Monday, June 8, 2015

The lives of the cartographers

Purple was tidying the classroom at the end of the day, half watching a film about the outback, when a stranger approached her desk. The stranger was very young, but she was already over 6 and a half feet tall. She was very embarrassed about her height and often looked at the ground and walked with a stoop.

"Teacher, I would like to join your class. I grew up as an orphaned child in a village far away. My parents moved to the coast for work. One day I found an old book by a forgotten geographer that said the following:

Whoever wants to go to China must cross seven seas, each one with its own color and wind and fish and breeze, completely unlike the sea that lies beside it. The first of them is the Sea of Fars, which men sail setting out from Siraf. It ends at Ra's al-Jumha; it is a strait where pearls are fished. The second sea begins at Ra's al-Jumha and is called Larwi. It is a big sea, and in it is the Island of Waqwaq and others that belong to the Zanj. These islands have kings. One can only sail this sea by the stars. It contains huge fish, and in it are many wonders and things that pass description. The third sea is called Harkand, and in it lies the Island of Sarandib, in which are precious stones and rubies. Here are islands with kings, but there is one king over them. In the islands of this sea grow bamboo andrattan. The fourth sea is called Kalah and is shallow and filled with huge serpents. Sometimes they ride the wind and smash ships. Here are islands where the camphor tree grows. The fifth sea is called Salahit and is very large and filled with wonders. The sixth sea is called Kardanj; it is very rainy. The seventh sea is called the sea of Sanji, also known as Kanjli. It is the sea of China; one is driven by the south wind until one reaches a freshwater bay, along which are fortified places and cities, until one reaches Khanfu.

I did not know where this geographer had come from but I decided it would be a place much different from where I was. I followed the directions in reverse as best as I could and I have arrived here. I wish for you to help me to write a book, a biography of the great cartographers.


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