The other day I was obsessively checking blog hits like a loser and spotted a surprise hello from the United Arab Emirates, couldn’t remember if I knew anyone there (some of my friends have a disconcerting habit of vanishing to places for years at a time: one came back from Oman recently and disappeared again, and another is Doing Things in Viet Nam, and I’ve been tracking my friend Suzy through sub-Saharan African countries by blog hits: “Oh, I see Suzy is in Mozambique”, etc.) and decided to see if anyone looks at this blog from places I wouldn’t expect.
The short answer is “yes”, and the long answer is “whee, this is exciting!”.
Being a shut-in, poverty-stricken, and eternally anxious of accidentally causing offence when I travel, I don’t get to go to many of the places the world map assures me exist, even if the internet and TV and @Cmdr_Hadfield on Twitter assure me with beautiful pictures that they’re well worth visiting. And I’m old enough to remember the world without its current sheen of instant connectivity, so there’s part of me which is deliriously excited to see someone in Colombia has dropped in, however briefly, to see what on earth I’m talking about.
At last check, the all-time hits for this blog came from:
United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, Poland*, Ireland, Germany, France, Sweden, Netherlands, Italy, India, Finland, Brazil, Philippines, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Singapore, Russian Federation, Spain, Japan, Norway, Greece, Malaysia, Belgium, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Turkey, South Africa, Switzerland, Pakistan, Croatia, Republic of Korea, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal,
Taiwan, Thailand, Hungary, Denmark, Czech Republic, Viet Nam, Colombia, Israel, Chile, Slovenia, Egypt, Austria, United Arab Emirates, Serbia, Namibia, Venezuela, Ukraine, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Albania, Malta, Monaco, Mozambique, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Morocco, Puerto Rico, Peru, Macedonia (the Former Yugoslav Republic), Mauritius, Costa Rica, Jordan, Lithuania, Sri Lanka, Montenegro, Bangladesh, Barbados, Lebanon, Honduras, Qatar, Moldova, Sudan, Georgia, Syrian Arab Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jamaica, Latvia, Maldives
* Witaj, Polish readers! I was not expecting you to come so high on the list.
Part of the fun (I have a very lame sense of fun, as my insistence on making multiple posts about deep sea fish has probably revealed) has been hovering over the country names on the list and seeing whereabouts everyone is in relation to everyone else. My geography isn’t spectacularly bad but is prone to making the same errors over and over: I keep forgetting, for example, that Germany extends that far south, or that Russia is quite that terrifyingly enormous (despite a drunk friend once phoning me up to tell me that Russia is “really fucking big”, and then calling me again the next day to tell me she’d woken up with the words “RUSSIA = BIG” scrawled on her train ticket and no memory of why), and like approximately every British person in the history of the nation I am incapable of holding onto the idea that my country is a) a lot further north than I realised and b) really not that big at all. It just looks big because it’s sitting next to Ireland all the time.
Anyway my ignorance of the size and shape of the nations of the world (to say nothing of the fact that I have no idea what all the counties in my own country are called, whoops) is as naught to my ignorance of their history and culture, because British and therefore habituated to rolling up to everywhere, sticking a flag in it, and trying to mine the natural resources while waving a musket and shouting that God favours England. In an attempt to redress both this cultural defect and the fact that my secondary education consisted of watching Blackadder and having chairs thrown at me, I’m taking this list as a starting point, and will be trying to learn one (at least) interesting point from the history of each country mentioned.
Well, almost each country, I know quite enough about the UK, and the USA’s cultural ubiquity is such that it’s hard not to learn something about it. In fact – to my continued distress – I think I know more about the history of the civil rights movement in the USA than I do about any similar movement in my on country.
First on the list: Australia.
As a nation rather than a geographical area populated by groups of different peoples (many of them nomadic), Australia has not been around for as long as, say, Myanmar. And unlike most of the countries on this list, I’ve actually been there, and experienced Contemporary Australian Culture in the form of spending altogether too long in Port Macquarie, wandering around a couple of zoos, and spending all of the money in the world in Gould’s books in Newtown in Sydney. Clearly this and a very very very long drive from Nowra to Coolangatta are all I need to know about Australia and I can just move on, right?
I mean I did also spend a bizarre but informative hour watching a documentary about the rise of Australian wine-making.
Oh, all right.
Sir Edmund Barton (18 January 1849 – 7 January 1920) was Australia’s first Prim Minister. He was in office from 1901 to 1903, and had a flabby chin. He spent a significant portion of his term in England for the coronation of Edward the VII of the United Kingdom of dear God let’s not get into all the titles here, and although introducing women’s suffrage in 1902 (hurrah), he also passed the Immigration Restriction act, and said this charmingly stupid thing:
Barton stated, “The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman”.
Well done there, Edmun Barton, that’s not at all revolting and rhetorically lazy.
And now I have learned a thing about Australia!