28 September 2012

A is for...

Well, it happened again. I knew it would, it does every time we meet non-American cruisers: that "I Am So Out of My League" feeling. The embarrassment began the minute we introduced ourselves--in English as we always do, as we must because it's our only language, but the second, third, or fourth language for whomever we are meeting. Linguistic survivor's guilt, I call it. Directly after introductions, there is the de rigeur ice-breaker, the corollary of "So, what do you do?"  For sailors and world travelers it's, "So, where are you coming from?" This invariably elicits an enviable enumeration of countries that either makes perfect geographical sense or otherwise begs questions with ultimately intriguing answers--if, that is, one knows where in the world anything is to begin with.

Between her childhood boat trip and her military service, Jane is far better equipped to hold her own in these discussions. She has a pretty detailed map of the world in her head. I, on the other hand, have been geographically and consequently politically impaired all my life. Blame it on my Chicago public school education, or having grown up in that class of people that doesn't get out much, my mental globe contains a few continental landmass shapes and little else. In my defense, the location of any other place and what the people there might or might not think about anything didn't often come up in conversation with my colleagues at McDonald's. Far better that we should save our limited mental real estate for more relevant matters such as whether or not a particular employee would be written up for repeatedly failing to restock the ketchup.

Then life took an unexpected turn. Now, in the space of a single week, I find myself having sundowners with a Bulgarian married to a Dutchman who, with my wife, is verbally tracing the route from the Indian Ocean, through the Gulf of Oman, to the Strait of Hormuz to the Persion Gulf and then attending a potluck with a Swiss who owns a house in Phuket, and couples from Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Australia. All of whom know more about the geopolitical world than yours truly. I know this for a fact because their flawless English reveals as much. If it wouldn't have embarrassed Jane, I would have much preferred to crawl under the table--or at least bus it.

Clearly, it is time for me to bone up on the people of the world and the lands they occupy. How will I tackle this, you wonder. Why, alphabetically, of course. And, gentle reader, I am bringing you along. You'll thank me later.

Thus, with the help of the CIA World Factbook, Wikipedia, and various other sources, I embark upon a 287+ part series: "JOY-ography 101." First up: Afghanistan, or rather, The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to learning from you Ean (and Jane!)... I am already living vicariously through your adventures, so as much education or entertainment you can provide... the better! :)

    Be safe.