You probably knew this about me (and even if you didn’t, it’s pretty standard human nature in the 21st century), but:
I am a liiiiiittle obsessed with site stats.
In particular, I am fascinated with the fact that WordPress sees fit to give us a map of the countries in which our blog has been viewed. It is super-pleasing to me that such a thing exists, and even more pleasing to see that somehow in the past year we’ve drawn someone in from Kazakhstan and Mali, and a couple more views from China:
Like, how do I lure in the folks from Greenland? Technically they’re owned by Denmark or something, so how come the 68 Denmarkian views don’t fill Greenland in too? Same goes for Norway and Svalbard, and France/French Guiana.
And, despite the fact that I post nothing whatsoever in Arabic nor Korean, I find myself wondering about the fact that we’ve never been visited by anyone from Iran nor North Korea. It’s impossible to tell whether we’re unappealing to the market, if we’re just plain irrelevant to their interests, if the area in question somehow does not have any internet access whatsoever, or if the complete and utter lack of readership reflects a greater degree of censorship and/or governmental control over the internet.
Or, okay, it’s not completely impossible to tell on that last one, at least not where North Korea is involved.
Anyway, one could characterize this desire to color in the map as juvenile. But is that desire for completeness a bad thing? I think it reflects a concern with universality: what I really want to write is something worth reading, no matter who you are, where you’re from, or what years you exist. A lot of the books we read and ideas we discuss here are universal enough, but our interpretation of them comes from a very specific background. I want to learn more about these places to determine what I’m missing out on when I lack feedback from them.
So there’s Greenland and Svalbard and North Korea, of course, plus Laos, Papua New Guinea, El Salvador, Haiti, most of the former-Soviet –stans, Iran, Madagascar, Suriname and French Guiana, Lesotho, Mauritania, Congo, Tanzania, Senegal, the Gambia, Liberia, et cetera, et cetera.
I know pretty much nothing about most of these countries. Sure, I could point to them; I could name the capital, maybe, and perhaps recite a detail or two (especially where Haiti or Iran’s concerned). But what makes Gabon different from anywhere else? What is it that I don’t know about Niger that I really would like to know, and what’s so worth finding out that someone from Niger would bother consulting me about it? What made Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan into different nations when the Soviet Union broke up?
So here’s my plan: this will be a year of those grade-school-type geography projects. You know the sort – you get assigned a country and must figure out how many people it has, what religion(s) those people believe in, how they govern themselves or are governed, their folk traditions, their dress, their crops, their livelihoods. What natural features or edifices are worth looking at if you go there. What animals you want to seek out or avoid. Local news, weather, and traffic.
There is a whole lot of world out there, and while it isn’t necessarily possible to travel to all of it…it’s certainly possible to learn more about it!
(…and then, of course, it’s worth learning more about all the places that HAVE visited us. Silly of me to shun all the other places I don’t know about in favor of their more aloof neighbors, I suppose.)