Ouagadougou, anyone? by Rich Paschall
One of the many things that has surprised me about education in the twenty-first century is the absence of Geography in grade school and high school curriculum. When I have asked any young people in the last two decades if they have taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same. “Geography? What’s that?”
When I was in elementary school, we took Geography. We had Geography books. The class room had Geography maps so we could understand where in the world our place of study was located. They were the kind of maps that rolled up like your window shades. There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we might study. The geography course was our window to other locations in the world. It was an introduction to other people and cultures. I always found it an interesting class, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would be.
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.
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?
City ——————————- Country
Castañer ————————– Israel
Ankara —————————- Kyrgyzstan
Tel Aviv —————————- 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 the 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. 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.
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 may make a bit of sense to go east. Lufthansa does go most places in the world. If you are in Chicago, it may be better to go west.
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 non stop 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 usually cheaper. I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.
Grab a map and discover the world. OK, 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. Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.
2 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey. You probably thought it was Istanbul.
3 – You can fly to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv which is a major international city, but no longer a capital.
4 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane. Yes, it is part of the US. And one more just for fun.
5 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map?