Thursday, November 12, 2009

Crazy about Maps

How good is people's knowledge on Geography in general? If asked, what's the difference between Christmas island and Easter island and where (the h*ll) are they, could people answer easily without trying to open wikipedia or google maps? *please, please, say no, so I feel average!*

Once upon a time, I was never bothered if Christmas island is in Indian Ocean, belongs to Australia while Easter island is in the southeastern Pasific Ocean, belongs to Chile in South America. *What's the difference between Indian and Pasific ocean anyway? Does it matter at all?? (unless I want to swim to go there)*
But since I became a traveler, my ominously bad geography became a nightmare. It's like being in a class where I am not smarter than fifth grader =). Each time I greet another traveler from internet or telephone, the first question is usually, "Which part of the world are you now?" (Then we discuss about the weather, yes!)

There was a time when a friend, just call him Doro (male version of Dora), phoned me from Riga, Latvia. Latvia? Is it Africa? or one of Arab countries? Or part of Kazakhstan's neighbourhood? Recognizing a long pause, my friend cleared up, "It's in Baltic region. Near Estonia and Lithuania," Estonia? Lithuania? "It's in Northern Europe," he added. Ah! Europe! Suddenly I was enlightened. "So, you're not so far from home," I replied, pretended that I just forgot a little thing in my fridge rather than having no slightest idea about geography.

I can't read map. It's not just like common understanding that women can't read map. I literally have no clue about map. When I have to decide whether to go right or left, I flick a coin. Seriously. At the beginning I didn't realize that it could be a problem, because I never went further than my parents' backyard. What is map for if you live in place that you could remember anything by heart, just as familiar as your own palm? Then I went to university and spent 6 (six!) years studying at a hospital. The same hospital. Once I got late for an exam because I couldn't find which room my patient was. I got lost in this six years hospital! I couldn't believe myself. But let's face it: hospital is always confusing. With all corridors and wards and rooms and junctions and not-very-communicative staffs. Right? *please agree with me. Please!*

I got lost uncountable times. I missed my bus, my train, (my flight?) etc just because I couldn't find the stop, the entrance or the platform. GPRS doesn't work, because it doesn't provide such information (as if I can afford one). GPRS will tell you where the bus station is but not the bus stand for your £1 promotional ticket to Liverpool at 15.35. And it is possible for me to go round and round for half an hour only to find the right stand. Incredible=(. Everytime I arrive in a new town, my couchsurfing host always gives me city maps or directions. I have to allow myself a few hours to dechiper it. Otherwise I couldn't find the way back home! (to my couchsurfer's house). My friend then complained, "For goodness sake, Ria, even birds can find their way back to their nest!" But I am not a bird (Ok, that's not a wonderful excuse). But, I mean, birds have bird's-eye view which is similar to google-earth view. No wonder they have better navigation. For me, a map looks very understandable when it is on a piece of paper. But when I step out on the road, high buildings and winding streets make it suddenly inexplicable. Where is the straightforward line and the clear landmarks? Now everything seems so different and how can we decide where to go and where we are just from a piece of so-called map? Get real!

Another friend of mine kindly lent me his map (he said, in case I want to explore the area on bike). Ha! This was a map of countryside in England, where the area were mostly green with no landmark! Didn't he know if I have phobia of getting lost? When I don't know where I am, I start to get panicked easily. Perhaps it's true, for people who are able to read maps, having an atlas can be handy. You can be anywhere and you can always locate yourself, you know which way to go and where to go back. You're so lucky! But giving me a map booklet (like London A-Z or West Yorkshire walking guide) is like giving me a manual book in old Greek alphabet. For your information, the sign "you are here" in a map seems to me like "shoot me here". One day I watched a horror movie called "The dead end". It's about a car accident which all passengers got nightmares that they are in a journey without end, going around and around and seeing horrifying things happen everytime they try to find a way out. I was scared out of my mind to see this movie. Another time I was late for two hours for seeing a friend just because I was in the wrong bus and it took me ages to get to the meeting point. I was diagnosed 'direction-dyslexic' by this friend (I still hope that the symptoms he mentioned don't really exist). Sadly, if I have to get through a maze, I have to hold a loud-coloured balloon and ask people to shout me directions from above!

Back to geography. How important is our geographical knowledge for a traveler? To my surprise (and relief) it's not important. As long as we don't have to fly our own twin-otter plane across Sahara dessert or hike through West Siberian plain. As long as we know the difference between Asia and Africa. As long as we are able to communicate with human being and be open-minded about where we might end up. After all, sometimes getting lost is part of the adventure!

P.S. To boost my expertise (ha-ha) in Geography, I decorate my new room with an Indonesian world map (in this map, Indonesia is in the middle). My friend commented that my poster is very 'educative'. Well, to be quite honest, only a world map is big enough to cover such big double-tape stains that impossible to remove from my wall!


Vicky Laurentina said...

Dear Ria, the system which shows you the bus station is not GPRS, but it's GPS. :-)

Where are you now, Ria?

Sekar said...

How important, you ask? I say: not important. Traveling is about unfamiliar places, and what better way to experience that than getting lost? If you get lost in, say, Paris, you get invited to a party on the Pont des Beaux-Arts... :)

Sri Riyati Sugiarto & Kristina Melani Budiman said...

Ahaha. Thanks for the correction Vicky. You're right, see, I don't even know the device. GPRS (after checking wikipedia) is General Packet Radio Service for mobile internet (please refer to another post: phobia teknologi^_^). I mean GPS. Of course. But GPRS actually works even better. E.g. if I got lost, I could ask you for help via internet using my mobile and I bet, you would show me where to go in Bandung and how to get there. Am I right?

To Sekar: Hey, you say nothing too personal should be published in blog. This experience is quite personal. Lol.

Sri Riyati Sugiarto & Kristina Melani Budiman said...

And oh Vicky: did you really ask where I am or you just test my new Geographical ability? =D

Fanda said...'s typical of women I guess. Me, I have a problem of memorizing. No matter how many times I have gone to a certain place, if I didn't go there for more than several months, I will forget the way to get there! Is it also women typical do you think??

wongmuntilan said...

A few months ago I took a wrong turn in my own hometown, a very tiny town called Muntilan (with one main road only), and somebody asked me, "you grew up in this very town, right...?"
I'm NOT good with direction and navigation, but I'm good with public transportation.
"How do I get to Pondok Indah?"
"Very simple, you just take the bus number 16, and you'll get there in no time."
"Do you know the way to Kampung Rambutan?"
"Nope, but why bother? Just take the bus number 46 or P6, pay 2.000 rupiahs, get some sleep, and voila...!!! You get there already"

Sri Riyati Sugiarto & Kristina Melani Budiman said...

Fanda: Thanks. That's another relief.
Santi: Haha. Public transport is indeed very helpful for people like us!

Sri Riyati Sugiarto & Kristina Melani Budiman said...

ria..i think you are the real example from a book titled "Why Men dont listen and women cant read map". ahahahaha....actually I cant read map too so thanks to busway that i still survive until now. Becoz as everybody know...I live at an "evil" town named Jakarta where you cant find a good people..maybe 1 from 1 million so i prefer to read map rather than ask direction to somebody else. Takut dihipnotis kalo banyak tanya..trus kalo banyak tanya jadi keliatan culun..orang culun= mudah ketipu. :p

jadi mendingan pura2 ga tau daripada nanya...joko sembung bawa map...


Sejujurnya, inilah Ria dan Kristina...

Ria dan Kristina, sama-sama punya ide-ide yang nggak masuk akal saking nggak bangetnya pikiran kami berdua. Obrolan kami ini, berkat kemajuan jaman dan menjamurnya aplikasi internet (hiduplah Indonesia Raya!), kami sekarang bisa tuangkan di blog. Dulu kami suka ngetik-ngetik pake mesin ketik manual di belakang kertas HVS A4 bekas fotokopian. Tapi tetep aja kami tidak berhenti menulis. Kata pepatah: setipis-tipisnya tinta masih lebih tajam dari ingatan manusia. Kata Pramoedya: menulis berarti memetakan sejarah. Halah, kalo tulisan kita mah sebenernya gak ada hubungannya ama sejarah. Cuma mengukirkan betapa masa muda kami ini sangat indah. Dan jelas nggak mutu isinya. Jadi, mending kalo sisa-sisa waktu dan pengen baca yang tidak terlalu berguna sajalah baru buka blog kami... Tapi apapun komentar, masukan dan pendapat teman-teman, semuanya adalah cendera mata yang indah buat kami...

Ria dan Kristina (hualah, koyok undangan penganten. Amit2 deh. Lesbong juga pilih-pilih ah...)

About Us

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pindah2..tergantung mood, Indonesia
Sri Riyati Sugiarto (aka Ria) adalah cewek kelahiran limpung..(pinggiran kota Pekalongan)..habis sekolah di SMU St. Bernardus Pekalongan trus kuliah kedokteran di Undip Semarang..sementara Kristina Melani Budiman (aka Kristina) juga lahir di Pekalongan trus satu SMU ama Ria dan kuliah di Atma Jaya Jogjakarta. kami kenal di kelas 3 SMU tapi mo duduk bareng selalu ga bisa gara2 terlalu cerewet dan kalo duduk sebangku selalu bikin keributan karena hobinya menggosip jadi terpaksa sampai sekarang tidak pernah duduk bareng..untungnya kita ga satu kampus :p