I’ve always known that I suck in Geography but this flaw has never bothered me until today. Since I am still considered a new student, I had to attend a research orientation in campus which was scheduled from 9am to 3pm. The programme was meant to prepare new post grad students with necessary skills and information needed to embark on a research study. Most of the sessions were hands-on and required very little interactions amongst students, which suited me perfectly. However, during the last session, all of us were expected to put our best foot forward and mingle amongst ourselves.
There I was, lost in translation, thinking hard “Who should I approach?". Finally, a lady who seemed to be in her 40s approached me and started a conversation. Her name was Lucy and she came all the way from Papua New Guinea to do a PhD in Health Science. I scanned her features carefully and matched it to Papua New Guinea and the word Africa immediately sprung to life. Aha! She’s from Africa I concluded. Pleased with myself, I carried on with the conversation but as it went on, I became more and more confused. Lucy told me that a lot of Malaysians are actually working in Papua New Guinea. I thought “Wow! Malaysians go all the way to Africa to work?” Whatever...I just shrugged off my confusion and saved this little piece of information for my evening chat with hubby. Happy with how cool things were going so far, I moved on to the next person. This one’s from Seychelles, a country of which she said has a population of 80000, distributed over 150 islands. I must have looked so blur when she mentioned that, so she decided to quiz me on the location of her country by shooting me with a string of questions. “Do you know where Madagascar is?" (NO) "Do you know where Maldives is?" (NO) "Do you know where the Indian Ocean is?" (Errr..in the ocean?). I guess, she would have stopped pestering me if I had answered ‘yes’ to at least one of those questions. The thing is, I had no clue whatsoever where those places were. Defeated, I just smiled and blurted “I’m really bad at Geography”. I did try to locate the name of the country using my pregnancy brain but it didn’t ring a bell. So, as always, I did the matching strategy and matched her face to the word Seychelles. The answers I got: between Barbados and Hawaii. Since both answers didn't feel right, I kept quiet. There was no choice but to move on.
The next person I met was Alexander, a wonderful chap from France. The moment he talked, the image of Bertrand (my good friend’s hubby) came to life. He sounded soooooooo much like Bertrand and this time, I just had to show that I was knowledgeable enough to guess his citizenship. “You’re from France right?” I asked, beaming proudly. “Yes, how did you guess eh?” (with French accent) Ahh…finally, I could say something about a foreign country so I started with “You see, a very good friend of mine is married to a Frenchman. He’s from Toulouse. Are you from that part of France?”…From that point onwards, Alexander just couldn’t stop talking and talking and talking. Haha. A successful networking effort! So what if I didn’t understand half of what he was saying. It was way better than doing Geography quizzes! The session finally ended and it was indeed a fruitful one.
When I got home, I told hubby about the orientation, the workshop and of course what I got from the mingling session. It was then that he told me “Dear, Papua New Guinea, is tempat om lah, not Africa. Dekat Indon bah”. Oopss...I explained to hubby how I used my matching strategy and said "Muka dia macam orang Africa bah". A map might come in handy for tomorrow's session. No more matching matching game.