Sunday, June 29, 2008

I No Longer Hate Geography




I love geography. Well, now I do. I used to hate it because it confused me. Okay, it still confuses me somewhat. What can I say? I'm an American. Bad geographical skills are in our genes or something.

I became interested in geography when my son Jack was about two-years-old. In case you didn't know....he's kind of smart. So, we bought these educational placemats. One of them had a map of the world. I decided to try and teach him geography.

I got him to memorize the location of various countries by connecting them to something that might interest him. What country is Snow White from? Where does Pokemon come from? Where does Peter Pan and Mary Poppins live? Where do the Wiggles live?

It worked! My toddler knew basic geography! And then it got a bit scary because he soon knew more than the basics. The kid couldn't talk yet, but he could find places like Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia.

I loved showing Jack off to the world....exploiting my child. Although I didn't go as far as booking him on Jay Leno. We just stuck to friends and family.

Jack's interest in geography must have been contagious. Well, at least I caught it. I found that studying a map helped me understand the world more. Things started to make more sense.

For example, I had kept hearing about Pakistan in relation to Osama Bin Ladin. I didn't get it. But once I actually looked at a map..... "Ah! Afghanistan and Pakistan are right next to each other." And I wondered. Why does Australia have so many Asian immigrants? Honestly, I never understand that. But then....Ah! Australia is very close to Asia.

There are still some things that confuse me in geography. Like the Middle East. What's the deal with that? Is it part of Europe? Asia? Neither?

And then there's Australia. It's the only country that has its own damn continent. Yet, it's also part of Oceania. What is Oceania exactly? Not a continent, right? A country cluster?

Anyway, here are some basic facts about Australia (I think most of these count as geography. Or maybe not? I really do get confused!)

a) Australia has about 8 million square miles. It's about the same size as the continental United States (that means you subtract Hawaii and Alaska--kind of rude if you ask me)

b) Australia is close (but not too close) to New Zealand, Papa New Guinea, and Indonesia.

c) Okay. Really weird. Well, at least we thought it was weird. I always thought that Europe was closer to Australia. I mean it still might be. But it's actually faster to fly from the US to Australia than it is to fly from the UK to Australia. Why? I don't know.

d) Australia has close to 21 million people. Now remember that it's about the same size as the United States. How many people does the United States have? About 300 million!

e) Most Australians live on the coast. Sydney has the most people. About 4 million. Melbourne has a little less than that. New York City has about double that. And New York State has close to 19 million. That's almost the same amount of people in the whole country of Australia.

f) Australia has less people than the state of Texas--where I live.

g) Australia has 7 states and/or territories. Okay, I honestly don't understand this exactly. I met some people from Darwin--which is in the Northern Territory. I asked them what it means to be a territory and not a state. They gave me an answer. I didn't understand it.

Should we talk about the states? Yeah, I guess so.

There's......

1. New South Wales. That's where Sydney is. Sydney is NOT the capital of Australia, but it is the capital of New South Wales. Canberra is the capital of all Australia. Canberra is IN New South Wales, but it's not a part of New South Wales.

2. Queensland. This is where Steve Irwin lived and his zoo still lives. It's also where you'll find the Great Barrier Reef. If you go way up north and you're a dumb tourist, you'll probably become lunch for a crocodile.

3. Victoria. This is where my friend Suzanne lives and it's where my friend Tracey used to live. Melbourne is here too.

4. Tasmania. An island. This is where the Tasmanian Devil lives. It's also where one of my friends live.

5. Northern Territory. Uluru (Ayers Rock) is here. Before I was obsessed with Australia, I don't think I knew what Uluru was. Was I just dumb? Have most people heard of it....I mean outside of Australia? Probably. I mean hopefully I was the only one so dumb.

6. South Australia. This is where McLeod's Daughters takes place.

7. Western Australia. This is where Heath Ledger was from. It's also where one of my Facebook friends lived. But he never wrote me once I left Facebook. So sad.

Okay, done with the states. (Thank you, Australia for not having 50). Here's more stuff.

h) In the United States, the South is hot. In Australia, it's the North that's hot. I've also heard rumors that as the U.S North is snobby towards the South (especially the South East), The people in the Southern part of Australia can be a bit snobby about those up North. And probably for about the same reasons. I'll stop here before I get myself in trouble.

i)) Australia was once called terra australis incognita--meaning "unknown Southern Land."

Now we know it and now we visit it.

If we're lucky, we get to live in it.

I'm waiting to get lucky.

Oh!

Wait.....

j) Australia is sometimes nicknamed The lucky country but there's a kind of funny story behind that. Let's just say something was taken a bit out of context.