Saturday, 21 October 2006
Pre-Project Plans Part 2
An Assessment Of My General Level Of Ignorance Regarding The World
Owen Powell - 21st October 2006
Places I had heard of, but wasn't sure were countries 
Andorra; Antigua and Barbuda; Bahamas; Barbados; Costa Rica; Cyprus [I thought someone else owned it – sorry, Cyprus!]; Djibouti [I thought it might be a city]; Fiji; Grenada [it's becoming clear that I thought 'The West Indies', as in international cricket, represented a single country]; Haiti; Lesotho; Madagascar [I didn't know it was actually a separate country ,although I could probably have placed it on a map]; Maldives; Malta [see Madagascar]; Mauritius; Seychelles [all these sort of "holiday destination" type places]; Singapore [not just a city, like Hong Kong?]; Suriname; Swaziland [thought it was the old name for somewhere else].
Places I hadn't even heard of 
Cape Verde; Comoros; Gabon; Guinea-Bissau; Kiribati; Kyrgyzstan [although I'm in good company here – neither has Microsoft Word 2000's spell-checker]; Laos; Marshall Islands; Mauritania; Micronesia; Nauru; Palau; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Sao Tome and Principe; Solomon Islands; Tajikistan; Timor-Leste; Tonga; Turkmenistan; Tuvalu; Vanuatu.
Places I knew were countries, but wouldn't have been able to write in the correct place on a blank map of the world (I'm worried this is going to be most of Africa) 
Angola; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bahrain; Belarus; Belize [would have guessed Africa]; Benin; Bhutan; Bolivia; Botswana; Brunei; Bulgaria [sorry, Europe]; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Central African Republic [although I'd obviously have a pretty good guess]; Chad; Colombia; Congo; Cote d'Ivoire; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea [again, worth a guess, although it's a slight misnomer]; Eritrea; Estonia; Gambia; Georgia; Ghana; Guatemala; Guinea; Guyana [see Belize]; Honduras; Jamaica [so, there's one Caribbean country I did know about (although not where it was, obviously)]; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Latvia; Lebanon [embarrassing, given all the news]; Liberia; Lithuania; Malawi; Malaysia; Mali; Mozambique; Myanmar [but I know it's the new name for Burma]; Namibia; Nepal; Nicaragua; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Panama [who knew the canal was that far south?]; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Qatar; Republic of Moldova; Romania [see Bulgaria]; Rwanda; Samoa; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Slovenia [borders Italy? I've been to Italy …]; Somalia; Sudan; Syria [see Lebanon]; The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia; Togo; Trinidad and Tobago; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; United Republic of Tanzania; Uruguay; Uzbekistan; Venezuela; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe.
Countries that just squeaked in, if I'm being quite generous with myself 
Bosnia and Herzegovina; Croatia; Indonesia; Jordan; Libya; Liechtenstein; San Marino; Thailand; Tunisia; Ukraine; Vietnam.
Places I may have assumed were countries, even though they're officially not (this may get political)
Greenland; Palestine; Taiwan; Vatican City.
How offensive is all of this? I like to think I'm fairly well-read, and know a bit about world affairs, so is it a problem that given a blank map of the world I could have identified only 70 countries and given their precise location? And that would include two places (Malta and Madagascar) that I didn't even think were countries, so I guess it's only 68. That's 35 per cent.
In Africa, I seem able to identify all the countries that touch the Mediterranean, all five of them, plus South Africa (well done) and Ethiopia (I grew up in the 80s). In South America, I could only place the two big football nations of Brazil and Argentina, and Chile, because it's phenomenally thin and long and my brother went there seven years ago.
I have blind spots ranging from the Middle East to the Caribbean, from south east Asia to eastern Europe, and I thought that Greenland might be its own nation, whereas Cyprus might not. In three days' time, I fully intend to march out into the streets of London to find some people, although most of them come from countries that I wouldn't be able to find. Twenty-three of them come from places I hadn't even heard of.
It seems a bit trite to say that this project might be a learning experience for me. A shaming experience, possibly. If London does contain representatives from all 192 nations, and we find them all, I'm not sure what to say to the person we find from, say, Comoros. Welcome, I suppose. And sorry.