How often do you get lost? When I go on road trips to new places, I always print out a map from Google Maps or Mapquest, but then neglect to use it until I’m completely entrenched in foreign surroundings. I guess you could say that I like to get lost; it helps me find my bearings in a new place. But even I know when to pull out my map and reorient myself.
Cartography has been a field of study for over 8,000 years, and there are detailed maps for nearly every corner of the globe. With technological advances, it is now even harder to get lost with Google Map applications on the iPhone or web access on other [3g] networks. Despite all of these tools to help avoid getting lost, several Americans have been the talk of the media and foreign relations officials during the past several months. How? By getting lost in forbidden territories.
The notion of Americans being held captive for getting lost came to the forefront of the media last spring when two San Francisco-based journalists were jailed in North Korea for crossing the border from China. Tourism in North Korea is severely limited, and Americans are only admitted under certain circumstances in tour groups with guides. While held, the women were allowed little communication with the outside world. Their families and the U.S. government attempted to persuade North Korea that the crossover was an accident and that the women were sorry. In June, the two women were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor, but they are currently being held in a confined house while Secretary of State Clinton and former President Clinton work to gain amnesty for the lost journalists.
In late July, American travelers got lost again, this time in
Iran. While it is easier for Americans to gain access to Iran than to
North Korea, travel is still restricted to tour groups, with little
opportunity for individual exploration. Three Americans were detained
by Iranian guards when they crossed over from Kurdish Iraq. The three
experienced travelers with knowledge of the Arabic and Kurdish
languages claimed that they were confused when guards began to speak to
them in Farsi and then proceeded to arrest them. The travelers, hiking
in the popular mountainous border region, were warned by locals not to
climb too close, since anyone who illegally crosses the Kurdistan
border will be arrested according to Iranian law. Currently, the
whereabouts of the three travelers is uncertain, as is how they entered
Iran. While the border is poorly marked, it is heavily guarded, making
it difficult to mistakenly cross over.
Iran and North Korea
question whether or not the Americans, both groups of experienced and
knowledgeable travelers, purposely entered their countries. In both
cases, the Secretary of State is having difficulty securing the return
of the groups due to hostile relations over nuclear testing, among
other issues. A lesson from these geography cases in the news? Learn
to love your map (which is also the theme for Geography Awareness Week in November)! Whether traveling near dangerous areas in the United
States or abroad, a map can literally save your life. Unless, of
course, you really are a spy.
Melissa for My Wonderful World