more than the CIA.  Perhaps those in charge of various school boards around the country do not think so.  Can you match these cities recently in the news with their countries?

Match the city with the country to which it belongs:

City                              Country
Mogadishu                United States
Castañer                    Israel
Bishkek                      Turkey
Ankara                       Kyrgyzstan
Tiberias                     Somalia

When I was first working in freight forwarding, a young person was trying to pronounce the name written on one of the folders. She may have been filing items by destination. To just look at it, you would not think it a mystery, but this uneducated person was lost.

“Tell a, Tayla, tellavi…”

At that, a very annoyed supervisor in another group yelled over to our area, “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! It’s in the news sometimes.”

It was the capital of Israel at the time, and it is the only international airport in the country. I guess we are always stunned by people who do not know the capital cities or the largest airports of any country.

Do they know their own state’s capital?

By the way, the supervisor shouting the name of the city across the office remains one of our favorite air freight stories. It also points to the deficiency in our education on geography.

Another part of Earth

When I got a job in air freight, I think I already had a good idea of the capitals and major cities of most countries, and now I have come to learn their airport codes as well. The locations of major hubs of commerce and the airlines that fly there are key to our success.

You could put Asian freight on Lufthansa, who makes its first stop in Frankfurt, but it may make more sense to put it on a carrier going west to Asia.  It really depends where you are. If you are on the east coast, for example, it might be better to send it east.  Lufthansa does go to most places in the world.  If you are in Chicago, west is usually better.

Oh, come on … take a wild guess!

We can send your Shanghai freight from Chicago on a European carrier, but the distance will be greater to fly east, the cost will likely be more and the time of travel will be greater. No plane would have the range to go nonstop.  However, there are Chinese carriers, as well as American Airlines, who fly nonstop from ORD (Chicago, O’Hare) to PVG (Shanghai, China).

Because of competition, you are likely to get a good rate for the faster transit.  In freight forwarding, it is important to have an idea where everything is located in order to make the best routing decisions.

This is true for your vacation trip as well.  When I tell people I have gone to Alsace, France, they usually conclude I must have flown to Paris.  The truth is, I usually fly to Frankfurt, Germany which is about the same distance from Strasbourg and is usually cheaper.  I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.

Strasbourg, France

Grab a map and discover the world.

Here are the answers, although I am tempted to tell you to grab a Geography book or just Google it.

1 – Mogadishu is the capital of war-torn Somalia.
2 – Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
3 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey.  You probably thought it was Istanbul.
4 – You can swim in the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias, a favorite city of the Roman Emporer who originally built the city.
5 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane.  Yes, it is part of the US.  But there is a city (town) of the same name in the United Kingdom.
6 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map?
7 – Do you own a map?

Author: Rich Paschall

When the Windows Live Spaces were closed and our sites were sent to Word Press, I thought I might actually write a regular column. A couple years ago I finally decided to try out a weekly entry for a year and published something every Sunday as well as a few other dates. I reached that goal and continued on. I hope you find them interesting. They are my Sunday Night Blog. Thanks to the support of Marilyn Armstrong you may find me from time to time on her blog space, SERENDIPITY. Rich Paschall Education: DePaul University, Northeastern Illinois University Employment: Air freight professional


  1. In the early ’50’s, geography was one of my favorite subjects — not only the countries and their locations, but also the topography, the climate, and the agricultural and other productivity. Except in the US and large country capital cities, I’m not as aware of cities now. And I did have to Google the Lost Dutchman! I have said many times that it saddens me that geography is no longer taught in the schools, and I’m not sure how one can be a world leader without at least some basic knowledge of the world we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

          1. my GPS is not totally up to date and things do change. i get the latest maps when I can, but gas stations do not hand them out like they used to do. I have to get them at information booths at the airport or downtown.


      1. My friend’s granddaughter tried geography in Community College (Jr. College). She hated it — thought it was boring, and couldn’t understand why anybody thought it was important!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I hate to complain about our educational system BUT – they don’t teach children how to write, no one knows the times table, the “new math” is not understood by anyone, and no one seems to read anymore. As for geography, I think it is not only interesting but essential for understanding history.

    Liked by 1 person

            1. Oh, yes — me too! When I was working the West region won an award — we each were given small (about 4″ diameter) etched glass globes as our prizes, and the boss a slightly larger one. It is the one award that I have kept from those days, and it stays in a prominent spot!

              Liked by 1 person

  3. I know it is a dry subject for some, but I’m with you. When I ask my grandkids, they have absolutely no idea what the word is let alone what it means. My 2nd oldest granddaughter is going to Costa Rica to volunteer for a bit and she has an interest in geography and set about learning everything she could about where she was going. Other than that, I don’t know many that take the time. We also learned where cities capitals provinces states and countries were around the world. Kids these days are hard-pressed to know anything outside their own city limits. There was a tragically sad/amusing piece whereby a man set about asking 16 to 25-year-olds where certain places were (Australia Germany England Lake Eerie and well-known monuments) and none could answer a single question. The lack of real education to me is frightening.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My granddaughter couldn’t seem to figure out what was the village, the town, the county, the state, the nation or the continents. To her, the world was bounded by Route 16 and Route 122.

      I bought a globe. That helped. It was an old globe with the wrong names on countries (pre-breakup of USSR). But it got the point across.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder if some of the local second hand shops have a globe. I should pop into one or two of them and look around. I recall having a world map on my bedroom wall for a long time.


    2. Makes me think of the time I lived in Canada and NOBODY knew of Switzerland. Having been fair, white skinned and really blond, speaking an English they didn’t know (the ‘Oxford’ English of school), they always, with no exception, told me that I came from Sweden.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. you HAVE to laugh or else you’re being miserable. So feel free – for all I know they still might not know about Switzerland, although since then (that was in another life time!) the gnomes, bankers and other things have been in the papers, occasionally!!! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        1. Isn’t it just! I wd be far more generous now than I was then…. I confuse names and places constantly. As it happens with my languages. The mind is a willful tool.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. That was a beautiful read, an edifying one too. I’m ‘null’ in the geography department but I loved it anyhow. I was also really p’d off when most of the countries I knew about changed their name, repeatedly, as per the last war or political change. I have now the best GPS existing: Hero Husband. He doesn’t have a normally functionning brain, he has a computerized, burnt-in GPS. We hardly ever take the route our GPS suggests because he just knows that there is a better route. I can’t even ‘read’ the GPS…. We also own dozens of maps, even spiral bound heavyweight books of important places, such as London UK or several, updated ones for France, have tons of city maps, maps for walking (what?!), cycling, you name it, HH has it.
    I’m also useless for knowing the city names. But I always, always get myself up to the task before going anywhere. And I’m proud to say that I managed to ‘get’ the Paris travel system, I’ve even learned to climb over the barricades if I took (at the beginning only) the métro in the wrong direction…. 😉 – Not because I wanted to, because one must. There is ALWAYS a problem somewhere, a strike, a stand-still, and if you can’t read the line-maps, you’re ‘foutu’.
    Thank you for this brilliant post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always enjoyed learning about new places and I love maps. I remember tracing a map of Africa for a project and taking time to colour in all the countries and write the names. My teacher’s comment “You could have used the printed map we gave you.” I was not impressed.
    I’d love to have a globe and hope there will be room for one at the next house.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I found one second hand on Amazon. It looks like a nice one, but it’ll be a while until i get it. No two-day delivery on globes!

        They make sets that you can use as night-lights, which I thought was a really cool idea. I may get a set for our bedroom. Right now, I’m still using a couple of lamps I got from Disney. They say “Goodnight Sweet Prince” and they are pink.

        Liked by 1 person

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