Sunday, February 1, 2009

Off to see the world, via atlas

clipart provided by:

So much for my grand New Year's resolutions. After I posted that long January 1 post, my wee blog has been moribund for a month. Part of the reason is that I've been focused on getting posts on my travel blog, Facing The Street. And partly, I've been travelling and swamped with work. Excuses, excuses!

Due to some kind encouragement from Vera Marie Badertscher at A Traveler's Library and Jane Boursaw at Film Gecko, I'm finally buckling down for my first update on my year of geography.

I began my quest by printing out the list of 192 UN member countries and a series of outline maps showing the countries with no names. Then I played a long game of match-up, with fairly predictable results.

Central America went pretty well, with a couple of lucky guesses, but I mixed up Honduras and El Salvador.

The Caribbean was a wash. I managed to get the big British Commonwealth islands, like Barbados and Jamaica, partly because I've visited them. The tiny ones utterly flummoxed me. Is this an excuse for another tropical vacation?

I had pretty good luck in South America, although the three small countries east of Venezuela stymied me. I eventually threw random guesses at Suriname and Guyana. (It turns out one of the jurisdictions marked on the map, French Guiana, isn't an independent country.)

Europe was predictably easy, though I did initially forget Denmark (oops). I missed Monaco entirely because it was too small to show up on my map. I managed to get Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic in the right order, but in the wrong places--I needed to rotate all four of them one country counterclockwise. And I mislabelled Crete as Malta, which is especially embarrassing because I've actually been to Malta. Duh.

Moving to the Middle East and Africa, I encountered my usual confusion. Is Bahrain in the Middle East and Brunei in Asia? I can never remember. I took my best guess and moved on. (And, yes, I guessed right.)

Then came Africa.

After filling in the easy countries--Egypt, Morocco, South Africa--I was left with a very long list and very few clues. In a number of cases, I could narrow down which area of Africa a country was in--Ivory Coast in West Africa, Tanzania in East Africa--but couldn't pinpoint a particular area on the map. By the time I got to the "S" countries, I was feeling monumentally stupid. I even forgot to mark Somalia on the map, even though Ottawa (where I live) is home to a sizable Somali community. Let's just sum up my dire performance on Africa by saying it was not my finest hour.

Moving on to Central Asia, I managed somewhat better, although I still made a number of egregious mistakes--the most embarrassing of which was mixing up Iran and Iraq. For crying out loud, can you think of two other countries that have been more in the news of late? I also managed to completely jumble up the Stans, and I had a big blank swath of unlabelled land east of Turkey.

One of the last stops was East and South Asia. Well, at least I got China and India right. Actually, I did better on this area of the world than on the previous two sections, although I got utterly confused in and around Cambodia, as usual.

I couldn't clearly print a good map of Oceania, so I'll have to wait until later in the year to visualize the locations of places like Fiji and the Solomon Islands. However, I did manage to correctly pinpoint both Australia and New Zealand--if I hadn't, I think it would have been time to quit this exercise and take up basket weaving.

In the end, what was the final score? Um, 108 out of 192 countries, or 56.25%. Ouch. Oh well, at least I know I have room to improve.

So which countries do you have trouble keeping straight?

1 comment:

  1. Since I pushed you into the maps, I guess I should play along. Need a little time to try the test, though. I think my results are going to pretty much look like yours,only worse.