Did you know the earth is split up into 251 countries? I didn’t. I guess I had a vague understanding that I really didn’t know about all those teensy weensy countries in the middle of vast oceans, etc, but it wasn’t until I reviewed a computer registry program that I saw the names of so many I had no idea existed.
So I’ve decided to find them and write a bit about them, if I can. I was going to go alphabetically, but that’s kind of boring, so I think I’ll play lucky draw and pull one country out of a hat a day, gradually working through my list. The list, btw, is the official UN one.
So here goes – first one: Kiribati = joined the UN in 1999.
Robert Louis Stevenson was here, and with his wife designed a flag that was never used. It had a crowned shark on it. They have a better one now.
Kiribati is a collection of island and atolls scattered like grains of rice down in the waters near Australia. According to Wikipedia, it’s the only country to have parts in all four hemispheres, which I suppose depends on how one slices hemispheres, but there’s something interesting about a place that has the international date line on its east coast. They moved it, the locals, after years of being split by time and day. Now they get to be the very first at everything, primarily receiving aid from the rest of the world.
Given that a few of its spots have already sunk beneath the waves, they’re opposed to climate change and are fighting it with the support of the Australians and others. They’ve arranged to move the population to Fiji at some point.
“Kiribati is expected to be the first country in which all land territory disappears due to global climate change. . . .the Kiribati president Anote Tong said that the country has reached “the point of no return”; he added: “To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”
About 100,000 people live on the 32 islands. They have their own musical style and dance style, which seems to consist of sitting or standing and keeping their arms outstretched. It is rude to smile while dancing, as it is meant as a form of religious observance.
Also they practice “pubusi” wherein you can ask anyone for anything they have and they must give it to you or lose face. Remember this if visiting.
Lonely Planet tells of three things to do in the country. Three. Seems a long way to go to play “can you spot the island that isn’t an atoll?” There’s one in the country, I guess. How would you ever tell?
I’m sure it could be a lovely place, but a few things that concern me about this island paradise. They have a leader who once shut down all newspapers in the country after the first non-government newspaper started up. There is one policeman for every 222 people. Elected officials stay in rather too long. And the country is probably still smarting after the Brits came in and gathered up all their phosphorous (their one source of money) and went away.
According to the CIA:
The main island, Tarawa, was the site of gruesome battles during WWII, and has been used to film movies about them ever since.
As far as I can tell, there have been only a couple of writers from there, but one visiting fellow, J. Maarten Troost, wrote what seems to be the hilarious “The Sex Lives of Cannibals – Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific”. He and his girlfriend spent time on Tarawa, forced to listen to endless playing of “the Macarena”. I’ve put this book on my wish list.
Sounds better than actually going there.